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Frontier: Westward Settlement & Indian Wars
Transcript of Frontier: Westward Settlement & Indian Wars
- Manifest Destiny
- Homestead Act
- N.A. Policy during Civil War
- Battle of Little Big Horn
- Battle of Wounded Knee
- Dawes Act
May 20 1862: President Lincoln signs the Homestead Act, giving settlers title to 160 acres if they worked the land for five years. By 1890, 375,000 homesteaders received 48 million acres.
1875: The introduction of barbed wire provides the first economical way to fence in cattle on the Great Plains.
June 25 1876: George A. Custer and 265 officers and enlisted men are killed by Sioux Indians led by Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse at the Little Horn River in Montana.
Dawes Act (1887)
Battle of Little Big Horn (1876)
Feb. 8: The Dawes Severalty Act subdivides Indian reservations into individual plots of land of 160 to 320 acres. "Surplus" lands are sold to white settlers.
US population: 62,947,714.
The US Bureau of the Census announces that the western frontier was now closed.
Dec. 15: Indian police kill Sitting Bull in South Dakota.
Dec. 29: Wounded Knee Massacre.
Jan.: When Commanche Chief Toch-a-way informs Gen. Philip H. Sheridan that he is a "good Indian," Sheridan reportedly replied: "The only good Indian is a dead Indian."
May 10: A golden spike is driven into a railroad tie at Promontory Point, Utah, completing the transcontinental railroad. Built in just over three years by 20,000 workers, it had 1,775 miles of track. The railroad's promoters received 23 million acres of land and $64 million in loans as an incentive.
US population: 39,818,449.
Frederick Jackson Turner delivers his address on "The Significance of the Frontier in American History," exploring the the frontier experience's role in shaping American characte
In 1874, he led an expedition into the Black Hills of what is now South Dakota, which was then reserved for the Sioux.
He brought along reporters and geologists, who informed the public that there was "gold in the grass roots." This led to a stampede of prospectors and miners into the Black Hills.
President Ulysses Grant ordered all Indians to register at reservations. Many Sioux and Cheyenne gathered in southeastern Montana and decided to resist.
On June 25, 1876, Custer's scouts had observed what they thought was a retreating Indian village along the Little Big Horn River in what is now Montana. Custer knew that the Plains Indians usually scattered when attacked in order to protect non-combatants. He expected them to disperse when his men struck. Only two years earlier, Custer had staged a surprise, early morning attack on the camp of a southern Cheyenne Chief, Black Kettle, along the banks of Oklahoma's Washita River, in which 103 Indians, mostly women, children, and the elderly, had been killed.
But this Indian village was far larger than Custer imagined. It contained an estimated 8,000 Indians and more than 3,000 warriors and was led by Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse. The village was three miles long and a half mile wide. (Custer had initially estimated the village's population did not exceed 1,500). Custer divided his command of 645 soldiers into three columns. Major Marcus Reno's detachment approached the Indian camp from the southeast and lost a third of its men. Reno's men retreated to a nearby ridge, where they were under siege for nearly two days.
Battle of Wounded Knee (1890)
In 1889, Wovoka, a Paiute holy man from Nevada, had a revelation. If only the Sioux would perform sacred dances and religious rites, then the Great Spirit would return and raise the dead, restore the buffalo to life, and cause a flood that would destroy the whites.
Wearing special Ghost Dance shirts, fabricated from white muslin and decorated with red fringes and painted symbols, dancers would spin in a circle until they became so dizzy that they entered into a trance. White settlers became alarmed: "Indians are dancing in the snow and are wild and crazy...We need protection, and we need it now."
Fearful that the Ghost Dance would lead to a Sioux uprising, army officials ordered Indian police to arrest the Sioux leader Sitting Bull. When Sitting Bull resisted, he was killed. In the ensuing panic, his followers fled the Sioux reservation. Federal troops tracked down the Indians and took them to a cavalry camp on Wounded Knee Creek. There, on December 29, 1890, one of the most brutal incidents in American history took place.
While soldiers disarmed the Sioux, someone fired a gun. The soldiers responded by using machine guns to slaughter over 200 Indian men, women, and children.
The Oglala Sioux spiritual leader Black Elk summed up the meaning of Wounded Knee:
I can see that something else died there in the bloody mud, and was buried in the blizzard. A people's dream died there.
The Battle of Wounded Knee marked the end of three centuries of bitter warfare between Indians and whites. Indians had been confined to small reservations, where reformers would seek to transform them into Christian farmers.
In the future, the Indian struggle to maintain an independent way of life and a separate culture would take place on new kinds of battlefields.
The next morning, Dec. 29, the Indians were told to give up their arms. A gun went off. The soldiers opened fire with Hotchkiss guns, which could fire 50 rounds a minute, and other weapons. The shooting lasted about ten minutes. The dead Indians' bodies were taken from the snow and buried in mass graves. U.S. forces received 22 Congressional Medals of Honor for their actions at Wounded Knee.
Four men and 47 women and children, many of whom were wounded, were taken away alive, including a Lakota infant lying beneath her mother's body, named Zintkala Nuni or Lost Bird. Just four months old, she had been protected from the soldiers' bullets by her mother's body. The child was raised by Brigadier General Leonard Colby and his wife Clara, who renamed her Marguerite. For a time she worked in Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West Show and died at the age of 29.
General Nelson Miles, who commanded military forces in the area, sought a court martial for the office in charge of the troops at Wounded Knee. Miles described what happened as a "cruel and unjustifiable massacre."
While serving as the editor and publisher of the Aberdeen, South Dakota Saturday Pioneer, L. Frank Baum, the author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, wrote an editorial following the death of Sitting Bull. "The Whites, by law of conquest, by justice of civilization, are masters of the American continent," he wrote, "and the best safety of the frontier settlers will be secured by the total annihilation of the few remaining Indians."
In 1871 Congress declared that tribes were no longer separate, independent governments. It placed tribes under the guardianship of the federal government. The 1887 Dawes Act allotted reservation lands to individual Indians in units of 40 to 160 acres. Land that remained after allotment was to be sold to whites to pay for Indian education.
The Dawes Act was supposed to encourage Indians to become farmers. But most of the allotted lands proved unsuitable for farming, owing to a lack of sufficient rainfall. The plots were also too small to support livestock.
Much Indian land quickly fell into the hands of whites. There was to be a 25 year trust period to keep Indians from selling their land allotments, but an 1891 amendment did allow Indians to lease them, and a 1907 law let them sell portions of their property. A policy of "forced patents" took additional lands out of Indian hands. Under this policy, begun in 1909, government agents determined which Indians were "competent" to assume full responsibility for their allotments. Many of these Indians quickly sold their lands to white purchasers. Altogether, the severalty policy reduced Indian-owned lands from 155 million acres in 1881 to 77 million in 1900 and just 48 million acres in 1934. The most dramatic loss of Indian land and natural resources took place in Oklahoma. At the end of the 19th century, the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Creek nations held half the territory's land. But by 1907, when Oklahoma became a state, much of this land, as well as its valuable asphalt, coal, natural gas, and oil resources, had passed into the possession of whites.
Several factors contributed to the defeat of the Plains Indians. One was a shift in the military balance of power. Before the Civil War, an Indian could shoot 30 arrows in the time it took a soldier to load and shoot his rifle once. The introduction of the Colt six-shooter and the repeating rifle after the Civil War, undercut this Indian advantage. During the 1870s, the army also introduced a military tactic--winter campaigning. The army attacked Plains Indians during the winter when they divided into small bands, making it difficult for Indians effectively to resist.
Another key factor was the destruction of the Indian food supply, especially the buffalo. In 1860, about 13 million roamed the Plains. These animals provided Plains Indians with many basic necessities. They ate buffalo meat, made clothing and tipi coverings out of hides, used fats for grease, fashioned the bones into tools and fishhooks, made thread and bowstrings from the sinews, and even burned dried buffalo droppings ("chips") as fuel. Buffalo also figured prominently in Plains Indians' religious life. After the Civil War, the herds were cut down by professional hunters, who shot 100 an hour to feed railroad workers, and by wealthy easterners who killed them for sport. By 1890, only about 1,000 bison remained alive. Government officials quite openly viewed the destruction of the buffalo as a tool for controlling the Plains Indians. Secretary of the Interior Columbus Delano explained in 1872, "as they become convinced that they can no longer rely upon the supply of game for their support, they will return to the more reliable source of subsistence...."
West of the Mississippi
Battle of Woody Point (1811)
Arikara War (1823)
Texas–Indian Wars (1836–1877)
Comanche Wars (1836–1877)
Antelope Hills Expedition (1858)
Comanche War (1868–1874)
Red River War (1874–1875)
Buffalo Hunters' War (1876–1877)
Cayuse War (1848–1855)
Apache Wars (1849–1924)
Jicarilla War (1849–1855)
Chiricahua Wars (1860–1886)
Tonto War (1871–1875)
Renegade Period (1879–1924)
Victorio's War (1879–1880)
Geronimo's War (1881–1886)
Yuma War (1850–1853)
Ute Wars (1850–1923)
Provo War (1850)
Walker War (1853–1854)
Tintic War (1856)
Black Hawk's War (1865–1872)
White River War (1879)
Ute War (1887)
Bluff War (1914-1915)
Bluff Skirmish (1921)
Posey War (1923)
Sioux Wars (1854–1891)
First Sioux War (1854)
Dakota War (1862)
Colorado War (1863–1865)
Powder River War (1865)
Red Cloud's War (1866–1868)
Great Sioux War (1876–1877)
Ghost Dance War (1890–1891)
Rogue River Wars (1855–1856)
Yakima War (1855–1858)
Puget Sound War (1855–1856)
Coeur d'Alene War (1858)
Mohave War (1858–1859)
Navajo Wars (1858–1864)
Paiute War (1860)
Yavapai Wars (1861–1875)
Snake War (1864–1869)
Hualapai War (1865–1870)
Modoc War (1872–1873)
Nez Perce War (1877)
Bannock War (1878)
Crow War (1887)
Bannock Uprising (1895)
Yaqui Uprising (1896)
Battle of Sugar Point (1898)
Crazy Snake Rebellion (1909)
Last Massacre (1911)
Battle of Kelley Creek (1911)
Battle of Bear Valley (1918)
What Do You Associate
CHIEF JOSEPH'S LAMENT -- 1879, Delivered to Congress
I only ask of the Government to be treated as all other men are treated. If I cannot go to my own home, let me have a
home in a country where my people will not die so fast. I would like to go to Bitter Root Valley. There my people would
be happy; where they are now they are dying. Three have died since I left my camp to come to Washington. When I think
of our condition, my heart is heavy. I see men of my own race treated as outlaws and driven from country to country, or
shot down like animals.
I know that my race must change. We cannot hold our own with the white men as we are. We only ask an even chance to
live as other men live. We ask to be recognized as men. We ask that the same law shall work alike on all men. If an Indian
breaks the law, punish him by the law. If a white man breaks the law, punish him also.
Let me be a free man, free to travel, free to stop, free to work, free to trade where I choose, free to choose my own
teachers, free to follow the religion of my fathers, free to talk, think and act for myself -- and I will obey every law or
submit to the penalty.
Whenever the white man
Sand Creek Massacre -- 1864
Meeting with army officers at Fort Weld outside Denver, the Cheyenne chief, Black Kettle, agrees to lead his people back to their Sand Creek reservation in order to restore peace after Indian raids on ranches in the area. He is attacked there by a volunteer force led by John M. Chivington, the "Fighting Parson" of Glorietta Pass, which sweeps down on the Cheyenne encampment at dawn and massacres nearly two hundred men, women and children. Later Congressional and military investigations condemn the slaughter.
Kit Carson's Long Walk -- 1864
Sent to punish Navajo raiding parties in northwest New Mexico, Colonel Kit Carson leads a campaign of destruction through their villages, burning crops and killing livestock. When the Navajo surrender, he marches 8,000 of the tribe on a grueling "Long Walk" across New Mexico to a parched reservation near Fort Sumner on the Pecos River, where they are held as prisoners of war until 1868.
The United States and representatives of the Comanche, Kiowa, Cheyenne, Arapaho and other southern Plains tribes sign the
Medicine Lodge Treaty
, intended to remove Indians from the path of white settlement. The treaty marks the end of the era in which federal policymakers saw the Plains as "one big reservation" to be divided up among various tribes. Instead, the treaty establishes reservations for each tribe in the western part of present-day Oklahoma and requires them to give up their traditional lands elsewhere. In exchange, the government pledges to establish reservation schools and to provide resident farmers who will teach the Indians agriculture. This same principle of restricting the Plains tribes to reservations will help shape the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868. In both cases, the tribes' refusal to give up their free-ranging traditions and remain confined within the territory assigned to them leads to devastating warfare.
TWO EVENTS of 1868
Chief Red Cloud and General William Tecumseh Sherman sign the
Fort Laramie Treaty
, which brings an end to war along the Bozeman Trail. Under terms of the treaty, the United States agrees to abandon its forts along the Bozeman Trail and grant enormous parts of the Wyoming, Montana and Dakota Territories, including the Black Hills area, to the Lakota people as their exclusive territory.
General Philip Sheridan sends Colonel George Armstrong Custer against the Cheyenne, with a plan to attack them during the winter when they are most vulnerable. Custer's troops locate a Cheyenne village on the Washita River in present-day Oklahoma.
By a cruel coincidence, the village is home to Black Kettle and his people, the victims of the Sand Creek Massacre in 1864.
Custer's cavalry attacks at dawn, killing more than 100 men, women and children, including Black Kettle.
Buffalo hunters begin moving onto the plains, brought there by the expanding railroads and the growing market for hides and meat back east. In little more than a decade, they reduce the once numberless herd to an endangered species.
Swedish immigrants on the American Plains Railroad companies begin massive advertising campaigns to attract settlers to their land grants in the West, sending agents to rural areas in the eastern states and throughout Europe to distribute handbills, posters and pamphlets that tout the rich soil and favorable climate of the region. But the higher costs of railroad land compared to public lands, and the fact that railroads pay no taxes on their lands, soon stirs charges of extortion, leading to state laws controlling railroad rates and land sale practices by the decade's end.
Congress approves the Indian Appropriations Act, which ends the practice of treating Indian tribes as sovereign nations by directing that all Indians be treated as individuals and legally designated "wards" of the federal government. The act is justified as a way to avoid further misunderstandings in treaty negotiations, where whites have too often wrongly assumed that a tribal chief is also that tribe's chief of state. In effect, however, the act is another step toward dismantling the tribal structure of Native American life.
THE LAKOTA WAR
A Senate commission meeting with Red Cloud and other Lakota chiefs to negotiate legal access for the miners rushing to the Black Hills offers to buy the region for $6 million. But the Lakota refuse to alter the terms of the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty, and declare they will protect their lands from intruders if the government won't.
Federal authorities order the Lakota chiefs to report to their reservations by January 31. Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse and others defiant of the American government refuse.
Custer's Crow scouts return to Little BighornGeneral Philip Sheridan orders General George Crook, General Alfred Terry and Colonel John Gibbon to drive Sitting Bull and the other chiefs onto the reservation through a combined assault. On June 17, Crazy Horse and 500 warriors surprise General Crook's troops on the Rosebud River, forcing them to retreat. On June 25, George Armstrong Custer, part of General Terry's force, discovers Sitting Bull's encampment on the Little Bighorn River. Terry had ordered Custer to drive the enemy down the Little Bighorn toward Gibbon's forces, who were waiting at its mouth, but when he charges the village Custer discovers that he is outnumbered four-to-one. Hundreds of Lakota warriors overwhelm his troops, killing them to the last man, in a battle later called Custer's Last Stand. News of the massacre shocks the nation, and Sheridan floods the region with troops who methodically hunt down the Lakota and force them to surrender. Sitting Bull, however, eludes capture by leading his band to safety in Canada.
The last great war between the U.S. government and an Indian nation ended at 4 p.m., October 5, 1877, in the Bear Paw Mountains of northern Montana. Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce nation surrendered 87 men, 184 women, and 147 children to units of the U.S. cavalry. For 11 weeks, he led his people on a 1,600 mile retreat toward Canada. He engaged 10 separate U.S. commands in 13 battles and skirmishes, and in nearly every instance he either defeated the American forces or fought them to a standstill. But in the end, the Nez Perce proved no match for Gatling guns, howitzers, and cannons.
At that moment, Joseph delivered one of the most eloquent speeches in American history. He spoke no English, but his translated remarks having handed his rifle to Col. Nelson Miles, Joseph concluded:
The little children are freezing to death.... I want to have time to look for my children and see how many I can find.... Hear me, my chiefs. I am tired; my heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands I will fight no more forever.
One of his terms of surrender was that his people be returned to their homeland.
For thirty-one years, Joseph fought for his peoples' return to eastern Oregon's Wallowa Valley, where his people had produced the famous appaloosa horse, bred for speed and endurance. He met with three American presidents to argue his case: Rutherford Hayes, William McKinley, and Theodore Roosevelt. He died at the age of 64 in 1904.
In 1877, the U.S. government sent General Oliver Howard to force the Nez Perce to move to an Idaho reservation. Chief Joseph and his band left for the reservation, but before they could reach it, several Nez Perce youths, disillusioned by broken treaty promises and white encroachment on their land, attacked and killed 18 white settlers.
Chief Joseph then began a three month, 1,600 mile flight to Canada with four separate U.S. military units in pursuit. repeatedly turned the tables on numerically superior forces. They eluded and out-fought 2,000 army soldiers in 13 battles before finally surrendering in a Montana snowstorm, just 40 miles from the Canadian border. Only 418 men, women, and children out of 800 who had set out were left. During the final battle, General Miles attempted to seize Chief Joseph under a flag of truce, but the chief had to be exchanged when the Nez took a white lieutenant prisoner.
Under the terms of the surrender, the Nez Perce were promised that they could live on a reservation in Lapwai, Idaho. But instead the Nez Perce were sent to Oklahoma. Half the tribe died from disease on the trip. A decade later the Nez Perce were relocated on a reservation in eastern Washington.
The surrender of Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce ended a decade of warfare between Indians and the U.S. government in the Far West. It meant that virtually all western Indians had been forced to live on government reservations.