How Did Native Americans View Land Ownership?

How did Native Americans view land ownership? Native American views on land ownership were quite different from what has become familiar today. These days, people scramble to buy and own land. After purchase, they would develop the area to sell or use for personal or business purposes.

The Native Americans didn’t have this kind of thinking. Instead, they believed that the land was there for everyone to use. Ownership could only begin with the crops that they grew on the soil. After all, they had applied their skill and strength to make them flourish.

How Did Native Americans View Land Ownership Differently from the Europeans?

The Native Americans’ sense of ownership regarding the land had a more tribal reach and range. Instead of one person owning the land, everyone in their tribe had a right to it. Understanding this way of thinking would make people see just how vital a Confederacy can be.

On the other hand, Europeans believed people had a right to own land. They believed that people could buy land for themselves to be owned as individuals. These landowners could choose to share the land with others, but ultimately had the final say. Because of this, nobody else could use the land unless they had explicit permission.

“Native Americans, did not appreciate the notion of land as a commodity, especially not in terms of individual ownership. As a result, Indian groups would sell land, but in their minds had only sold the rights to use the lands”.

Native New York

Native Americans and Land Ownership in the 1800s

how did native americans view land ownership

How did Native Americans view land ownership in the 1800s? In the 19th century, treaties established reservation boundaries. It might seem that the Native Americans owned the places, but the government did.

The government-owned and held the titles on the land. So, they had the final say on what was done to them. The Native Americans only held what was called “beneficial use” of the land. They could use the land to live in and plant crops, but they did not legally own it. There might not be a lot of difference between how Native Americans saw land ownership before the settlers came, but having someone make decisions for them changed things significantly.

The Dawes Act of General Allotment Act of 1887 changed the reservation policy. It wanted to put Native Americans’ right into the rest of the population. So, the government broke lands into smaller parcels and gave them to individuals instead of tribes. By doing this, the settlers were trying to instill their belief in land ownership in the Native Americans.

The Native Americans even had to enroll with the Bureau of Indian Affairs to receive such parcels. The rest of the lands were sold to white settlers. Because of this, the Native Americans lost over 90 million acres of tribal land.

However, even the division was not organized. To this day, the effects can still be felt. Some lands were given to large groups of Native Americans. Thousands can sometimes have a claim to the same parcel of land.

Because of the greed of white settlers and the total disregard for Native American rights when parcels were distributed, the Native Americans feel all the adverse effects even today. Some of them want to reclaim the rights that they lost.

How Did Native Americans View Land Ownership after the Treaty?

native americans and land ownership

Though Native Americans now realize just how greedy people can take what is rightfully theirs and take control of them, their views still go against the idea of private property.

The federal government has long been trying to make Native Americans behave in the same way as white homesteaders. They were given parcels of land that they were supposed to farm and ranch.

Only one part of the Act seems right to the Native Americans. The land has been taken and declared public lands. However, the Taylor Grazing Act has also made the tribal lands places for private profit from ranching and farming.

Native Americans also do not believe in leased properties. They would rather take their cues from the land and the animals. They communicate with nature.

How did Native Americans View Land Ownership of Non-Reservation Parcels?

On the surface, it might seem as if only the reservation lands were considered to be part of the tribal lands considered by Native Americans as theirs. However, they saw things a little more differently – as usual.

Some lands outside the reservations might, for example, have cultural significance. The National Historic Preservation Act of 1962 includes preserving historic sites and tribal properties.

Consultation with the federal government, Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, and other federal agencies may be required to ascertain the legal and regulatory practices that may be applied on such lands.

Treaties could grant some tribes the rights to hunt, gather, and fish on these lands even if they were beyond the reservation limits. These lands were still considered part of the Native Americans’ traditional homelands. So, though it may seem like Native Americans have a more lax approach to controlling their lands, they still see the importance of having Native Americans own traditionally or culturally vital lands. They will still work toward regaining their rights to these places.

How did Native American view land ownership – Final Note

Native Americans’ view of land ownership is more in the tribal sense. Not one person owns the parcels. Instead, the tribe members all have a right to use the land. This shows a strong sense of community.

Tribal members also refer to the environment when they want answers. They are more in-tune to nature’s laws than man’s. Because of this, they are more generous with their land but only up to a certain extent. They recognize their rights, too.

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