I. The Clash of Cultures on the Plains
After the Civil War, the Great West was still relatively untamed,wild, full of Indians, bison,
and wildlife, and sparsely populated by afew Mormons and Mexicans.
As the White settlers began to populate the Great West, theIndians, caught in the middle,
increasingly turned against each other,were infected with White man’s diseases, and stuck
battling tohunt the few remaining bison that were still ranging around.
The Sioux, displaced by Chippewas from the their ancestral lands atthe
headwaters of the Mississippi in the late 1700s, expanded at theexpense of the Crows,
Kiowas, and Pawnees, and justified their actionsby 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 to them.
The federal government tried to pacify the Indians by signingtreaties at Fort Laramie in
1851 and Fort Atkinson in 1853 with thechiefs of the tribes. However, the U.S. failed to
understand that such“tribes” and “chiefs” didn’t necessarilyrepresent groups of people in
Indian culture, and that in most cases,Native Americans didn’t recognize authorities
outside of theirfamilies.
In the 1860s, the U.S. government intensified its efforts byherding Indians into still smaller
and smaller reservations (like theDakota Territory).
Indians were often promised that they wouldn’t be botheredfurther after moving
out of their ancestral lands, and often, Indianagents were corrupt and pawned off shoddy
food and products to theirown fellow Indians.
White men often disregarded treaties, though, and frequently swindled the
In frustration, many Native American tribes fought back. A slew ofIndian vs. White
skirmishes emerged between roughly 1864 to 1890 in theso-called “Indian Wars.”
After the Civil War, the U.S. Army’s new missionbecame—go clear Indians out
of the West for White settlers tomove in.
Many times though, the Indians were better equipped than thefederal troops
sent to quell their revolts because arrows could befired more rapidly than a muzzle-loaded
rifle. Invention of the Colt.45 revolver (six-shooter) and Winchester repeating rifle changed
Generals Sherman, Sheridan, and Custer (at Little Bighorn) all battled Indians.
II. Receding Native Population