Native Americans and Closing the Frontier Chapter 16, p. 487

Native Americans and
Closing the Frontier
Chapter 16, p. 487-489; 498-504
What role did the railroad play in the “closing” of the
How did relationships with natives change between
What were significant battles in the “Indian Wars”?
What were results of movement West?
The Mexican-American War
Every solution to the problem of slavery created controversy in the new
• David Wilmot (Democrat) introduced an amendment to an
appropriations bill regarding the West known as the Wilmot Proviso,
which said slavery should be outlawed in all territory other than
Texas ceded to the US by Mexico.
– Supported by Northern Dems, rejected by the South
• Zachary Taylor’s presidential (Whig) victory in 1848 had no clear
agenda on slavery
– Westward expansion took place at at such a rapid pace that
politicians could no longer afford not to come up with a distinct
decision regarding slavery
• In January 1848, gold was discovered in Sutter’s Mill, a tiny
mountain town in California, creating the so-called “gold rush”
– Almost 50,000 people moved west in 1850 alone
– The increasing expansion into the territories of the West, largely
due to the gold rush, made the search for compromise all the
more frantic.
Political aftermath in the West
The issue of slavery in these expanding territories raised questions of
• John C. Calhoun and his followers said that since slaves were
property, they should be protected in all areas by the Constitution
– Missouri Compromise was unconstitutional and slaveholders
could take their slaves anywhere they wished.
• Northerners believed that federal regulation of slavery meant that
there should not be any slavery in new territories.
– Constitution gave Congress the power to "make all needful rules
and regulations respecting the territory or other property of the
United States."
• Politicians searched for a middle ground but were stuck in a political
The “Reservations”
Andrew Jackson’s reservation policies,
beginning with the Indian Removal
Act (1830), were based on the belief
that land west of the Mississippi would
remain Native territories (“TransMississippi west”)
However, with the Oregon Trail and
subsequent land acquisitions,
American settlement in the far west
was inevitable
In 1848-1851, U.S. gov’t negotiated
treaties with natives at Fort Laramie
and Fort Atkinson, setting aside large
tracts of land (reservations) with
boundaries to remain untouched by
white settlers
But as early as 1860, the US
abandoned its policy of treating much
of the West as a large Indian reserve,
and introduced a system of small,
separate tribal reservations, where the
Indians were to be concentrated.
Some tribes peacefully accepted their
fate, but other tribes, with a total
population of over 100,000, resisted.
Destruction of the Plains Buffalo
As Western Expansion grew, it became
clear that the goals of American
expansionists conflicted with the needs of
the Indians in the area of expansion.
By the 1870s, however, the buffalo
population was on the decline.
Non-Indians killed the buffalo for their pelts,
to feed railroad construction crews, or even
just for the pure sport of it.
Army commanders who operated in the
West often attempted to drive the Indians off
of desired lands by killing the buffalo as a
way to deprive the Indians of supplies.
About two-thirds of western tribes lived on
the Great Plains
In the 1700s, agriculture was largely traded
for hunting of buffalo and skilled
Little understanding of the Plains’ peoples
lives in loose tribal organizations and
nomadic lifestyles led to certain destruction
by whites moving west
Between 1872 and 1875, only three years,
hunters killed 9 million buffalo, most often
taking the skin and leaving the carcass to rot
in waste.
Many of the Plains tribes depended on the
buffalo for survival. Several tribes followed
the buffalo migration, harvesting only what
was needed for survival.
By the 1880s the Indian way of life was
ruined and the way was cleared for
American settlement of the Plains
Every part of the buffalo was used in respect
to the animal. Meat, hide for clothing and
shelter, sinews for bowstrings and bones for
tools and weapons.
“Indian Wars”
Early skirmishes and violent
massacres prompted the US
government to set aside two large
areas in 1867, one North of
Nebraska, and one south of
Kansas, in which they hoped the
nomadic tribes would finally settle.
The government used the threat of
force to convince the tribes to
comply, and at first, many did,
signing treaties them relocated
them to these tracts.
However, many Indians refused to
be confined to reservations:
– raiding settlements
– Raiding of railroads and wagoners
– attacking troops
As thousands of Americans headed
west as miners, cattlemen, and
homesteaders, clashes with natives
were inevitable
1864: Colorado militia massacre
Cheyenne encampment
1867: Sand Creek Massacre
Sioux War 1865-1867: Sioux
warriors defeat a large army,
leading to more treaties/protection
of native land
White settlers and gold miners
refuse to stay off reservations where
gold was found, leading to new
incitement of violence
1870s: final Indian Wars
• Red River War against Comanche (1864);
hundreds of natives killed
• Second Sioux War, led by Sitting Bull and Crazy
• Geronimo’s guerilla warfare in the American
• Chief Joseph’s defeat of General George
Armstrong Custer at the Battle of Little Bighorn,
“Buffalo soldiers” in the West
In the frontier West, about 20% of the U.S.
Cavalry troops were black. These black
soldiers were given the name “Buffalo
Soldiers” by the Plains Indians
It is said Indians gave them this name due to
their curly, dark hair, which resembled the fur
of a buffalo.
Another theory claims that Buffalo Soldiers
fought like fierce, enraged buffalo. Either way,
Buffalo Soldiers took the name with pride.
Black soldiers served
throughout the West. Their
job was to keep order among
cowboys, homesteaders,
townspeople, buffalo hunters,
horse thieves, and highly
mobile bands of Desert and
Plains Indians – whose raids
grew more daring and
desperate as their primary
food source, buffalo, was
Battle of Little Bighorn
(Custer's Last Stand or the Battle of the Greasy Grass)
No instance of Indian resistance
engendered more passion than the conflict
between the Sioux and the US Army in the
northern Plains.
At the battle of Little Bighorn, in June 1876,
Custer unwisely divided his troops, and a
numerically superior force of Indians wiped
out him and all of his men.
Indian agents (U.S. military units) in the
Dakotas, Wyoming, and Montana tried to
control the Sioux, many of who entered and
left the reservations at will.
The US Army responded in 1874 by sending
a force under Colonel George Armstrong
Custer into the hills of South Dakota (Black
After this crushing defeat, the army took a
different tack, harassing Sioux bands in a
war of attrition. These tactics were generally
successful against the Sioux and throughout
the West, and the Indians gradually lost the
will to resist.
When gold was discovered in the region, the
federal government announced that Custer's
forces would hunt down all Sioux not in
reservations after January 31, 1876.
Many Sioux refused to comply, and Custer
began to mobilize his troops.
Sitting Bull (Sioux/Lakota)
Born in what is now South Dakota, the son of a
warrior; most of his life was shaped by the
struggles against an expanding American nation.
In 1865, he led an attack on the newly built Fort
Rice and became chief of the Lakota nation in
After gold was discovered in the Black Hills, a
sacred land, the U.S. took back their promises to
protect it.
In June 1876, he led successful battles against
American forces, including the now famous Battle
at Little Bighorn. The Army doubled its efforts to
take control of the territory.
"[I] would rather die an Indian than
live a white man.”
White prospectors rushed into the Sioux lands and
the U.S. declared war on any native tribes that
prevented it from taking over the land. Sitting Bull
refused to abide by these rules.
To escape violence, Sitting Bull led his people into
Canada, where they remained for four years.
In 1881 Sitting Bull returned to the Dakota
Territory, where he was held prisoner until 1883. In
1885, after befriending Annie Oakley, he joined
Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West Show.
Chief Joseph (Nez Perce)
Born in Oregon Territory, his father the tribal
chief who had positive relations with whites
(even converted to Christianity).
In 1855, his father forged a new treaty that
created a new reservation for the Nez
“From where the sun now stands, I
will fight no more forever.”
After gold was discovered on the reservation,
white prospectors began to stream onto their
lands; U.S. government took back most of
the land and offered resettlement plan.
Before the move, some of the Nez Perce
killed white settlers. Chief Joseph
understood there would be brutal
Over four months, Joseph and his 700
followers went on a 1,400-mile march
toward Canada. The journey included
several impressive victories against a U.S.
force that numbered more than 2,000
Within 40 miles of the Canadian border, the
group was too beaten and starving to
continue to fight. Chief Joseph surrendered
to his enemy, delivering one of the great
speeches in American history—“I Will Fight
No More Forever.”
Geronimo (Apache)
Born in Mexico, Geronimo and the Apaches
faced the Mexican government’s bounty on
Apache scalps, offering as much as $25 for a
child's scalp.
By the end of the Mexican-American War in
1848, the U.S. took over large tracts of territory
from Mexico, including areas belonging to the
Spurred by the discovery of gold in the
Southwest, settlers and miners streamed in
Apache lands. Apaches attacked with brutal
ambushes on stagecoaches and wagon trains.
"I should never have surrendered...I
should have fought until I was the
last man alive."
Geronimo became a warrior leader, working
with a force to hunt down the Mexican
soldiers who killed his family and people
After ten years, Apache chief Cochise,
agreed to the establishment of a reservation
for his people on a prized piece of Apache
After his death, US ended the agreement,
starting another round of attacks by Geronimo.
He was caught in 1877, but escaped 1881.
1881-1886 last of the Indian wars against the
U.S.; at one point nearly a quarter of the
Army's forces were trying to hunt him down. In
summer 1886, he and his followers were
captured and spent 27 years as prisoners of
Ghost Dance Movement
and Wounded Knee
In 1889 Native Americans began to take up
the Ghost Dance, a new religious movement
incorporated into many natives’ belief
systems; the basis for the Ghost Dance is the
circle dance, is a traditional ritual.
The movement began with the Sioux prophet
Wovoka in 1880; he believed proper practice
of the dance would reunite the living with the
spirits of the dead and bring peace,
prosperity, and unity to native peoples
throughout the region.
As the Ghost Dance swept the Plains, Sioux
Indians gathered in bands wearing Ghost
Shirts and performing the ritual, reaffirming
their own culture.
Indian officials and military authorities were
suspicious of the movement and attempted to
arrest chief Sitting Bull, a Sioux war hero
whose cabin had become the center of the
In a skirmish outside the cabin, Sitting Bull was
accidentally shot.
Practice of the Ghost Dance movement was
believed to have contributed to Lakota
Indians’ famous resistance:
December 29, 1890, 300 Indians were
slaughtered by American troops at
Wounded Knee.
This massacre was the symbolic end to
Indian resistance; the Plains Indians were
essentially conquered and moved into
reservations throughout the next decade.
Assimilationist Policy
(“Kill the Indian, Save the Man”)
Many took a more beneficent view of the
Plains Indians, seeing it as their duty to
Christianize and modernize the "savages"
on the reservations.
Board of Indian Commissioners gave the
task of reform to Protestant leaders. Though
cloaked in goodwill, the purpose was to
break the nomadic tradition of the Indians
and make “permanent and productive
members of the reservations”
Other attempts were made throughout the
late 1800s to "save" the Indians. Richard H.
Pratt founded the Carlisle Indian School in
Pennsylvania to equip Indians with the skills
and culture necessary for integration into
white society.
However, the school uprooted Indians from
their homes and refused to respect various
Indian cultures in “cultural reeducation”
The movement to “civilize” the Indians was
infused with a sense of cultural superiority.
Pratt explained that that goal of the Carlisle
School was to “kill the Indian and save the
After Indian resistance died out, many did try
to adapt to non-Indian ways. Few
succeeded completely, and many were
emotionally devastated at being forced to
abandoned age-old traditions.
On reservations, Indian traditions, social
organization, and modes of survival were
broken down.
Dawes Severalty Act (1887)
Others suggested that the best thing
for natives was to integrate them into
white society, instituting concepts like
private property and making the
Indians less culturally distinct.
It provided for the distribution of 160
acres of farmland or 320 acres of
grazing land to any Indian who
accepted the act's terms, who would
then become US citizens in 25 years.
These concerns were expressed in the
1887 Dawes Severalty Act, which
called for the breakup of the
reservations and the treatment of
Indians as individuals rather than
While some Indians benefited from the
Dawes Act, still others became
dependent upon federal aid. Disease
and poverty led to the decimation of
native populations to just under
200,000 by 1900.
Severalty: division of land into
private property
The Severalty Act was supposed to
“stimulate assimilation of Indians into
mainstream American society.
Individual ownership of land was seen
as an essential step”
Land not given to natives was sold off
to white prospectors and speculators
by the U.S. Government