Native Americans and the Western Expansion

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
• 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
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
• 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
• 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.