Native Americans In The United States

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorCollege, Undergraduate October 2001

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All minorities in the United States receive special treatment from the government. However, American Indians are treated differently than any other minority group and as Chief Justice John Marshall stated 150 years ago, "the relationship between the United States and American Indian peoples is probably unlike any other relationship in the world"(Zuern 412). But what distinguishes American Indians from other cultural groups in the United States? Why do they receive this special treatment? A common misconception is that the unique status of Native Americans in the United States is based on race. On the contrary, the special treatment of Indian people and tribes has nothing to do with racial discrimination or classification, but it is their status as separate political groups that requires special treatment. In fact, "the Commerce Clause of the Constitution explicitly authorizes Congress to treat Indians and Indian tribes as distinct groups, separate from other American citizens and domestic or foreign governments"(

        In the 1974 case of Morton v. Mancari, in which the plaintiff challenged the policy of "Indian employment preference" in the Bureau of Indian Affairs as being discrimination of race. The Supreme Court ruled that "Indian employment preference" is granted to Indians "not as a discrete racial group, but rather as members of quasi-sovereign tribal entities whose lives and activities are governed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs in a unique fashion"(Zuern 414). This decision completely discredits the argument that racial discrimination is the basis for the relationship between Native Americans and the United States.

        The history of Federal policy shows that the government has difficulty in accepting American Indians as a competent group of people. The belief that Indians are unable to make decisions for themselves is the worst type of prejudice because it deems Indians to be inept and inferior.

Through treaties, Indian...