Thomas Jefferson once secretly wrote to Congress that the US would try to drive Native Americans into debt in order to take their land
Thomas Jeffersononce wrote to Congress that the US would try to drive Native Americansinto debt to take their land.
- He suggested encouraging Indian Tribes to purchase goods on credit so they would go into debt.
Thomas Jefferson once secretly wrote to Congress that the US would try to drive Native Americans into debt in order to take their land.
The US president's note to lawmakers was referenced in a report from the Interior Department published Wednesday.
"In 1803, President Thomas Jefferson delivered a Confidential Message to Congress on Indian Policy explaining a strategy to dispossess Indian Tribes of their territories in part by assimilation," the report said.
According to the report, Jefferson believed "a policy of assimilation would make it easier and less costly in lives and funding for the United States to separate Indian Tribes from their territories."
Executed alongside the assimilation policy would be a process to encourage Native Americans to make purchases with credit. The hope, according to the report, was that they would fall into debt, meaning Indian tribes would have to "cede their land" to the US.
"To promote this disposition to exchange lands which they have to spare & we want, for necessaries, which we have to spare & they want, we shall push our trading houses, and be glad to see the good & influential individuals among them run in debt, because we observe that when these debts get beyond what the individuals can pay, they become willing to lop th[em off] by a cession of lands," Jefferson wrote in his letter to Congress.
The other method Jefferson invoked to rid Native Americans of their land was to convince them to abandon their supposed hunting lifestyles and instead raise more livestock — a way of life that requires far less land.
"The extensive forests necessary in the hunting life, will then become useless, and they will see advantage in exchanging them for the means of improving their farms, and of increasing their domestic comforts," Jefferson wrote.
"I trust and believe we are acting for their greatest good," Jefferson wrote in reference to his proposals to Congress.
It was these suggestions that went on to create Federal Indian law and policy, the report said.
The larger report released Wednesday probed Indian Schools in the US, where Indigenous children were taken from their families and tribes and forcibly assimilated.
The investigation uncovered that over 500 students died while they attended one of the 408 boarding schools for Native American, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian kids that were run or supported by the US government in the 19th and 20th centuries, Insider previously reported.
The report also found abuse against the children was common at the schools, including beatings and solitary confinement.
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