Native Americans and the Western Expansion
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Native Americans and the Western Expansion
Following the Buffalo • The increase of settlers on the Plains in the latter part of the nineteenth century affected Native Americans by squeezing them off their land. Many Native American groups, such as the Arapaho, Apache and Comanche, lived on the Plains. Their way of life was dependent o the buffalo, the horse and the open land. They used horses to follow huge buffalo herds across the Plains, which they used for food and most of the other essentials of life. • After the Civil War, American Hunters hired by the railroads began to slaughter the buffalo to provide meat for the crews of workers and to prevent large herds form blocking the trains. Other hunters traveled west to kill buffalo as a sport. Buffalo hides also became popular for leather goods, increasing the incentive for hunters to kill them. Government officials encouraged the killing of buffalo because they thought it would force the Native Americans to change from nomadic hunters into farmers.
When whites did not regard the Great Plains as a suitable place to farm and set up communities, the Native Americans of the Great Plains were largely left alone. But once the Great Plains became a destination for settlers, the government developed a new policy to move the Native Americans of the Plains out of the way. In the latter part of the 1800’s, the government stepped up its policy of moving Native Americans to a few large tracts of land set aside for them, called reservations. One large reservation was the Oklahoma territory, the Indians Territory the government created decade before the Native American's relocated form the Southeast. Another large territory was in the Dakota Territory. The reservations were often on poor land that the whites did not want. The government went back on many promises to deliver food and supplies , and what was delivered was often of inferior quality. Some of the Native Americans accepted the reservation policy at first, and peacefully relocated to these lands. But some Native Americans refused to move to reservations , and some who tried it abandoned it as and unacceptable way of life.
Conflict- Cont’d • Armed clashes between Native Americans and whites had taken place since the 1850’s. But after the government began forcing an increasing number of Native Americans onto reservations, resistance grew stronger, especially among the Cheyenne and the Sioux. • Fighting with the Cheyenne began in the mid- 1860’s when they refused to move to the reservations. In November 1864, a group of volunteer militia surprised a group of Cheyenne at Sand Creek, Colorado. Although they tried to surrender, the military killed more than 100 Cheyenne men, women, and children. • Most Cheyenne moved to reservations by 1867, but Chief Black Kettle continued to fight. Cheyenne resistance ended in November 1868 when troops led by General Custer killed Black Kettle and most of his followers along the Washita River in the Indian territory.
Conflict- Cont’d •
Conflict with the Sioux centered on government promises that the Black Hills area of the Dakotas would be reserved for them without white interference. These promises were broken after reports that the Black Hills contained gold. White prospectors swarmed in, and the U.S. government offered to buy the land form the Sioux. When they refused, the United States sent the army to remove the Sioux. During the confrontation at Little Big Horn River in Montana, a force of thousands of Sioux and Cheyenne warriors killed the men in a smaller U.S. army unit under General Custer. The superior force and firepower of the Untied States Army soon defeated the Native American uprising, sending most of the Native Americans involved to reservations and others fleeing to Canada. By 1881 all of the remaining Lakota and Cheyenne, starving and exhausted, agreed to live on a reservation. Many Chiracahua Apache, who had been moved to a reservation in Arizona in the 1870’s, resented their confinement. Their leader, Geronimo, escaped the reservation and fled to Mexico with some followers. During the 1880’s, he led raids against settlers and the army in Arizona. Geronimo finally surrendered to the United States government in 1886- the last Native American to formally surrender to the United States.
Conflict- Cont’d • Both the slaughter of the buffalo and the movement of whites onto what had been Native American lands contributed to changing the Native American way of life I the late 1800’s. More change came from well-meaning reformers who wanted Native Americans to adopt white American culture. • The Dawes Act of 1887 was aimed at eliminating what whites thought were two weaknesses of Native American life: a lack of private property and nomadic existence. It sought to break up reservations and end Native American identification with tribal group. Native Americans were to be given individual plots of land and turned into farmers. Native American children were to be sent to white –run boarding schools.
Dawes Act • Over the 50 years following passage of the Dawes Act, the government divided up the reservations, and speculators acquired most of the valuable land. Native Americans received dry plots of land with poor soil not suitable for farming. • The Dawes Act weakened Native American culture and changed the way of life for Native Americans forever. In their despair, the Sioux turned in 1890 to a prophet, Wovoka, who said the Sioux could regain their former home if they performed a ritual called the Ghost Dance. As the dance spread, reservation officials became alarmed and banned it. • Believing the Sioux chief, Sitting Bull, was behind the spread of the dance, police went to his camp to arrest him. Sitting Bull was killed in a scuffle. • Several hundred Lakota Sioux fled in fear after Sitting Bull’s death. They gathered at a Creek called Wounded Knee in South Dakota. On December 29, 1890, fighting started between the U.S. Army and the Sioux. More than 300 Lakota Sioux were liked. Wounded Knee marked the end of armed conflict between Native Americans and whites.
Facts For your Brain • American Indian reservations vary widely in size. The largest of the approximately 275 Indian land areas is the 16 million acre Navajo Reservation in Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. The smallest comprise less than 100 acres. • Chief Joseph’s father was among several Nez Perce chiefs who questioned the validity of land treaties negotiations in 1855 and 1863. They contended that the chiefs who participated in the negotiations did not represent the Nez Perce. The whites admired Chief Joseph because he treated prisoners humanely and cared for the women, children and elderly.
Discussion Questions • How do you think the killing of the buffalo affected the way of life of native Americans of the Plains? • It changed the way they lived greatly because Native Americans of the Plains depended o the buffalo for food, clothing, and shelter. These cultures could no longer preserve their lifestyles when the buffalo disappeared.
Discussion Question- 2 • How did reports of the discovery of gold in the Black Hills of the Dakota territory cause relations between Native Americans and the United States government to deteriorate? • The Black Hills had previously been given to Native Americans by the United States government for their excusive use. When rumors of gold in the hills spread, whites poured in the area. Instead of protecting the rights of the Native Americans, the government offered to buy the land. When the Native Americans refused, the government sent the United States Army to move them out of the way. This set up additional conflict between the government and Native Americans.