History of American Indian reservations

The history of American Indians is a long and storied one. It’s not always pretty, but history rarely is – what’s important is that America’s indigenous people were able to successfully integrate into modern Western society while maintaining their culture and tradition. Here’s a brief overview of the history of American Indian reservations, although there’s a lot more to look into for those truly interested.

The colonization

Around the turn of the 16th century, American Indians were still living as tribes in their native lands. Trouble was brewing on the horizon, however, as European and Spanish colonialists sought to inhabit these lands after discovering them largely by accident. This page offers some insight on how the famous explorers went about creating a new home for themselves.

With different cultures and ways of life, American Indians and European colonialists rarely saw eye to eye and suffered hostilities between one another for what would be centuries: many feel as if some of these tensions poured into present day, although it’s difficult to say for sure.

The middle of the 19th century saw perhaps the biggest turn of events, one that would lead to the formation of today’s reservations. A law was passed that forced many American Indians to migrate from one part of the country to another – the ‘final’ destinations would end up becoming Indian reservations. History.com describes this forced migration a bit more, sparing no unpleasant details.

Yet this still didn’t mean the trouble was over, both for the settlers and the natives.

The creation of reservations and transition into present day

As is often the case when two groups of people with distinctly different customs and beliefs inhabit a land, settlers in the would-be reservations rarely welcomed the presence of American Indians and the sentiment was often returned.

Conflicts continued, and the attempts of then-President Ulysses S. Grant to establish peace did very little – in fact, many would argue that Grant’s policy only made matters worse, causing numerous bloody conflicts between the U.S. Army and the natives who weren’t content with staying in their state-approved location.

While things looked a little better around the end of the 19th century when American Indians were starting to get land on an individual basis (as opposed to a per-tribe one), it wasn’t until mid-20th century that natives would truly be taken care of.

The act that changed it all

The act of 1934 has multiple names: the Indian New Deal, the Howard-Wheeler Act or the Indian Reorganization Act. However you want to call it, it was the first policy that truly established rights for the natives – tribes were allocated to reservations that were to be considered their property in every sense of the word. You can learn more about the act here.

The next two decades saw the government make strides in improving the conditions on the reservations, making them more hospitable and fit for modern life. While some tribes perished or disbanded, most were encouraged to maintain their individuality and are still officially recognized.

From there, some American Indians elected to live in cities while others were content to stay on the reservations – this, more or less, remains the case to this very day.

3 incredible American Indian museums

Our great country is never short on terrific museums that clue us in on what things were like back in the day. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to say that American Indian museums are among the most important ones in the country as they chronicle the distinct lifestyle of the native population before their introduction to settlers.

To learn more about your country and its indigenous folk, here are 3 incredible American Indian museums that should be on everyone’s radar.

National Museum of the American Indian: Most people who only know a single Native American museum will know this one, and for good reason – NMAI is perhaps the most expansive gallery of American Indian life on the planet. In fact, the organization is large enough to feature exhibits in three different locations: one in D.C., one in New York and one in Maryland. While you can start by going to the one that is closest to you, you won’t regret stopping by all three – each museum’s pictures, carvings, items, clothing and reconstructions seem to come alive as they tell a tale of indigenous life. As opposed to other native museums with a specific niche, NMAI does it all and does it well – every visit will immerse you into the experience and potentially make you forget what year it is as you ponder what life as part of a tribe was like. If you’re only now beginning to appreciate the complex Native American culture, you can’t go much better in terms of first stops, although seasoned connoisseurs will feel right at home as well.

The Heard Museum: Ensuring that Native American voices are ‘heard’ for close to a century, the Heard Museum is another top location for those seeking an in-depth look into the American Indian lifestyle. Unlike the NMAI, Heard focuses heavily on the abundant and colorful native artwork from many different eras and zones. As opposed to a constant exhibition, the museum features around 5 to 10 formal displays per year and you should try to make room in your schedule to visit at least one. Heard is also notable for hosting several festivals and events that celebrate American Indian culture, letting those of a native heritage and people who appreciate the American Indian way of life exchange mutual admiration in a stimulating environment.

Museum of Contemporary Native Arts: Like the Heard, MoCNA is an art-centric museum that differs from similar establishments in one important way: as opposed to centuries-old artwork, MoCNA features works of contemporary American Indian artists and gives them a great platform for expression. With all the praise that 19th and early 20th century Native American artwork gets, many can forget that modern-day American Indians paint and sculpt pieces of art that are equally as impressive – without places like MoCNA, these artists might not gain nowhere near the recognition they deserve. Since American Indian tribes are known for keeping their traditions and customs alive, much of the artwork featured in this museum is virtually indistinguishable from the art of old, making it a great place for lovers of art and history alike.

Top 3 casinos owned by American Indian tribes

Casinos owned by American Indian tribes can seem a dime a dozen: there’s certainly no shortage of them thanks to the beneficial laws regulating Native American gaming. But which ones are best? While each establishment of this kind is an experience of its own, a couple of them continue rising above the crowd due to size, features or plain old atmosphere. Without further ado, here are 3 of the best American Indian casinos for whenever you feel like taking a break and hitting the slots in style.


Potawatomi Hotel & Casino: We mentioned size, and size is certainly something that the Potawatomi Casino has in abundance: with over 400,000 square feet of property, it ranks as the largest American Indian casino in the country. In fact, the casino was so massive that its owners decided to make an already-imposing structure even more so by adding a premium hotel. Whether you’re on a business trip to Milwaukee or simply looking to gamble somewhere that isn’t named Las Vegas, Potawatomi will have you covered: the hotel’s terrific rooms with great service complement one of the best casino floors you’ll come across, featuring every type of game you can think of but with a special focus on slot machines (of which there are thousands on the premises). When you feel like getting the special treatment, consider the casino’s Solstice Lounge – a fancy area designed with big spenders in mind.

Mohegan Sun: Another massive complex with a property nearly as large as Potawatomi’s (although Mohegan’s structures easily seem larger), Mohegan Sun is another top American Indian casino that recently underwent an expansion to become even bigger and badder. Featuring a fully-equipped hotel with some of the best rooms in the state, this gem never forgets games are what made it: aside from traditional card games and slot machines, there’s also the option to bet on live horse and greyhound racing in an electrifying surrounding. Did we mention it’s one of the best poker places in all of Connecticut? The casino is also notable for featuring a theater with over 300 seats and a stunning ballroom that frequently hosts prestigious events.

Jackson Rancheria Casino Resort: Not as large as the other casinos on the list, the Jackson Rancheria is nevertheless worth a visit during any time of the year and no matter what you’re out to do. In contrast to the aforementioned towering structures, Jackson features a much cozier setting full of American Indian motifs and styles. That’s not to say that the resort is any less spectacular, of course: the modern interior provides a nice contrast to the outer simplicity of the structure, having everything you could want from a gambler’s paradise while still keeping a ‘home away from home’ vibe. And with dozens of live gaming tables and hundreds of impressive video machines, don’t sleep on Jackson Rancheria’s ability to turn gambling haters into addicts. Also, while there, you don’t have to lodge in the hotel – there’s a fully-equipped RV park on-site that helps accommodate all kinds of weary travelers looking for rest (or a chance to hit the jackpot).