The Unincoporated:

Native Americans and the Gilded Age

An Online Anthology


The Gilded Age was the age of incorporation. While magazines, like Harper's and the The Atlantic Monthly extolled the virtues of incoporation, seeing it as the symbol of progress, many Americans suffered under this uniform system . The experience of the Native American during the Gilded Age signifies the dangers of mass cultural incorporation. Even in the age of incorporation the Native American way of life remained unincorporated and the traditional Native American cast as the "savage other," the outsider, an individual forever on the margins of civilization. Simultaneously, however Native Americans themselves were victims of a brutal and legal means of incorporation.

The "Indians" represented a major problem for the agents of incorporation, especially those involved in the incorporation of the west. In The Incorportation of America: Culture and Society in the Gilded Age,Alan Trachtenberg explains the problem posed by the Native Americans in the world of Incorporation: "The Indian projected a fact of a different order from land and resources: a human fact of racial and cultureal difference not as easily incorporated as minderals and soil and timber"(27).

Many writers, such as Reverend Lyman Abbott, attempted to lay out and solve the so called "indian problem." The problem in brief was that the Native American on his reservation remained unincorporated into mainstream culture. As Abbott wrote, "The Indian Problem is, in a sentence, how to get rid of it in the easiest and quickest way possible, and to bring the Indian and every AIndian into the same" American system(721).

Other whites attempted to solve the "Indian Problem" by devoting themselves to "Indian Work." These missionaries used teaching, preaching, and advising as means by which to transform the "Indian" into the "American" through the auspices of the Reservation agency. Boarding schools, detention facilities, and reservations acted as the institutions of Native American incorporation.

In thier own writing Native Americans recounted the process by which thier peoples were brutally incorporated into the American culture. Although they varied in thier treatment of the agents and institutions of incorporation the literature produced by Native writers at this time was the literature of cultural contact and brutal interaction. For writers like Daniel La France, Gertrude Bonnin, and Charles Eastman thier writings served as a place to reveal the experiences of the victims of cultural imperialism.

This anthology hopes to paint a portrait of the Native American experience under the system of incorporation. By providing Native American self-representations and corresponding contributions from mainstream white writers, photographers, artists, and scholars this site hopes to enlighten the audience as to the place of the unincorporated during the Gilded Age