Chapter 27 ~ The Great West and the Agricultural Revolution ~ 1865 – 1900
I. Indians Embattled in the West
After the Civil War, the Great West was still relatively untamed, wild, full of Indians, bison, and wildlife, and
sparsely populated by a few Mormons and Mexicans.
As the White settlers began to populate the Great West, the Indians, caught in the middle, increasingly turned
against each other, were infected with White man’s diseases, and stuck battling to hunt the few remaining bison
that were still ranging around.
The Sioux, displaced by Chippewas from the their ancestral lands at the headwaters of the Mississippi in the
late 1700s, expanded at the expense of the Crows, Kiowas, and Pawnees, and justified their actions by
reasoning that White men had done the same thing to them.
The Indians had become great riders, hunters, and fighters ever since the Spanish had introduced the horse
iii. The federal government tried to pacify the Indians by signing treaties at Fort Laramie in 1851 and Fort Atkinson
in 1853 with the chiefs of the tribes. However, the U.S. failed to understand that such “tribes” and “chiefs” didn’t
necessarily represent groups of people in Indian culture, and that in most cases, Native Americans didn’t
recognize authorities outside of their families.
iv. In the 1860s, the U.S. government intensified its efforts by herding Indians into still smaller and smaller
reservations (like the Dakota Territory).
Indians were often promised that they wouldn’t be bothered further after moving out of their ancestral lands,
and often, Indian agents were corrupt and pawned off shoddy food and products to their own fellow Indians.
White men often disregarded treaties, though, and frequently swindled the Indians.
In frustration, many Native American tribes fought back. A slew of Indian vs. White skirmishes emerged between
roughly 1864 to 1890 in the so-called “Indian Wars.”
After the Civil War, the U.S. Army’s new mission became—go clear Indians out of the West for White
settlers to move in.
Many times though, the Indians were better equipped than the federal troops sent to quell their revolts because
arrows could be fired more rapidly than a muzzle-loaded rifle. Invention of the Colt .45 revolver (six-shooter)
and Winchester repeating rifle changed this.
Generals Sherman, Sheridan, and Custer (at Little Bighorn) all battled Indians.
II. Receding Native Population
Violence reigned supreme in Indian-White relations.
In 1864, at Sand Creek, Colorado, Colonel J.M. Chivington’s militia massacred some four hundred Indians in
cold blood—Indians who had thought they had been promised immunity and Indians who were peaceful and