“Settlers” & Native Americans in the West, 1865

“Settlers” & Native Americans in
the West, 1865 - 1900
U.S. History II
Buffalo Hide Painting
The Plains Indians
Approx. 250,000 Indians in Great Plains in 1865
– smallpox, tuberculosis & malaria killed many & reduced
fertility among survivors
– women outnumbered men 2:1 in some tribes
– destroyed cultures as well when elders killed before they
could pass on oral traditions
2 main groups:
– semi-sedentary farmers living in earthen lodges along
Missouri R. (Arikaras, Hidatsas, Mandans, Pawnees &
– horse-mounted, nomadic buffalo hunters on “high plains”
(Arapahoes, Blackfeet, Cheyennes, Comanche, Crow, Kiowas
& Sioux)
The Indian Wars
Ft. Laramie Treaty (1851) set
boundaries for Northern tribes, but soon
Sitting Bull
– Cheyenne & Arapaho annihilated at Sand
Creek (1864)
– Oglala Sioux Chief Red Cloud fought U.S.
to stalemate in 1866-67 war & received
guaranteed boundaries in 1868 treaty
– when George Custer’s expedition verified
gold in Black Hills, U.S. tried to back out of
treaty, so war broke out with Sitting Bull
– Custer’s 7th Cav. wiped out at Little
Bighorn in 1876
Sand Creek Massacre
The Southern Plains Indians
Treaty of Medicine Lodge (1867) set
boundaries for southern plains tribes, but
gov’t failed to supply them as promised, so
Indians resumed hunting & war broke out
Gen. Phil Sheridan
– Sheriden & Custer destroyed villages & pony
– Resistance broken by 1875
– 72 leaders imprisoned in Florida & subject to
experimental “civilization by immersion”
program run by Capt. Richard Pratt
– Wovoka’s Ghost Dance movement crushed
by massacre of 200+ Sioux at Wounded
Knee in Dec. 1890
Wovoka & the Ghost Dance
Big Foot Killed at Wounded Knee
The Reservations
Reservations seen as temporary - designed to
civilize & Christianize Indians
Run by Bureau of Indian Affairs (est. 1824)
– controls schools & legal system, grants recognition
– agents white, but lesser officials Indian, which deflected
hostility onto traitors
Traditional practices & communal work replaced by
individualism, because whites believed indiv. land
ownership was bedrock of democracy
Children often sent to boarding schools & punished
for speaking native tongue
General Allotment
Dawes Severalty Act (1887) broke up reservations to
encourage individualism
– each head of household given 160 acres (320 if suitable only
for grazing)
– could pick own land, but held in trust by gov’t for 25 years
– would become citizens after 25 years if gave up tribal ways
– reduced Indian-owned acreage from 138 to 48 million - rest
opened up to white settlement
Curtis Act (1898) terminated tribal gov’ts that rejected
Shrinking Reservations
Denying Tribal Sovereignty
Legal status as nations with treaty rights
stripped by Congress, with Supreme
Court’s approval
1871: Congress declared tribes no longer
sovereign nations, but wards of gov’t
Lone Wolf v. Hitchcock (1903): Court
ruled Congress had plenary power over
tribes - could act unilaterally to violate
treaties & dispose of Indian lands as it
saw fit
Indian Citizenship Act (1924) granted
citizenship to all Native Americans
The Great American Desert
Great Plains long considered “Great American Desert” too arid for agriculture
– average annual rainfall too low to support crops without
– unusually rainy years in mid-1880s & ads encouraged
settlers, but drought at end of decade ruined many
Open-range livestock grazing ended after bad winters of
– 25-30% of cowboys were African Americans or Mexican
– after demise of open range, many became cheap labor on
Home on the Range
Families, not individuals, settled west for the most part
– couples had many kids - needed them as labor
– fathers did heaviest work: sodbusting, construction, mining, etc.
– mothers did housework, cared for livestock, gardened & earned
extra cash by washing, cooking & sewing for single men
– kids helped out by hunting, weeding, herding, cooking & caring
for younger siblings
– related families frequently settled together, which especially
helped women
Cereal farming, but as agribusiness (capitalist
1873- barbed wire invented to fence in fields & protect
from herds
Mechanization increased production dramatically - 4
times as much corn, 5 times as much hay, 7 times as
much wheat & oats as before Civil War
Tariff kept cost of goods farmers bought high, leading to
perpetual debt
by 1890s, 70% of farmland west of Mississippi River
owned by Eastern investors
Government Assistance
Homestead Act (1862) - stake
claim to quarter section (160
acres) & occupy five years, or
buy after six months at
Transcontinental railroads
given over 180 million acres in
alternating plots along routes sold to settlers to insure steady
freight business
Newlands Act (1901) - federal
Bureau of Reclamation set up
in Interior Dept. to build
interstate irrigation projects
Pan prospecting ran out quickly - required capital
to sink mine shafts
Chinese immigrants as well as whites, though
former usually squeezed out
Major “strikes”:
– Comstock Lode (1859) - silver
– Cripple Creek (1891) - gold & silver