As in the East, expansion into the plains and mountains by miners, ranchers, and settlers led to increas- ing conflicts with the Native Amer- icans of the West . Many tribes of Native Americans — from the Utes of the Great Basin to the Nez Perces of Idaho — fought the whites at one time or another . But the Sioux of the Northern Plains and the Apache of the Southwest provided the most significant opposition to frontier ad- vance . Led by such resourceful lead- ers as Red Cloud and Crazy Horse,

the Sioux were particularly skilled at high-speed mounted warfare . The Apaches were equally adept and highly elusive, fighting in their envi- rons of desert and canyons .

Conflicts with the Plains Indians worsened after an incident where the Dakota (part of the Sioux nation), declaring war against the U .S . gov- ernment because of long-standing grievances, killed five white settlers . Rebellions and attacks continued through the Civil War . In 1876 the last serious Sioux war erupted, when the Dakota gold rush penetrated the Black Hills . The Army was sup- posed to keep miners off Sioux hunt- ing grounds, but did little to protect the Sioux lands . When ordered to take action against bands of Sioux hunting on the range according to their treaty rights, however, it moved quickly and vigorously .

In 1876, after several indecisive encounters, Colonel George Custer, leading a small detachment of cav- alry encountered a vastly superior force of Sioux and their allies on the Little Bighorn River . Custer and his men were completely annihilated . Nonetheless the Native-American insurgency was soon suppressed . Later, in 1890, a ghost dance ritual on the Northern Sioux reservation at Wounded Knee, South Dakota, led to an uprising and a last, tragic encounter that ended in the death of nearly 300 Sioux men, women, and children .

Long before this, however, the way of life of the Plains Indians had been destroyed by an expand-




ing white population, the coming of the railroads, and the slaughter of the buffalo, almost exterminated in the decade after 1870 by the settlers’ indiscriminate hunting .

The Apache wars in the South- west dragged on until Geronimo, the last important chief, was captured in 1886 .

Government policy ever since the Monroe administration had been to move the Native Americans be- yond the reach of the white frontier . But inevitably the reservations had become smaller and more crowd- ed . Some Americans began to pro- test the government’s treatment of Native Americans . Helen Hunt Jack- son, for example, an Easterner liv- ing in the West, wrote A Century of Dishonor (1881), which dramatized their plight and struck a chord in the nation’s conscience . Most re- formers believed the Native Ameri- can should be assimilated into the dominant culture . The federal gov- ernment even set up a school in Car- lisle, Pennsylvania, in an attempt to impose white values and beliefs on Native-American youths . (It was at this school that Jim Thorpe, often considered the best athlete the Unit- ed States has produced, gained fame in the early 20th century .)

In 1887 the Dawes (General Al- lotment) Act reversed U .S . Native- American policy, permitting the president to divide up tribal land and parcel out 65 hectares of land to each head of a family . Such al- lotments were to be held in trust by the government for 25 years, after

which time the owner won full title and citizenship . Lands not thus dis- tributed, however, were offered for sale to settlers . This policy, however well-intentioned, proved disastrous, since it allowed more plundering of Native-American lands . Moreover, its assault on the communal orga- nization of tribes caused further disruption of traditional culture . In 1934 U .S . policy was reversed yet again by the Indian Reorganiza- tion Act, which attempted to pro- tect tribal and communal life on the reservations .

Place Your Order Here!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *