Synopses & Reviews
Reconfiguring the Reservation
is a story about Indian agency, negotiation, and resistance to an imposed federal policy. Greenwald traces the Nez Perces' and Jicarilla Apaches' experiences with the 1887 General Allotment Act, also known as the Dawes Act. This legislation sought to assimilate Indians into the American mainstream by dividing collectively controlled reservations into individually owned allotments of land. Once Indians had private property, reformers reasoned, they would practice agriculture and eventually adopt "American" economic and cultural values.
The Dawes Act, however, did not meet its stated goals on the Nez Perce or Jicarilla Apache reservations, in large part because Indians selected land allotments with agendas other than assimilation in mind. The Nez Perces sought to perpetuate traditional environmental and cultural practices through their allotment choices. The Jicarilla Apaches used the tenets of the legislation to secure control of land and accommodate new economic strategies. Nevertheless, the Act did reorder Indian space and extended American territorial authority. The Dawes Act attempted to replace experiential space with mathematically measured space and in this regard, it was largely successful.
Reconfiguring the Reservation reveals why the Dawes Act failed to turn Indians into farmers or dissolve tribal ties, and it also demonstrates how Indians resisted the act's assimilationist agenda.
About the Author
Emily Greenwald teaches Native American and environmental history at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln.
Table of Contents
Spatial control, allotment in severalty, and the 1887 Dawes Act -- Nez Perce culture, geography, and history, 1880-87 -- The Dawes Act on the Nez Perce Reservation -- The search for a Jicarilla homeland -- Dividing and redividing the Jicarilla Apache reservation -- Indian agency and spatial control.