Snapshots

Indianz.Com > Tim Giago: ‘Divide and rule’ was unwritten goal of Indian agents

The old saying goes, “If you think you can trust the government, ask an Indian.” Last week marked the 88th anniversary when the United States of America declared Native Americans to be citizens of this country. That’s right; it was in 1924 that Indians became U. S. citizens and finally gained the right to vote. Ironically, the white women of America were given the right to vote in August of 1920, four years before Indians were made citizens and gained the same right to vote.

My father, Tim, was 30 years old in 1924 and having been born and raised on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, he had never had the right to vote. Now whether he exercised that right in any election after 1924 is debatable. Sometimes it is very hard for one who has been denied certain civil rights to practice those rights once they are given.

But I know he spoke very highly of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and like many residents of Pine Ridge he leaned toward the politics of the Democrats simply because of the things he witnessed that they were doing for his people. He saw the construction of the roads, schools and bridges on the reservation under the WPA or Works Projects Administration programs initiated by Roosevelt and he saw for the first time in his life the job opportunities and training provided for Indians by the Civilian Conservation Corps or CCC.

My dad, for most of his early life, was a clerk at different trading posts on the reservation, primarily at Kyle and at Wounded Knee.

Politics has never been far from the minds of most residents of Pine Ridge. My father, whose first language was Lakota, often engaged in political discussions with customers as he waited on them at the trading posts. Local politics never really became externalized until the Indian Re-organization Act was passed in 1934 and Constitutions mimicking those of the United States were drawn up by the different Indian tribes that voted for the IRA forms of government.

In the early days the U.S. government, with very few people to control the large Indian reservations such as the Pine Ridge, had an unwritten law of “divide and rule.” Under the traditional form of government the different districts on the reservation were ruled by headmen of the tiospayes, or extended families. Without formal elections on paper the headmen were chosen by their good deeds, wisdom and courage. In order to rule or control the tiospayes the feds often created hostilities between the different tiospayes and tried to keep them in a state of turmoil.

FULL ARTICLE HERE: Indianz.Com > Tim Giago: ‘Divide and rule’ was unwritten goal of Indian agents.

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