By Adam Krasnecki
How would you feel If the land you lived on was valued more than your life? Many countries are constantly striving to expand their territories, sometimes at the cost of other people’s lives. The Sioux Indians fell victim to this during the American westward expansion by having to change their culture and names, having to give up their land, and even changing how they got food for their families. The Sioux deal with the effects of this still today.
First off, The big problem with the Sioux was their land. The government wanted the land that the Sioux had deemed as spiritual land. This area was called the Black Hills. To get this land the U.S. government came up with several plans that all involved the Sioux to accept money in trade for the land or the land would just be taken from them later on. The main problem with this is that the amount they were to be paid is much under that the land would sell for normally. The Sioux also did not like that their spiritual land was being taken just to build railroads on and mine for gold in.
Second, they had to change their culture and names. They had to go to a Christian church for religion and they had to change their names to Christian names if they wanted their plot of land which they needed to survive. They had to learn a new language and learn and agree on the white man's social and political beliefs. They had to do all this just because the government wanted land from them to mine.
Next, the Native Americans were forced to grow food by farming on their plot of land. This was much different that their traditional nomadic hunting with the buffalo. Their entire diet changed, going from mainly meant to plants that can be grown easily. This is one of the factors of why the Sioux became very ill in their reservations. They had a different diet and were in contact with the white men and their diseases that they had no immunity to.
Lastly, the Sioux are still affected today. They recently had a chance to buy back the rest of their sacred land called Pe Sla for $9 million (Williams). They were able to buy it because the government took it and were now done with it. This was unfair but they felt they had no other choice. “It’s like someone stealing my car and I have to pay to get it back,” said Tom Poor Bear, the vice president of the Oglala Lakota Tribe in South Dakota (Lakota). This means that even though the land was taken from them, they have to buy it back. Another thing that affects them today because of the reservations is the living conditions currently. Many people in the reservations have substance abuse problems. “Alcoholism affects eight out of 10 families, contributing to a death rate that is 300 percent higher than the remaining U.S. population” (Lakota). Not only does this lower the quality of life itself, but it shows that the Sioux have other problems that make them feel like the need to abuse alcohol. There are many problems in the Sioux reservations beyond alcoholism including a 70% high school dropout rate, 150% higher than average teen suicide rate, and 50% of the adults having diabetes. All factors above lead to a lower quality of life than the average american low levels of technology are present too, with only a fraction of Sioux houses having electricity. These houses are also very dirty with sometimes fatal amounts of black mold present. (Lakota) They are also very poor. “97 percent of the population lives far below the U.S. federal poverty line with a median household income ranging between $2,600 and $3,500 per year” (Lakota).
In conclusion, the Sioux way of life and quality of life was damaged long ago and even today this is still noticed in how bad their living conditions are. When they were first pushed from their original homes they had to change their culture, give up their land, and they had to change how they got food which was an important part of their lives. Today the U.S. government's plans to convert the Native Americans to the white way of life has failed. This can be shown by how poor they are and how bad their health is. Overall, the Sioux people have been harmed by the white men despite their promises to help them.
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