Community Spotlight: American Presidents Series

As the United States gears up for a national election amidst a global pandemic and national civil and social change, similarities between past and present must be pointed out so as to understand the context of this moment in time and how to move forward.

Institutions of power and their leaders in the United States have systematically determined the treatment of today’s minority groups since the start of European settler colonization. These patterns—beginning with the genocide and displacement of Indigenous communities—set the stage for today’s structural inequities and power imbalances.

In anticipation of the 2020 election, we are highlighting a 2016 series published by Indian Country Today which provides an overview of how each president has played a role in policies that affect the legacy of Indigenous peoples after the advent of colonization. This series, written by Alysa Landry for Indian Country Today, paints a picture of how we have arrived at the present moment under these leaders.

  1. George Washington: First Author of Federal Indian Policy 
  2. John Adams: ‘White Father’ to Indian Nations 
  3. Thomas Jefferson: Architect of Indian Removal Policy 
  4. James Madison: Pushed Intermarriage between Settlers and Indians 
  5. James Monroe: Pushed Tribes off Land, But Boosted Education 
  6. John Quincy Adams: Indian Policy ‘Fraudulent and Brutal’ 
  7. Andrew Jackson: Instigation of Indian Removal 
  8. Martin Van Buren: The Force Behind the Trail of Tears 
  9. William Henry Harrison: Shady Treaty Maker and Indian Land Taker 
  10. John Tyler: Squatting Advocate and White Supremacist 
  11. ’No President Less Human’: James Knox Polk 
  12. Zachary Taylor: Hunted Indians with Bloodhounds 
  13. Millard Fillmore: The Racist Who Didn’t Like Anyone 
  14. Franklin Pierce: Fierce Protector of White Settlers in ‘Indian Territory’ 
  15. James Buchanan: Indian Genocide was ‘collateral damage’ 
  16. Abraham Lincoln: Enigmatic President, and Full of Contradictions 
  17. Andrew Johnson: Racist Determined to ‘Relocate’ Indians 
  18. Ulysses S Grant: Mass Genocide Through ‘Permanent Peace’ Policy 
  19. Rutherford B. Hayes: Introduces Allotment and Dreaded Boarding Schools 
  20. James Garfield: Happy to See Natives Sink into ‘Extinction’ 
  21. Chester Arthur: Assimilation His Answer for ‘Great Permanent Problem’ of Indians 
  22. Grover Cleveland: Pushed Land Ownership as a Way to ‘Civilize’ Indians 
  23. Benjamin Harrison: Busted Up Sioux Nation, No Remorse for Wounded Knee 
  24. Grover Cleveland: Pushed Land Ownership as a Way to ‘Civilize’ Indians 
  25. William McKinley: Dismantled Five Civilized Tribes 
  26. Theodore Roosevelt: ‘The Only Good Indians are Dead Indians 
  27. William Howard Taft: Let Deragotory Wild West Movies Slide 
  28. Woodrow Wilson: ‘The Great White Father Now Calls You His Brothers’ 
  29. Warren Harding: Wanted Assimilation By Way of Citizenship 
  30. Calvin Coolidge: First Sitting Prez Adopted by Tribe Starts Desecration of Mount Rushmore 
  31. Herbert Hoover: Only US President to Have Lived on Indian Reservation 
  32. Franklin Delano Roosevelt: A New Deal for Indians 
  33. Harry S Truman: Beginning of Indian Termination Era 
  34. Dwight D. Eisenhower: Tried to Knock Out Jim Thorpe, and Assimilate Indians 
  35. The Unfulfilled Promises of John F. Kennedy: He Vowed a New Frontier for Natives 
  36. Lyndon B. Johnson: Indians are ‘Forgotten Americans’ 
  37. Richard M. Nixon: ‘Self-Determination Without Termination’ 
  38. Gerald R. Ford: Hoping to Heal Wounds 
  39. Jimmy Carter: Signed ICWA into Law 
  40. Ronald Reagan: ‘Maybe We Should Not Have Humored [Natives]’ 
  41. George H.W. Bush: Establishing NMAI, NAGPRA; Corruption in BIA 
  42. Bill Clinton: Invites Tribal Leaders to the White House 
  43. George W. Bush: ‘Actively Ignored’ Indians; Struggled with Sovereignty 
  44. Barack Obama: ‘Emotionally and Intellectually Committed to Indian Country’ 

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