The topic of “Native Americans and the West” relates to the theme of “People, Places, and Power”. In this theme, people shape events through their actions. Individual people form conflict with others based on their social status culture, and goals. People unite in groups based on the desire to achieve common goals. A place is a specific country, region, city, or spot. Places define economic situations and can attract or push away people. Through the geography of places, individuals are given identity. Power defines the ownership of places and resources. People can gain power in religious groups, economics, military, or cultural superiority over other groups of people. The Native Americans were a group of people that had lived in the place of the West for many centuries. The natives were affected by different groups of people who migrated to the West and tried to control them and gain power.
Push-pull factors- events and conditions that either force (push) people to move elsewhere or strongly attract (pull) them to do so.
Push factors- eastern farmland was expensive for African Americans and impoverished immigrants. Freedom in West.
Pull- Factors- Federal government promoted western migration by giving away public lands.
Pacific Railway Acts- government gave large land grants to Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads. Act granted every alternate section of public land to amount of five alternate sections per mile on both sides of railroad.
Morrill Land-Grant Act of 1862- gave state governments millions of acres of western lands; states could then sell to raise money for “land grant” colleges.
Land speculators- people who brought up large areas of land in the hope of selling it for later profit.
Homestead Act- was signed by Lincoln in 1862 and for a small fee; settlers could have 160 acres of land if they met certain conditions: at least 21 or the head of their family, American citizens or immigrants filing for citizenship, built a house of certain minimum size and lived in it at least 6 months a year… Had to farm the land for five years in a row before claiming ownership.
Pull factor- private property- drawn by incentive to have property rights
Exodusters- what Black settlers called themselves
Great Plains- vast grassland between Mississippi River and Rocky Mountains
Nomads- people who travel from place to place usually following food sources, instead of living in one location.
Reservations- federal lands set aside for Native Americans
Battle of Little Bighorn- “Custer’s Last Stand”, 1876 Sioux victory over army troops led by George Custer
Ghost Dance- a ritual in which people joined hands and whirled in a circle. An Indian claimed he was Christ that had returned to the earth. Wovoka had a vision of a world without whites.
Massacre at Wounded Knee- last major episode of violence in the Indian wars
Assimilation- process by which one society becomes a part of another, more dominant society by adopting its culture
Dawes Act- divided reservation land into individual plots.
Boomers- settlers who ran in land races to claim land upon the 1889 opening of Indian Territory for settlement. (America Pathways to the Present, 497)
Sooners- in 1889, people who illegally claimed land by sneaking past government officials before the land races began.
Captain Richard H. Pratt- Opened the United States Indian Training and Industrial School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.
Federal Bureau of Indian Affairs- A part of the Interior Department that was meant to manage the delivery of supplies to reservations.
Pull and push factors of moving west:
Pull of cheap, new lands and job opportunities attracted people of many ethnic backgrounds.
“Indian Problem” conflict with Native Americans
Rise of warrior societies led to decline in village life, nomadic native Americans raided more settled groups
Clashes: settlers viewed land as resources and felt justified taking Indian land because they thought it would be most productive. To Native Americans, settlers were invaders.
- Treaties caused misunderstanding, government designated tribes as groups, and signers of treaties did not represent the majority of their people.
- Kiowa wrote, in 1873, “I have taken the white man by the hand, thinking him to be a friend, but he is not a friend; government has deceived us….” (America Pathways to the Present, 492).
Enduring Understanding 1: The Native Americans viewed the land as their home and considered the settlers invaders whereas the settlers viewed the land as resources and felt justified taking Indian land because they thought it was beneficial to them and the natives.
- Kiowa wrote in 1873, “I have taken the white man by the hand, thinking him to be a friend, but he is not a friend; government has deceived us….” (America Pathways to the Present, 492).
- “We tried to run, but they shot at us like we were buffalo.” said Louis Weasel Bear. “I know there must be some good white people, but the soldiers must be mean to shoot children and women.” (A Different Mirror, 216).
- “Many settlers’ views of land and resource use contrasted sharply with Native American traditions. Many settlers felt justified in taking Indian land because, in their view, they would make it more productive.” (America Pathways to the Present, 492).
- “To Native Americans, the settlers were simply invaders. Increasing intrusions, especially into sacred lands, angered even chiefs who had welcomed the newcomers.” (America Pathways to the Present, 492).
- “The treaties produced misunderstandings and outright fraud… Acts of violence on both sides set off cycles of revenge that occurred with increasing brutality.” (America Pathways to the Present, 492).
- “He portrayed the land’s original people as “infesting” the plains, their “cruel and ferocious nature” far exceeding that of any “wild beast.” (A Different Mirror, 217).
Enduring Understanding 2: Many white settlers believed that the Native Americans needed to change their original way of life in order to fit into American society.
- “Most believed that Native Americans still needed to be “civilized.” That is, they should be made to give up their traditions, become Christians, learn English, adopt white dress and customs, and support themselves by farming and trade.” (America Pathways to the Present, 496).
- “General George Armstrong Custer personified the advance of “civilization” against “savagery”.” (A Different Mirror, 216).
- “Tribal elders were ordered to give up their religious beliefs and rituals.” (A Different Mirror, 216).
- “Children as young as 5 years old were taken from the reservations by coaxing, trickery, or force, and sent to Carlisle and other such school to be educated “as Americans.” The children were to be integrated into white society.” (America Pathways to the Present, 496).
- “To civilize Indians would be to require them to abandon their way of life as warriors, and to sacrifice their manhood by working for a living.” (A Different Mirror, 218).
- Many whites “believed that the reservations only served to segregate native peoples from white society and postpone their assimilation.” (A Different Mirror, 221).
- “To advance and civilize the Indians, Senator Henry Dawes contended, the tribal system had to be destroyed, for it was perpetuating “habits of nomadic barbarism” and “savagery”. As members of tribes, Indians would continue to live in idleness, frivolity, and debauchery.” (A Different Mirror, 221).
The topic of Native Americans and the West relates to the theme of “People, Places, and Power” because it is focuses on the conflict between the Native Americans and settlers and how their interaction eventually led to the termination of the native’s culture and past way of life (America Pathways to the Present, 496). The Indian Wars lasted from 1861-1890. The topic of Native Americans and the West relates to the theme of Places because it is based upon the different perspectives of the natives and settlers on the Western lands. The West attracted settlers, entrepreneurs seeking a fresh start, and people looking to freely practice their religion (America Pathways to the Present, 489). The Western lands are important because they are the homeland of the Native Americans and setting of the conflict between the natives and settlers. The topic also connects to the theme of power because the settler’s had superiority over the natives even though the natives considered the settler’s invaders of their sacred land. The settler’s considered the Native Americans to be uncivilized savages and forced them to abide by the rules of “white” American society. The violent conflict between the natives and settlers resulted in the deaths of 950 United States soldiers and death of millions of Native American men, women, and children who died in battles or the inhumane reservations (America Pathways to the Present, 497).