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 a few
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.
, 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 to them.
The federal government tried to pacify the Indians by signing treaties at
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.
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 “
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.