Beginning with Thomas Jefferson's presidency, two conflicting Indian policies--assimilation and removal--governed treatment of Native Americans. The assimilation policy encouraged Indians to adopt white American customs and economic practices. The government provided financial assistance to missionaries in order to Christianize and educate Native Americans and convince them to adopt single-family farms. Proponents defended assimilation as the only way Native Americans could survive in a white-dominated society. By the 1820s, the Cherokees, who lived in northwestern Georgia, had demonstrated a remarkable capacity to adapt to changing conditions while maintaining their tribal heritage. Sequoyah, a leader of these people, developed a written alphabet. Soon, the Cherokees opened schools, established churches, built roads, operated printing presses, and even adopted a constitution asserting sovereignty over their homeland.
In this letter, Henry Dearborn (1751-1829), Jefferson's Secretary of War, outlines a program for teaching Indians the "arts of civilization."
The Government considers it a very important object to introduce among the several Indian Nations within the United States the arts of civilization--to induce the men to engage in agriculture and the raising of stock, and to convince the women of the benefits they would derive from a knowledge of the domestic arts and manufactures.