How the US Government Forced Indigenous Peoples
in US-Conquered Territory
as Refugees Onto “Reservations”
and Suppressed their Basic Liberties

By: Marc Immanuel

Published on: 20 April 2017

Yavapais at the US Army’s San Carlos concentration camp, about 1878. The Indigenous people on “reservations” at the time were, basically, prisoners of the US Army, under the dictatorship of US Government. This photo shows Yavapais on a “count” and “ration day”. The people would be counted to ensure none had left the concentration camp and then issued European foodstuffs. Adults on reservations were forced to do farming and other work, and children from six years old onwards were removed from their families and sent to US forced assimilation institutions (where they would be forbidden to speak their native languages, upon threat of punishment).

US Government Officially Designates Indigenous Peoples as Subjects of the United States: In 1871, the US Government enacted the Indian Appropriation Act of 1871 — which ended original US recognition of Indigenous nations and tribes (in what had by then become US-occupied territory) as independent national groups and officially defined their status as, basically, a conquered population subject to the dictation of the US Government.

US Government Forces Indigenous Peoples Onto “Reservations”: By the 1880s, the US Government had forced nearly all of the surviving Indigenous Peoples of the US-occupied territory of the 48-state contiguous United States into US-designated “Indian reservations” as refugee peoples [ICC crime against humanity, criterion d] under “conditions of life calculated to bring about their physical destruction in whole or in part” [UN/ICC genocide, criterion c].

US Government Forces Indigenous Peoples to Send Away their Children: Beginning in the 1860s, the US Government, using force and coercion, began removing Indigenous children from their families and Indigenous communities in US-occupied territory and transferring them to US Government-funded, Government-run or church-run boarding schools (forced assimilation institutions).

In 1898, the sending of Indigenous children to the boarding schools became mandatory by law for all children from the age of six onwards. Parents who refused to send away their children could be arrested.  At the institutions, the Indigenous children were forbidden to speak their native languages (upon threat of punishment) and forced to abandon their native names, appearance, clothing, religion, culture, diet, etc. Their education aimed at the complete destruction of their native culture (‘cultural genocide’). [ICC crime against humanity, criterion d] More info: US Cultural Genocide: Forced Assimilation of Indigenous Children

US Government Bans Indigenous Religious Practices: In 1882, the US Government, through a directive by US Interior Secretary Henry M. Teller, ordered an end to all “heathenish dances and ceremonies” on reservations due to their “great hindrance to civilization”. The following year, in 1883, the US Government, through Commissioner of Indian Affairs Hiram Price, codified the practice of officially restricting Indigenous religious freedom by creating the Indian Religious Crimes Code (or the Code of Indian Offenses). [Since the adoption of international human rights agreements following World War II, the 1883 US Code of Indian Offenses may be accounted in retrospect as a violation of human rights.] [source2]

US Government Orders All Indigenous Men to Cut their Hair: In 1896, the US Government issued orders for all Indigenous men to cut their hair. In 1902, Commissioner of Indian Affairs William Atkinson Jones told all reservation agents: “You are therefore directed to induce your male ‘Indians’ [Indigenous persons] to cut their hair.”

Under the directive from the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), Indigenous men with long hair were to be denied rations and employment. If they still refused to cut their hair, “short confinement in the guardhouse at hard labor with shorn locks [cut-off hair], should furnish a cure.” [a violation of natural and human rights] Due to strong objections from US civil society, the enforcement of these orders was later dropped. Long hair was considered sacred in general Indigenous culture. [sources: 3, 4]

It was not until 1978 — following the progressive US socio-political changes which resulted from the massive US civil rights and liberation movements of the 1960s, and following the enactment of the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act of 1975, the American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978, and the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 — that the US Government’s approximately 200-year policy of cultural genocide against Indigenous Peoples of territory under its imposed jurisdiction came to an official end.


1. “Cultural Assimilation of Native Americans”,
Wikipedia, volunteer-written enycyclopedia, article (historical)
2. “American Indian Religious Freedom Act Amendments of 1994“,
the Singing Stone, article (historical), 11 April 2015
3. “Long Hair”,
Native American Netroots, article (historical), by Ojibwa, 26 July 2010
4. “Native History: The Astonishing 1902 Order to Cut Native Hair!”,
Indian Country Today, ISMN Staff, article (historical), 14 January 2015
5. “’Indian Child Welfare Act”,
Wikipedia, volunteer-written encyclopedia, article (historical)
6. “The Indian Child Welfare Act: A National Law Controlling the Welfare of Indigenous Children”,
American Indian Law Alliance, article, by Tonya G. Frichner, Esq.


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