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Merritt Fish

Ms. Cooper

AP Language

23 May 2017

Native American Interactions: Beneficial to the United States

Throughout this year, the AGS junior class focused on how contact with Native

Americans has shaped the United States into what it is today. Over the course of the year, we

created many projects and carried out many activities related to Native American interaction,

leading up to our learning expedition in New Mexico. At the beginning of this year, we were

tasked with creating an overarching question that we would later answer through these projects,

assignments, films, and our trip to the Southwest. During the first semester, I had absolutely no

clue how I was even going to start answering my question, but as I am about to finish my junior

year, I found that many things we learned related to my subject. Almost everything we did this

year somehow connected to Native American interaction, and all I had to do was focus in on my

question. After further analysis of my work throughout the year, I came to my answer:

interactions with Native Americans benefit the United States, as they allowed the U.S. to expand

westward, they aided in helping develop the economy, and they help make Americans culturally

aware.

First, interactions with Native Americans benefit the United States as they allowed the

U.S. to expand westward. A perfect example to support this concept is the light side/dark side

project. While creating this project, I found that during the Market Revolution, the idea of

Manifest Destiny, or westward expansion, was introduced. Due to this expansion, American
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settlers began to move west, creating tension between the Native Americans and the settlers. As a

result, the Natives were forced out of their homes, and pushed further west. Though they were

forced to move, it allowed the U.S. to expand and develop. The American settlers were then able

to develop the land, therefore increasing farms and factories. This was a crucial factor during the

Market Revolution, as it allowed for the mass production and transportation of goods. This

project shows how interactions benefitted the United States because expansion was crucial

during this time period, and interactions with Native Americans contributed to the United States

success. In addition, when I analyzed primary documents for the Dakota Uprising project, my

group came to the conclusion that the Native Americans, not the white settlers, were the savages.

Through this analysis, I learned that one effect of the war was an increase in land for the U.S.. As

a result of the uprising, the Sioux people were forced onto reservations. Though this was a

negative result for the Natives, it was beneficial for the United States, as they gained more land.

Interactions with Native Americans benefitted the United States as it allowed the U.S. to expand.

Without expansion, the United States would not have developed into the 50 great states that it is

today, and because of it, technological and agricultural developments were made, and a more

modern economy was developed.

Similarly, interactions with Native Americans benefit the United States as they

contributed to the development of the U.S. economy. In preparation for the AP U.S. History

exam, I wrote a long answer question analyzing how cultural interactions shaped relations

between Europeans and Native Americans. I argued that the interactions between the two groups

were mostly friendly, as they aided in economic developments. More specifically, I used the Fur

Trade as an example to support this concept. In New France, the Huron tribe had very positive

interactions with the French settlers, which led to the Fur Trade. This trade boosted both the
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Hurons and the colonists economy, because of the constant desire for fur, including beaver

pelts. Because of this, the colonists began to develop an economy, which was the foundation for

our modern economy. Likewise, when we visited the National Museum of Nuclear Science and

History in New Mexico, we learned that interactions with Native Americans benefitted the U.S.

economy. During World War II, there was an increasing demand for uranium, in order to build

nuclear weapons. As a result, uranium mines were created on Navajo land in the Southwest, and

Navajos were hired to work in the mines. The Natives happily accepted the employment, and

began to work in mining uranium. This benefitted the United States, because the Navajos worked

for very low pay, and the increased production and demand of uranium contributed to getting the

U.S. out of economic depression. In parallel, Mexican immigrants work for low wages, just like

the Navajo Natives did. In Spanish class, we viewed the film, El Norte, in which two immigrants

from Guatemala moved to San Diego to start a new life. Just like the Navajos, they happily

accepted employment, regardless of the low wage. These interactions with Native Americans

benefited the U.S. as they helped create and sell goods and services, therefore aiding in the

development of the economy.

Finally, interactions with Native Americans benefit the United States because Americans

become more culturally aware. In English class, my group and I researched how tribal tourism

affected Native Americans, and we came to the conclusion that despite common belief, tourism

benefitted Native Americans, along with the U.S. In order to communicate our ideas, we created

a story along with an interactive felt board to present to kindergarteners at Sanchez Elementary.

In the story, we taught the students that most Native American stereotypes are not true, and that

tourism benefits both the Natives and the United States. More specifically, when we presented to

our classmates, we explained that tribal tourism increases awareness of Native Americans, which
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benefits the U.S. by making Americans more culturally aware. The United States truly is a

melting pot of background and race, and awareness of Native culture preserves that diversity.

As I was on the way to New Mexico, I was nervous for what to expect at the Tohajilee

reservation. We had spent the whole years talking about how Native American stereotypes are

mostly false, and yet I still wondered if the stereotype was going to be apparent. I thought that

the school was going to look unkempt, and that the kids would speak very little English. But to

my surprise, when I arrived at the Tohajilee school, I realized that it was just like a normal

school. The school was almost as nice as Austin High, and the children were fluent in English. I

volunteered to work with the Kindergarteners, and I was so excited. In their class, we helped

them learn their Q words and sound out their vocabulary words for the week. This experience

was extremely beneficial to me because I was able to see what life on a reservation was truly

like, and I got rid of the stereotypes that I held beforehand. Because of experiences like the ones

that we were able to encounter on our learning expedition, interactions with Native Americans

are beneficial to the U.S. because it allows Americans to be more culturally aware. The

Southwest trip, and specifically the Tohajilee reservation was such an eye opening experience,

and it is something that I will never forget.

In conclusion, this year has been such a learning experience, and I would have never

thought I would learn so much. At the beginning of the year, I was nervous and anxious for how I

was going to answer my overarching question. I started off having many stereotypes in my mind,

and all of the assignments throughout the year, and our trip to New Mexico really broke down

those stereotypes, and enabled me to answer my question. Interactions with Native Americans do

benefit the United States, as they allowed the U.S. to expand, the economy to develop, and

Americans to become more culturally aware. I am so lucky to be apart of such a great program
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like AGS in order to further my understanding of other cultures, including Native Americans,

which most high schoolers do not focus on. I have learned so many valuable lessons through my

education this year, and I am so happy to have (almost) finished my junior year!
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Works Cited

El Norte. Directed by Gregory Nava, performances by Zaide Silvia Gutirrez, David

Villalpando, Ernesto Gmez Cruz. Criterion Collection. 1984.