Lesson 1 - Conflicts with the Indians
In this lesson, the student will describe events surrounding the conflicts between the settlers
As white settlers began moving onto the Great Plains, conflict erupted with the Indians already living there.
The New Mexico Territory was the area where the primary conflicts of the Southwest took place. The Navajo and
Apache Indians used the lack of Union control of the area during the Civil War to strike back at the white
population that had taken their land. In order to bring the Indian population back under control, the Indian fighter
and frontiersman, Christopher "Kit" Carson was hired. His plan was to attack the Indian population without rest until
they agreed to live on the reservation. Life on the reservation would mean changing a nomadic, hunting lifestyle to
one based on agriculture.
Carson rounded up Navajo men, women and children beginning in July 1863. During the roundup, Navajo
property, homes, fields, food supplies, horses and sheep were destroyed or seized by the army. The Navajo were
then were forced to march 400 hundred miles to the east-central region of New Mexico. Most were on foot and
suffered from hunger and cold. Over 3,000 Navajo died on the march that is known as the "Long Walk." Those who
survived the march ended up on desolate plagued with long droughts, disease and extreme cold. Conditions on
the reservation were not suited to agriculture.
Carson also made a mistake by putting longtime enemies, the Navajo and Apache, together on one reservation.
Eventually the federal government signed a treaty with the Navajo allowing them to return to their home in the Four
The Great Plains
The Plains Indians' culture was completely centered on the buffalo, using it for food, clothing, tools, and shelter.
Even buffalo dung was used as fuel. Because the buffalo moved according to the seasons and food supply, so did
the Indians. By 1870, buffalo hides had become valuable for commercial use, endangering the Plains Indians' way
of life. The hides could be used to make belts for machines, harnesses, furniture, floor covering and many other
products. Railroad companies hired marksmen to kill buffalo to feed the railroad workers. It was once estimated
that there were 100 million buffalo on the Great Plains --so many buffalo one herd could cover several square
miles and extend from horizon to horizon.
Thousands of hunters reached the plains by 1871 and began the slaughter of the buffalo. A good hunter could kill