The Native American is a subordinate group in the United States. A subordinate group is a minority group whose members have significantly less control or power over their own lives than do the members of a dominant or majority group. Some other examples of subordinate groups in the United States are Hawaiians, African Americans, Chinese Americans, Polish Americans and Puerto Ricans.
A subordinate group has five characteristics. They are unequal treatment, distinguishing physical or cultural traits, involuntary membership, awareness of subordination, and in-group marriage. There are four types of subordinate groups. They are racial groups, ethnicity groups, religion groups and gender groups.
The Native Americans encounter unequal treatment and have less power over their lives than members of a dominant group have over theirs. Prejudice, discrimination, segregation, and even extermination create this social inequality.
Members of a minority group share physical or cultural characteristics that distinguish them from the dominant group, such as skin color or language. Native Americans have Mongolic features, coarse, straight black hair, dark eyes, sparse body hair, and a skin color ranging from yellow-brown to reddish brown. Each society has its own arbitrary standard for determining which characteristics are most important in defining dominant and minority groups.
The Native American people migrated to North America from Asia through the Bering Strait or along the north pacific coast. From Alaska, they spread east and south. Scholars believe that they migrated anywhere from 12,000 to 25,000 years ago.
Annexation occurs, when the dominant power generally suppresses the language and culture of the minority. In the late 1820s, under President Andrew Jackson, the U.S. government sought to force Indian tribes to surrender their tribal lands and move west beyond the Mississippi River to isolated western territory. Some tribes regretfully migrated but others resisted these efforts and ended up being killed in conflicts with U.S. militiamen.
According to the historian Frederick Merk, in one five-year period, between 1832 and 1837, 2 million acres of land in the northern plains of the Great Lakes were ceded to the U.S. government by Native American tribes.
The Native American has faced a consequence situation called extermination. This very extreme way of dealing with a subordinate group is to eliminate it, which is also called genocide. Prior to 1492, the Native American population north of Mexico was estimated to be anywhere from 1.8 million to 10 million. In 1800, the Native American population was 600,000. By 1850, it was reduced to 250,000. This was caused by warfare with the United States army, forced relocation to inhospitable environments and disease. As of the year 2000, the percentage of Native Americans in the United States is less than 1%, at 0.9%.
Another consequence is expulsion. This is when a dominant group chooses to force a subordinate group to leave certain areas or even vacate a country. The English, the French and the Spanish along with the eventual U.S. government, drove almost all Native Americans out of their tribal lands into unfamiliar territory.
Segregation is another consequence suffered by the Native American population. Segregation is the physical separation of two groups in residence, workplace and social functions. The dominant group imposes the segregation on the subordinate group. Legally sanctioning segregation of Native American Indian reservations continues. Economical and educational opportunities are more limited in areas that are segregated from the rest of society. Dismal job opportunities, poor health care facilities, delinquency, and crime are much more likely to be experienced by Native Americans than the dominant group.
Secession or fusion are the two consequences never experienced by Native Americans. Secession is when a group ceases to be a subordinate group when it secedes to form a new nation or moves to an already established nation, where it becomes dominant. Fusion occurs when a minority and a majority group combine to form a new group.