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Julianne Jennings: Italians liken living conditions to reservations

Filed Under: Opinion
More on: italy, julianne jennings, stereotypes

Julianne Jennings discovers an interesting comparison to reservations in Italy:
How American Indians became concentrated on reservations is a complicated story that most Americans know only very little about, let alone Italians, who have recently compared their economic crisis to that of “living on an Indian reservation.” Granted, Italy has had one of the most sluggish economies in the world for more than a decade. But what do they really know about reservation life when their assertions are based on Hollywood’s early cinematic incarnations. Take Geronimo for example, usually played by an Italian actor wearing bronze shoe polish, and was among antagonists of manifest destiny that helped feed vivid images of the state of American culture at that time. Yet, Geronimo’s action packed exploits and chronic reservation jumping, are from which great movies are made, but far from historical reality—the bedrock frontier faith that the West needs “civilizing” came at the point of a gun.

Starting with the first armed conflict in Colonial America against the Pequot at their Mystic Fort in Connecticut in 1636-7, and again, with the bloody King Philip’s War in1675-6, crushing New England Indian autonomy forever. In both tragic events, Indian heads, arms and legs were chopped off; others were sold as concubines, indentured to serve in colonial households, divided among other tribes, or shipped out of the region to be sold as slaves to remote areas such as Bermuda’s Island chain or elsewhere. By confining Indians to narrow limits and resources would “allegedly” bring them under control by the new English. Eventually, the policy of removal and isolating Indians would be inaugurated by the United States in 1786, and soon followed by Canada under both French and English control, but received its first legal justification during the Indian Removal Act of 1830 to avoid disputes in regard to boundaries attributed primarily to increasing white settlement.

Subsequent to the passage of this legislation, most Indians living east of the Mississippi were forcibly relocated to areas to the west of the river. These groups included the Seneca, who were forced to leave the state of New York and ended up in what is now northeastern Oklahoma; the Saulk, who once occupied lands in the Midwest, now live in a small area in northern central Oklahoma; and the Cherokee, who were marched out in a “Trail of Tears” from the Southeast for eastern Oklahoma. In accordance with this plan the present Oklahoma, with the greater portion of what is now Kansas, was soon after constituted a territory, under the name of “Indian Territory,” as a permanent home for the tribes to be removed from the settled portions of the United States.

Get the Story:
Julianne Jennings: Italian Insult: Comparing Their Troubles to 'Living on a Reservation' (Indian Country Today 12/22)

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