The Australian Aborigines and North American Native Americans

A 19th century engraving showing Australian &q...
A 19th century engraving showing Australian “natives” opposing the arrival of Captain James Cook in 1770 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Rick Bretz

The desire of nations and societies to expand their land holdings has caused much consternation in many countries.  The United States and Australia never had a monopoly on the ill-treatment of indigenous people.  The Persians conquered the Middle East, the Mongols rode across Eastern Europe, the Greek and Roman Empire sought to expand their cultures and the French, Spanish, and British monarchies sailed across the Atlantic Ocean to the New World.

At the least, the United States and Australia’s failures to initially blend their opposing cultures upon colonization demonstrates a poor decision-making process to fix an issue before blood is spilled. Research and the record indicate that the treatment of indigenous people was cultivated in a divine belief in a God-given right to civilize “savages.”   This belief gave the conquering colonists the right to do what they needed to further the nation’s promise.  Although some may have acted with pure intentions, for others this belief gave them license to act unfairly and with malice.

The United States’ policy of Manifest Destiny resulted in wars, forced relocation, cultural indoctrination and a distrust that has remained to this day.

The story of the Australian Aborigines’ struggle and the British Colonization mirrors that of the Native Americans fight for recognition.   For both countries, it took several deaths on both sides for each to realize that conciliation and compromise might be the best route for a sustained peace and understanding.  That this atmosphere is continually tested by both sides is a testament to the deep-rooted scars from a turbulent history.

What is clear today is that an understanding developed among the first colonists and subsequent government power elite in both countries that the idea to treat indigenous people as second-class or worse was acceptable toward a united nation under predetermined religious beliefs and races.  This idea permeated society and gave the majority of “civilized” society permission to treat Native Americans and Aborigines how they pleased.  Not everyone thought this way but enough to give both governments the power and permission to keep certain rights and land away from them.   From then on, the “original” people from both lands would have to struggle to get them back.  These rights would be earned one by one over several years by intellectual discussions, casualties from conflicts, government enlightenment and mutual compromise on both sides.  This leads us to where we are today.  The relationship is being repaired but disagreements remain between each party. This may be the price for how each land was settled at the start—a continuous process of reconciliation and compromise that may lead to total harmony one day.

What do you think?  Is it a valid comparison?

                                                                    A Comparison Study Chart

Australian Aborigines meaning “original people”

North   American Native Americans

Composed of various tribes usually based on languages and geography. (Aku   Ramul, Kambre, Panara) Composed of various tribes, nations, and languages (Cherokee, Sioux,   Seneca, Lakota, Shoshone, Shawnees, Seminoles, Catawba)
Migrated from Indian subcontinent If migrated, most likely came from Eastern Asia
Original people of Australia before colonization by British explorers Native people of North America before French, British, and Spanish   colonization
Disease brought by colonization decimates population (small pox) Disease brought by colonization decimates population (small pox,  measles)
1770-East Coast of Australia claimed by Captain James Cook. 1492 or Later-East Coast of United States colonized
1770-1788-More British ships appear and dock on the east coast. 1621-One the first treaties between Plymouth Pilgrims and the Wampanoag   Tribe. Colonists seek to expand further West from coastal region.
1788-British set up penal colony.    Skirmishes between British and Aborigines begin. 1830-1840-Native American Nations were forced to move from East to   lands west of the Mississippi River.
1799-Aborigines resistance to white settlements in areas known as   Black Wars 1838-Trail of Tears.  Thousands   of Cherokee forced to move from Georgia to Oklahoma with many dying in the   process. This despite Supreme Court Rulings in 1831 and 1832 stating that they   had a right to stay on their lands.
1810-Aborigines moved into mission stations to learn European beliefs 1830 and later-The establishment of Indian Reservations
Major conflicts and killings occur due to Aborigines lands forcefully   taken from them. Issues with treaties that were agreed upon, land agreements broken
1835-The Dunghutti people   of north coast NSW are now confined to 40 hectares (2,47 acres) of land on   the Bellwood Reserve, near present day Kempsey. They previously owned 250,000   hectares. On January   12, 1833, a law was passed by US Congress making it unlawful for any Indian   to remain within the boundaries of the state of Florida.
1949-Aboriginal people are   given the right   to enroll and vote at federal elections provided they are  entitled to enroll for state elections or have served in the armed forces. On June 2, 1924, Congress enacted the Indian Citizenship Act, which   granted citizenship to all Native Americans born in the U.S. the right to   vote.  Many states were slow to grant   the right to vote by placing restrictions on eligibility.  The 1965 Voting Rights Act strengthened   laws prohibiting state restrictions on voting rights.
1979-Aboriginal people are counted in the   Census for the first time. 1860-Native Americans identified for the decennial census. Census   instructions indicate that the families of Indians who have renounced tribal   rule, and who under state or territory laws exercise the rights of citizens,   are to be enumerated.  The 1870 Census   is the first to list “Indian” as a choice.
1992-The High Court of   Australia hands down its landmark decision in Mabo v. Queensland (Mabo Case, Mabo   Decision). It decides that Native Title exists over particular kinds of lands –   unalienated Crown Lands, national parks and reserves – and that Australia was   never terra nullius or empty land. 1924-The Citizenship Act gives Native Americans dual   citizenship.  This enables Native   Americans the status of US citizens and also be members of their tribes.1968-Congress passes Indian Civil Rights Act.

2007-Seneca Indian Nation revokes agreement to build highway through   their territory in New York.

Notable Links:

Aborigines (Original People)

http://www.creativespirits.info/aboriginalculture/history/australian-aboriginal-history-timeline

http://www.infoplease.com/spot/aboriginal1.html

http://bovination.com/cbs/australianAboriginalHistory.php

http://lateralloveaustralia.com/

Native Americans

http://www.indians.org/articles/native-american-indians.html

http://www.shmoop.com/native-american-history/

http://www.besthistorysites.net/index.php/american-history/native-american

http://www.accessgenealogy.com/native/census/

http://www.millelacsband.com/Page_culture.aspx?id=270

12 thoughts on “The Australian Aborigines and North American Native Americans”

  1. Greetings from Carolina! I’m bored to tears at work so I decidd to check out your website on my iphone during lunch
    break. I love the information you present here
    and can’t wait tto take a look when I get home. I’m shocked att how quick youir blog loaded on my cell phone ..
    I’m not even usig WIFI, just 3G .. Anyhow, great site!

    1. Thanks for the comment. I have always thought that the links list give readers a chance to research further. I have taken some time off from writing but I will be getting back to adding post to my blog soon.

  2. would you be willing to do a contrast on Australian Aborigines and North American Native Americans. and further more comparing and contrasting African Americans.

  3. Mr. Betz, I find your work to be very interesting. This can also be compared to what happened in Canada. Also, the children in the UK who were moved to Australia after WWII also experienced a similar treatment. What do you hope to do with your research?

    1. Thank you for your response and encouraging words. My motivation is to make people more aware of how people were treated during eras when decisions were made that should have been conceived with more forethought for human dignity. My hope is we learn from past mistakes. Thanks again!

    1. My hope is that these decisions were made with unintentional malice and with the idea that they were trying to balance cultural integrity for indigenous people and assimilation. At the very least, it was a form of segregation. That’s my opinion. Thanks for your comments. You have given me motivation for writing more columns.

  4. Yes, please do. A book needs to be written to compare what has happened and what is happening now to these people. They are suffering from depression, alcoholism, suicide all because of the decisions that were made so long ago. It has had long term effects that are still present today along with their poverty and health issues, like diabetes, that have become rampant.

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