Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version



Published in Great Plains Quarterly 6:1 (Winter 1986). Copyright © 1986 Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


Frederick Hoxie's argument in A Final Promise is that there were two distinct phases to the government's assimilation program between 1880 and 1920, divided roughly at 1900. The first was an idealistic, internally consistent policy of fully incorporating the Indians into the American way of life as small landowners with citizenship rights and the equivalent of a common school education equals among equals, in short. The second phase saw a diminution of expectations and a growing perception, consistent with the segregationist forces active throughout American society, of the Indians as a permanent, backward minority in need of continuing government controls. Their land ownership would be partial, whites managing their resources through leasing arrangements. Trade schools would prepare them for a menial role in life. Even their citizenship would be different, since they would remain wards of the government. The reform vision of the 1880s had yielded to a new "realism" untouched by optimism.