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Entangled Pasts: Land-Grant Colleges and American Indian Dispossession

  • Margaret A. Nash

Abstract

Land-grant colleges were created in the mid-nineteenth century when the federal government sold off public lands and allowed states to use that money to create colleges. The land that was sold to support colleges was available because of a deliberate project to dispossess American Indians of land they inhabited. By encouraging westward migration, touting the “civilizing” influence of education, emphasizing agricultural and scientific education to establish international strength, and erasing Native rights and history, the land-grant colleges can be seen as an element of settler colonialism. Native American dispossession was not merely an unfortunate by-product of the establishment of land-grant colleges; rather, the colleges exist only because of a state-sponsored system of Native dispossession.

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References

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1 Ross, Earle D., Democracy's College: The Land-Grant Movement in the Formative Stage (Ames: Iowa State College Press, 1942). See also Thelin, John, A History of American Higher Education (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2011), 74-109.

2 For one example, and a summary of current research, see Sorber, Nathan M. and Geiger, Roger L., “The Welding of Opposite Views: Land-Grant Historiography at 150 Years,” in Higher Education: Handbook of Theory and Research, vol. 29, ed. Paulsen, Michael (New York: Springer, 2014), 385-422.

3 Sharon Stein, “A Colonial History of the Higher Education Present: Rethinking Land-Grant Institutions through Processes of Accumulation and Relations of Conquest,” Critical Studies in Education (Dec. 2017), 1-17.

4 Wilder, Craig Steven, Ebony and Ivy: Race, Slavery, and the Troubled History of America's Universities (New York: Bloomsbury Press, 2013).

5 Anderson, James D. and Span, Christopher M., “The Legacy of Slavery, Racism, and Contemporary Black Activism on Campus,” History of Education Quarterly 56, no. 4 (Nov. 2016), 646-56; Marc Parry, “A New Path to Atonement,” Chronicle of Higher Education (Jan. 20, 2019), https://www.chronicle.com/article/A-New-Path-to-Atonement/245511; and Richard J. Cellini, “How Universities Can Respond to Their Slavery Ties,” Chronicle of Higher Education (Jan. 20, 2019), https://www.chronicle.com/article/How-Universities-Can-Respond/245517.

6 Sauder, Robert A. and Sauder, Rose M., “The Morrill Act's Influence on Public Land Disposal After 1870,” Agricultural History 61, no. 2 (Spring 1987), 34-49.

7 Geiger, Roger L., The History of American Higher Education: Learning and Culture from the Founding to World War II (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2014).

8 Lawrence, Adrea, Kroupa, KuuNUx TeeRIt, and Warren, Donald, “Introduction,” History of Education Quarterly 54, no. 3 (Aug, 2014), 253; and Madley, Benjamin, An American Genocide: The United States and the California Indian Catastrophe (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2016), 15.

9 Williams, Roger L., The Origins of Federal Support for Higher Education: George W. Atherton and the Land-Grant College Movement (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1991), 1.

10 Edmond, J. B., The Magnificent Charter: The Origin and Role of the Morrill Land-Grant Colleges and Universities (Hicksville, NY: Exposition Press, 1978); Nevins, Allan, The State Universities and Democracy (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1962); Eddy, Edward Danforth Jr., Colleges for Our Land and Time: The Land-Grant Idea in American Education (New York: Harper, 1957); and Ross, Earle D., Democracy's College: The Land-Grant Movement in the Formative Stage (Ames: Iowa State College Press, 1942).

11 Williams, The Origins of Federal Support, 11.

12 For these and other revisions to the historiography, see Geiger, Roger L. and Sorber, Nathan M., eds., “The Land-Grant Colleges and the Reshaping of American Higher Education,” special issue, Perspectives on the History of Higher Education 30 (2013).

13 J. Gregory Behle, “Educating the Toiling Peoples: Students at the Illinois Industrial University, Spring 1868,” in “The Land-Grant Colleges,” 81.

14 Geiger and Sorber, preface to “The Land-Grant Colleges,” ix. See also Behle, “Educating the Toiling Peoples,” 74-75; and Sorber and Geiger, “The Welding of Opposite Views,” 387.

15 “The Land-Grant Heritage of SDSU,” South Dakota State University, https://www.sdstate.edu/about-us/land-grant-heritage-sdsu.

16 “Celebrate the Morrill Land-Grant Act's 150th Anniversary!” Iowa State University Library, April 11, 2012, https://www.lib.iastate.edu/news/celebrate-morrill-land-grant-acts-150th-anniversary.

17 Nicole Freeling, “Morrill Act: Honoring Our Land Grant History,” University of California Office of the President, July 6, 2012, https://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/news/morrill-act-honoring-our-land-grant-history.

18 Dahl, Adam, Empire of the People: Settler Colonialism and the Foundations of Modern Democratic Thought (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2018), 2.

19 Veracini, Lorenzo, Settler Colonialism: A Theoretical Overview (New York: Palgrave-MacMillan, 2010).

20 Stasiulis, Daiva K. and Yuval-Davis, Nira, eds., Unsettling Settler Societies: Articulations of Gender, Race, Ethnicity and Class, Sage Series on Race and Ethnic Relations, vol. 11 (London: Sage, 1995), 3.

21 Wolfe, Patrick, “Settler Colonialism and the Elimination of the Native,” Journal of Genocide Research 8, no. 4 (Dec. 2006), 388.

22 Glenn, Evelyn Nakano, “Settler Colonialism as Structure: A Framework for Comparative Studies of U.S. Race and Gender Formation,” Sociology of Race and Ethnicity 1, no. 1 (Jan. 2015), 55.

23 “The Doctrine of Discovery, 1493: A Spotlight on a Primary Source by Pope Alexander VI,” History Now, Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, https://www.gilderlehrman.org/content/doctrine-discovery-1493; and Robertson, Lindsey G., Conquest by Law: How the Discovery of America Dispossessed Indigenous Peoples of Their Lands (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005).

24 Saler, Bethel, The Settlers’ Empire: Colonialism and State Formation in America's Old Northwest (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015), 2.

25 Unrau, William E., The Rise and Fall of Indian Country, 1825-1855 (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2007).

26 See Johnson v. McIntosh, 21 U.S. (8 Wheat.) 543 (1823). See also Dunbar-Ortiz, Roxanne, An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States (Boston: Beacon Press, 2014), 199-200.

27 Jacobs, Margaret D., “Genocide or Ethnic Cleansing: Are These Our Only Choices?,” Western Historical Quarterly 47, no. 4 (Winter 2016), 446-47.

28 Lloyd, David and Wolfe, Patrick, “Settler Colonial Logics and the Neoliberal Regime,” Settler Colonial Studies 6, no. 2 (2015), 109-18.

29 George Washington to Janes Duane, Sept. 7, 1783, Founders Online, National Archives, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/99-01-02-11798.

30 Unrau, The Rise and Fall of Indian Country, 61.

31 Wolfe, “Settler Colonialism, 395.

32 de Crèvecœur, J. Hector St. John, Letters from an American Farmer and Other Essays, ed. Moore, Dennis D. (1782; repr., Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013), 7, 17.

33 Wolfe, “Settler Colonialism,” 396.

34 Wolfe, “Settler Colonialism,” 395.

35 Sorber, Nathan N., Land-Grant Colleges and Popular Revolt: The Origins of the Morrill Act and the Reform of Higher Education (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2018), 47.

36 Sorber, Land-Grant Colleges and Popular Revolt.

37 Dahl, Empire of the People, 4.

38 Dahl, Empire of the People, 4.

39 Unrau, The Rise and Fall of Indian Country, 116-17.

40 Dahl, Empire of the People, 13; and Glenn, “Settler Colonialism as Structure.”

41 Jacobs, Margaret D., White Mother to a Dark Race: Settler Colonialism, Maternalism, and the Removal of Indigenous Children in the American West and Australia, 1880-1940 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2009), 6.

42 O'Brien, Jean M., Firsting and Lasting: Writing Indians Out of Existence in New England (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2010), xv.

43 O'Brien, Firsting and Lasting, xvi.

44 Dahl, Empire of the People, 102.

45 Sharon Stein has begun work on this issue; see Stein, “A Colonial History of the Higher Education Present.”

46 Beadie, Nancy et al. , “Gateways to the West, Part I: Education in the Shaping of the West,” History of Education Quarterly 56, no. 3 (Aug. 2016), 430; Tyack, David, James, Thomas, and Benavot, Arron, Law and the Shaping of Public Education, 1785-1954 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1987); and Adams, David Wallace, Education for Extinction: American Indians and the Boarding School Experience, 1875-1928 (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1995).

47 Nathan M. Sorber, introduction to “The Land-Grant Colleges,” 4.

48 Paine, Thomas, Public Good: Being An Examination into the Claims of Virginia to the Vacant Western Territory (1780; repr., London: R. Carlile, 1819), 30.

49 Dahl, Empire of the People, 36.

50 Meinig, D. W., The Shaping of America: A Geographical Perspective on 500 Years of History, vol. 2 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1993), 241-42; and White, Richard, “It's Your Misfortune and None of My Own”: A New History of the American West (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1991), 137-39.

51 White, “It's Your Misfortune,” 139.

52 Gates, Paul W., History of Public Land Law Development (Washington, DC: Public Land Law Review Commission, 1968).

53 Gates, History of Public Land Law Development.

54 On the US government contending that 160 acres was the ideal size for a sustainable family farm, see Unrau, The Rise and Fall of Indian Country, 93.

55 White, “It's Your Misfortune,” 143.

56 Turner, Frederick Jackson, “Pioneer Ideals and the State University,” Indiana University Bulletin 8, no. 6 (June 15, 1910), 13.

57 Geiger and Sorber, preface to “The Land-Grant Colleges,” xi; Geiger, The History of American Higher Education, 281; and Thelin, A History of American Higher Education, 78.

58 White, “It's Your Misfortune,” 142.

59 Gates, History of Public Land Law Development, 335.

60 Gates, History of Public Land Law Development, 395, 396. The total amount of land available through the Homestead Act increased in subsequent years to as much as 270,000,000 acres.

61 Gates, History of Public Land Law Development, 80, 83.

62 Peter L. Moran and Roger L. Williams, “Saving the Land Grant for the Agricultural College of Pennsylvania,” in “The Land Grant Colleges,” 105-29.

63 Williams, The Origins of Federal Support, 46.

64 Williams, The Origins of Federal Support, 49.

65 Williams, The Origins of Federal Support, 41.

66 Wishart, David J., An Unspeakable Sadness: The Dispossession of the Nebraska Indians (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1994), 59.

67 DeJong, David H., American Indian Treaties: A Guide to Ratified and Unratified Colonial, United States, State, Foreign, and Intertribal Treaties and Agreements, 1607-1911 (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2015), 31-32.

68 Hayes, A. B. and Cox, Sam D., History of the City of Lincoln, Nebraska (Lincoln: State Journal Company, 1889).

69 William Clark to Thomas McKenney, July 23, 1830, in Correspondence on the Subject of the Emigration of Indians, vol. 2 (Washington, DC: Duff Green, 1835), 80-81.

70 Wishart, An Unspeakable Sadness, 62.

71 Wishart, An Unspeakable Sadness, 64-65.

72 Wishart, An Unspeakable Sadness, 102-104.

73 Wishart, An Unspeakable Sadness, 115.

74 Wishart, An Unspeakable Sadness, 117.

75 Wishart, An Unspeakable Sadness, 166.

76 Wishart, An Unspeakable Sadness, 188.

77 Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs to the Secretary of the Interior for the Year 1872 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1872), 9.

78 Griest, Jesse, “Indian Affairs,” Annual Report of the Secretary of the Interior on the Operations of the Department for the Year Ended June 30, 1879, vol. 1 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1879), 209.

79 “History: Otoe & Missouria: Five Hundred Years of History,” The Otoe-Missouria Tribe, http://www.omtribe.org/who-we-are-history.

80 Clark, Blue, Indian Tribes of Oklahoma: A Guide (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2009).

81 At the time of the sales, the relevant federal agency was the Department of the Interior's General Land Office, which merged with the US Grazing Service in 1946 to become the Bureau of Land Management. See Skillen, James R., The Nation's Largest Landlord: The Bureau of Land Management in the American West (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2009).

82 Treaty with the Great and Little Osages, Aug. 10, 1825, The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, vol. 7, ed. Peters, Richard (Boston: Little, Brown, 1854), 268-70.

83 Treaty with the Great and Little Osages.

84 Treaty with the Osages, Jan. 11, 1839, The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, 576-78.

85 Treaty with the Quapaws, Aug. 24, 1818, The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, 176-78.

86 Unrau, The Rise and Fall of Indian Country, 56.

87 Treaty with the Quapaws.

88 Treaty with the Quapaws, May 13, 1833, The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, 424-26.

89 Treaty with the Choctaw, Jan. 20, 1825, The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, 234-36.

90 Snyder, Christina, “The Rise and Fall and Rise of Civilizations: Indian Intellectual Culture during the Removal Era,” Journal of American History 104, no. 2 (Sept. 2017), 390.

91 Snyder, “The Rise and Fall and Rise of Civilizations,” 388.

92 Steineker, Rowan Faye, “‘Fully Equal to That of Any Children’: Experimental Creek Education in the Antebellum Era,” History of Education Quarterly 56, no. 2 (May 2016), 275.

93 Treaty with the Sacs [Sauk] and Foxes, Nov. 3, 1804, The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, 84-87.

94 Treaty with the Sac [Sauk] and Foxes; the Medawah-Kanton, Wahpacoota, Wahpeton and Sissetong Bands or Tribes of Sioux; the Omahas, Ioways, Ottoes and Missourias, July 15, 1830, The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, 328-32.

95 Unrau, The Rise and Fall of Indian Country, 96.

96 Treaty with the Sac [Sauk] and Foxes, Oct. 21, 1837, The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, 543-44.

97 Treaty with the Kickapoo, Oct. 24, 1832, The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, 391-94.

98 Supplemental Article to the Treaty with the Delawares of Oct. 3, 1818, Sept. 24, 1829, The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, 327-28.

99 Treaty with the Delawares, May 6, 1854, The Statutes at Large and Treaties of the United States of America, vol. 10, ed. Minot, George (Boston: Little, Brown, 1855), 1048-52.

100 Convention with the Shawnee, Nov. 7, 1825, The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, 284-86.

101 Dahl, Empire of the People, 5.

102 Dahl, Empire of the People, 184.

103 Williams, The Origins of Federal Support, 46.

104 Blumenthal, Walter Hart, American Indians Dispossessed (New York: Arno Press, 1975), 61.

105 Blumenthal, American Indians Dispossessed, 61.

106 Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, An Indigenous Peoples’ History, 198.

107 Wishart, An Unspeakable Sadness, 109.

108 They held onto some of the Arkansas land until 1904 and 1905.

109 For one example, see Ladson-Billings, Gloria and Tate, W. F., “Toward a Critical Race Theory of Education,” Teachers College Record 97, no. 1 (Fall 1995), 47-68.

110 Patton, Lori D., “Disrupting Postsecondary Prose: Toward a Critical Race Theory of Higher Education,” Urban Education 5, no. 3 (March 2016,) 318.

111 Wilder, Ebony and Ivy.

112 Stein, “A Colonial History of the Higher Education Present,” 2.

113 Jacobs, White Mother to a Dark Race, 9.

114 “Land Acknowledgement,” University of Illinois System, https://www.uillinois.edu/about/land_acknowledgement.

115 Jorge Espinoza, “University Adopts Land Acknowledgement Statement to Honor Native Americans,” Rocky Mountain Collegian, Jan. 27, 2019, https://collegian.com/2019/01/csu-adopts-land-acknowledgement-statement-to-honor-native-americans/.

116 “Provisional Land Acknowledgement,” Michigan State University, http://aisp.msu.edu/about/land/.

117 Selena Mills, “Land Acknowledgements Are a Good First Step, but There's a Lot More Work to Be Done,” Today's Parent, May 30, 2018, https://www.todaysparent.com/kids/school-age/land-acknowledgements-are-a-good-first-step-but-theres-a-lot-more-work-to-be-done/.

118 For example, see “Mishuana Goeman Named Special Advisor to the Chancellor on Native American Affairs,” UCLA Newsroom, Oct. 9, 2018, http://newsroom.ucla.edu/stories/mishuana-goeman-named-special-advisor-to-the-chancellor-on-native-american-and-indigenous-affairs; and Jessica Villagomez, “UIC to Offer In-State Tuition for American Indian, Alaska Natives,” Chicago Tribune, May 29, 2019, sec. 1, 4.

119 Bourdieu, Pierre and Passeron, Jean-Claude, Reproduction in Education, Society, and Culture (Newberry Park, CA: Sage, 1990). See also Chin, Jeremiah, Bustamante, Nicholas, Solyom, Jessica Ann, and Brayboy, Bryan McKinley Jones, “Terminus Amnesia: Cherokee Freedmen, Citizenship, and Education,” Theory Into Practice 55, no. 1 (Jan. 2016), 28-38.

120 Thanks to Begoña Echeverria for this concept.

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Entangled Pasts: Land-Grant Colleges and American Indian Dispossession

  • Margaret A. Nash

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