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U.S./Native American Relations

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Celeste G

on 11 May 2014

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Transcript of U.S./Native American Relations

The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was initiated by Nicholas Trist, and its purpose was to resolve conflict between Mexico and the U.S. after the U.S. proved victorious in the Mexican War. In the treaty, Mexico agreed to fullfil the U.S. wishes of securing the Rio Grande as the southern border of Texas, and selling California and New Mexico for the price of $15,000,000 (not including the claims that the U.S. agreed to pay Mexico for).

THE SIOUX WARS (1854-1890)
The Ft. Laramie Treaty, signed in 1851, permitted that all American travels across the Oregon Trail would be free of Indian conflict. This did not apply to the American passage through the designated Indian territory though, so when a cow strayed from its settlement along the Plains and the owners crossed to boundary to retrieve it, conflict arose, mainly because the settlers claimed that the animal had been stolen. Lt.Grattan acted defensively and interrogated an Indian suspect, in addition to killing the head speaker of the Sioux, which then provoked the Sioux to retaliate and kill 16 Americans. Another Sioux war began in 1862 when Chief Little Crow commanded a series of attacks on white settlements. Despite the triumphant attempts to defeat the U.S. troops and discourage them from interfering with the Indian territory, Chief Little Crow and his army were not large enough to defeat General Sibley, and as a result of this, 38 Sioux were sentenced by president Lincoln to be hanged. The next battle, known as “Red Cloud” was the direct result of the opening of another American trail that cut through Indian territory, providing miners with an alternative route into Montana. A meeting between both U.S. officials and Sioux and Cheyenne leaders was held to form an agreement to protect the Bozeman trail, however chief Red Cloud refused to cooperate and proceeded to plot an attack against the U.S. officials. Red Cloud’s War, including the Fetterman Fight (1866) resulted in the Sioux agreeing to accommodate the Bozeman trail in trade for regaining control of the Black Hills. The controversy might have ended here if gold had not been discovered in the Black Hills. The battles of Little Big Horn and Wounded Knee were also apart of these wars.

As a part of the Indian Removal Act imposed by President Andrew Jackson in 1830, many Native American tribes were forced out of the East and into the land West of the Mississippi River. Although the Georgia court case Worcester v. Georgia (1832) ruled in favor of the Cherokee, claiming that the state could not enforce laws in the Indian territory, Jackson favored the previous ruling of Cherokee Nation v. Georgia (1831), and supported John Marshall in enforcing the removal of the Indians. This treacherous and fatal trip caused 15,000 Cherokee Indians to face disease and starvation as they were removed from Georgia by the U.S. military, which is why the migration is known as the “Trail of Tears.”

This was significant because it was supposed to permanently relocate the Native Americans- the West beyond the Mississippi was to be their permanent home. The Americans did not hesitate to advertise their superiority and use military force to remove them which automatically sparked negative feelings between the two groups. This event not only wiped out nearly ⅓ of the Cherokee, but it also contributed to the Native American resent against the U.S.

By acquiring California and New Mexico, the U.S. was able to expand the nation and set the foundation for the American West- the land that would soon be prosperous, but before this capitalization would occur, the Natives would create their own settlements. More land in the West seemed to expand the confinement of the Native Americans, however this freedom would be quite brief.
Because the Reservation Policy contradicted the previous ruling of the 1830 Indian Removal Act, many Indians viewed Americans as dishonest and hypocritical people. The reservations angered the Indians because it prohibited their hunting of buffalo and limited their already miniscule amount of freedom.
As the American interest in western lands increased and more people began migrating to the area surrounding the Great American Desert, the Native Americans found their settlements encroached on yet again. The amount of available land in the West was decreasing, as were the relocation options for the indigenous people. In 1851, the Indian Appropriations Act was passed by Congress, and the enforcement of Indian reservations began. The Natives were now confined to an even smaller set of boundaries, and were restricted from hunting outside of this land, which made starvation a very real issue.

*The yellow marks reservations*
The Fetterman Massacre by H. Charles McBarron

The Sioux wars were significant because each battle’s purpose was to put an end to the U.S. encroachment on Sioux territory, and although multiple treaties were made to provide for this, none of them were actually demonstrated by Americans. Whenever gold entered the situation, the treaty became void in the minds of Americans. It was also a major deal that the Indians were actually resisting the force of the Americans.

The California Gold rush of 1848 attracted many Americans to settle along the west coast, however the dry land of the Great Plains was fairly vacant due to its lack of moisture, forestry and overall fertility. The U.S. was very persistent in taking advantage of their newly acquired western territory, which is why it passed an act offering 160 acres of land (for free) to any farmer or family who would move to the Great Plains and cultivate it for a minimum of five years.
This act ultimately inspired 4.5 million Americans to migrate to the Great plains, although only 500,000 of them moved in time to take advantage of the act (they ran out of land to give away).
The increasing amount of Americans in the Great Plains where the land was already poor put the Native Americans in a very bad position because they were then forced to relocate to the land that American settlers had rejected. The more Americans there were surrounding the Indians, the less control they had of their land, culture, and survival.
European and American miners were intruding on the designated Native American land in search of gold in the West, which consequently increased the tension between Americans and the Indians. Violence between the two groups was not uncommon during the Civil War, and in 1864, Black Kettle, the leader of the Cheyenne tribe approached a U.S. military base in the hopes of negotiating a peace agreement, along with the reassurance that the Cheyenne would not be disturbed if they approached the Sand Creek area (that they were subject to as of a treaty in 1851). Because there seemed to be no issue in the Cheyenne settling in Sand Creek, Black Kettle proceeded to move his tribe to the setting of a massacre in the making. Colorado Colonel, John Chivington and his army brutally attacked the Cheyenne settlement, even after Black Kettle held up an American flag in the hope of achieving peace. Approximately 400 Cheyenne Indians were murdered.

This was significant because it added to the distrust the Indians had toward Americans and it also proved that the issues between the tribes and the Americans would not be resolved by a simple agreement (the Americans were not very good about keeping their word, so that would not work). The violence against the Natives in the Battle of Sand Creek foreshadowed more Indian Wars.
( completed in 1869)
The purpose of the Transcontinental Railroad was to link the economy of the East to the West, where the gold and silver rush had accounted for a great amount of prosperity, and also improve the means of transportation to distant plains. The line began in Omaha Nebraska and continued through the western trails into Sacramento, California.

The Railroad infuriated Native Americans because the territory that they were forced to remain on was being trespassed by Americans, yet again. In protest of this, they would plot small attacks on the American workers were were assisting in the construction of the line. These actions backfired because the Americans retaliated by bestowing further regulations upon them and also by killing off their major resource for food and clothing- buffalo (the presence of the railroad contributed to the buffalo near-extinction, as did the use of buffalo hide for American industrial surfaces). Losing the buffalo was very costly to the Native Americans.

MCCOY/ABILENE (1867-1870s)
Joseph McCoy, an Indiana man sought an opportunity to make money off of the transcontinental railroad that was being developed, and decided to utilize the abundance of cattle in the West, which had accumulated throughout the Civil War when the western land was temporarily deserted by the U.S. McCoy created a cattle drive that would transport the animals to the East via rail cart, and the demand for beef in the East made this decision very profitable. Abilene, Kansas became the primary location of the cattle trade, and a route was formed between Texas and Kansas (crossing Indian territory) so that the cattle could be driven to the selling port. McCoy’s system became extremely popular- by 1871 he had sold over 600,000 heads of cattle- and his name, as well as the town of Abilene Kansas, became well known for the cattle trade.

The amount of land left for the Indians was decreasing rapidly as a result of the development in the West and the enforcement of reservations. The Americans continued to disregard the presence of the Native Americans and pursued the economic and physical expansion of the West while tearing down the settlements that were previous homes to the Indians.
CHISHOLM TRAIL (1867-1884)
*Named in 1870*
The Chisholm trail was actually the Abilene Cattle Trail which guided cowboys and their cattle from Texas to the Abilene station in Kansas (It was simply renamed after Jesse Chisholm, one of the traders). As the cattle trade business boomed, the frequency of travel increased and the profession of the “trailing contractor” who would take the responsibility of leading the cattle to their destination, was created. The success of the cattle industry attracted more settlers to the West Plains, and many ranches were built to house these settlers.

Native tribes along the plains had no control over this development, and were forced out of their territory so that they would not interfere with the plans of the Continental railroad or the cattle drive. The Americans continued to prove their relentless desire to achieve their economic goals at the expense of the natives. Jesse Chisholm, whom the trail was named after was part Cherokee, which is significant because he was participating in a trade that was destroying the culture and homeland of his people.
When gold was discovered in the Black Hills, Native Americans were forced into reservations so that the prosperous land could be used by the Americans. Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse were leaders of this battle, as they refused to be confined in the reservations and led a group of Sioux and Cheyenne to a river in Montana called “Little Big Horn.” The U.S. army’s first attack by the river was countered by the Indians, and when General Custer led the second attack, his army was completely destroyed by the 3,000 Natives.

This was the greatest Native American battle victory, and it was very significant in the fact that it was a successful rebellion and proved that the Indians refused to be taken advantage of from that point on. It also supported the “savage” stereotype associated with Indians at the time period, because their success contributed to the threatened feeling Americans had toward them, which only strengthened their incentive to confine them even further.
Civil War Veteran, Richard Pratt was very much against the Indian reservation system. He strongly believed that the best way to deal with the Native Americans was to assimilate them, or to rid them of the Indian culture and traditions so that they would become “civilized” like the white people. To further this belief of his, Pratt created the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania which would teach Indians industrial skills so that they would be useful in the American economy and fit in with the rest of society. He insisted that the Indians would not become civilized if they did not learn how to work (in replacement of hunting).

Although the reservation system that restricted Indians was being discouraged, the assimilation that substituted it was even more confining because it forced the natives to be cleansed of their tradition and ultimately become like the white men. While the Richard Pratt and other assimilates believed that they were doing a favor to both Native Americans and society, their efforts to figuratively “Kill the Indian” did permanent damage to an extremely unique and sacred culture.
Helen Hunt Jackson wrote “A Century of Dishonor” to expose the malicious acts against Native Americans and to elicit support for ending the cycle of cruelties. The book had an effect similar to Harriet Beecherstowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” as it was received very well by the public, who became more aware and opposed to the poor treatment of the Indians.

This piece of literature was extremely significant because it basically opened up the public’s eyes to the truth of the Indian repression and gruesome events that had been taking place over the past few decades. Jackson provided a new perspective for many Americans, which led to creation of the Dawes Act.
In addition to the development of the West that led to the depletion of the livestock (review Transcontinental Railroad, McCoy/Abilene, and Chisholm Trail), the winter weather was extremely harsh on all life in the West. Snow storm and dramatically low temperatures of the “dead season” (ha ha) mixed with the arid climate in the summer made for the survival of the American buffalo to be nearly impossible, and so the specie was borderline extinct by the 1890s.

The Native Americans, before they were forced to assimilate and become farmers, relied heavily on the buffalo for beef and for its hide. Without the buffalo, the natives faced starvation and ran out of skins to make clothing out of (which was very rough in the West where having limited protection from the freezing temperatures was essentially deadly). The loss of the buffalo also impacted McCoy’s cattle trade business and the supply of beef for the eastern states.

The goal in establishing the Dawes Act was to eliminate the acknowledgment of different Native American tribes so that they would stop holding onto the cultural ties to their specific groups. The act was designed to promote the civilization of these Native Americans because it assigned them small plots of Oklahoma land to farm, and if they remained in the boundaries of this land for at least 25 years, they would become official U.S. citizens. However, the land that was typically divvied out to the Indians was not not ideal for farming or even living for a long period of time. Land that was not designated for the Indians was usually sold to whites, but the proceeds were supposed to go back to an organization that provided aid for the Indians.
This act was significant because while it was supposed to transform Indians into U.S. citizens, it actually ended up killing a substantial amount of them. Because they were relocated to land that was even poorer than the reservations they had previously occupied, the natives were exposed to disease and very difficult living conditions. In the end, the act seemed to be oriented more for the Americans because it permitted the former reservation land to be sold to white settlers, however the negative effects of the act were more prominent because it killed many Idians before it even had the chance to induct them as U.S. citizens.
The Ghost dance was created after Wovoka, a Paiute Indian, had an epiphany where he saw the Earth and the white man destroyed because of the evil that the white man had brought to the world, but the Indian man was spared and was then able to reclaim the land of his ancestors. Wovoka took this vision as a sign that all Indians needed to rid themselves of any influence the white had had on them, so that they would no longer be evil (this riddance was done in the form of the ghost dance). The intention behind the dance was not supposed to be violent or threatening in anyway, however when it became a phenomenon in the majority of the native tribes in the West, it was misinterpreted as being the initiation of an Indian attack against the white man. Feeling threatened by the suspicious dance, American militia became involved and ended up killing Sitting Bull, and influencial Sioux leader.
The irony in this is that the ghost dance was created as interpretation of the Christian religion, which was the valued religion of the white man, yet the whites became extremely defensive when they found out about the religious dance. The resent between the two groups during the Ghost Dance movement was more extremely evident- the Native Americans were anxiously anticipating the death of all whites, while the Americans were angered by the Indian's new dance and wanted to punish them for rebelling.
After the death of Sitting Bull, any peaceful relations between Indians and Americans were virtually eliminated. When the U.S. demonstrated that they were prepared to end the ghost dance movement with military powers, many Sioux Indians evacuated their land plots and escaped to the Wounded Knee River in South Dakota, under the leadership of Chief Big Foot. It was here that the U.S. army attacked. At the time, Big Foot was preparing to guide his followers back to their reservations, however the American militia was convinced that they were plotting another war. It is unclear which side provoked the war, but it is undeniable that the casualties of Big Foot's brigade were substantially higher.
Similarly to the Sand Creek massacre, a supposedly innocent Indian action was transformed into a massacre due to the resent distrust, and lack of communication between the Americans and the Native Americans. Punishing the Indians for supporting the Ghost dance movement was very hypocritical of the U.S. militia, and it seems as if they were almost waiting for an excuse to shoot their guns at the Indians again. The Battle and Wounded Knee prevented a nonexistent war from forming by creating one of its own. The "massacre" did not improve Native America/U.S. relations.
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