Is a fine sight a traveler noted around 1850 to see

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is a fine sight,” a traveler noted around 1850, “to see one of those big men among the Blackfeet, who has two or three lodges, five or six wives, twenty or thirty children, fifty to a hundred head of horses; for his trade amounts to upward of $2,000 per year.” Although the Blackfeet, Kiowas, and Lakotas con- tributed buffalo hides to the national economy, they did not fully grasp their market value as winter clothes, leather accessories, and industrial drive belts. Conse- quently, they could not demand the best price. More- over, the increasing size of the kill diminished the buffalo herds. Between 1820 and 1870, the northern herd shrank from 5 million to less than 2 million. When the Assiniboines’ cultural hero Inkton’mi had taught his people how to kill the buffalo, he told them, “The buffalo will live as long as your people. There will be no end of them until the end of time.” Meant as a perpetual guarantee, by the 1860s Inkton’mi’s words prefigured the end of time — the demise of traditional buffalo hunting and, perhaps, of the Assiniboines as well. The Fateful Election of 1844 The election of 1844 changed the American govern- ment’s policy toward the Great Plains, the Far West, and Texas. Since 1836, southern leaders had supported the annexation of Texas, but cautious party politicians, pressured by northerners who opposed the expansion of slavery, had rebuffed them (Chapter 12). Now rumors swirled that Great Britain was encouraging Texas to remain independent; wanted California as payment for the Mexican debts owed to British inves- tors; and had designs on Spanish Cuba, which some slave owners wanted to add to the United States. To thwart such imagined schemes, southern expansionists demanded the immediate annexation of Texas. At this crucial juncture, Oregon fever altered the political landscape in the North. In 1843, Americans in the Ohio River Valley and the Great Lakes states organized “Oregon conventions,” and Democratic and Whig politicians alike called for American sover- eignty over the entire Oregon Country, from Spanish California to Russian Alaska (which began at 54°40' north latitude). With northerners demanding Oregon, TRACE CHANGE OVER TIME Why did some Great Plains peoples flourish between 1750 and 1860 while others did not?
418 PART 5 CREATING AND PRESERVING A CONTINENTAL NATION, 1844–1877 President John Tyler, a proslavery zealot, called for the annexation of Texas. Disowned by the Whigs because he thwarted Henry Clay’s nationalist economic pro- gram, Tyler hoped to win reelection in 1844 as a Democrat. To curry favor among northern expansion- ists, Tyler supported claims to all of Oregon. In April 1844, Tyler and John C. Calhoun, his pro- slavery, expansionist-minded secretary of state, sent the Senate a treaty to bring Texas into the Union. However, the two major presidential hopefuls, Democrat Martin Van Buren and Whig Henry Clay, opposed Tyler’s initiative. Fearful of raising the issue of slavery, they persuaded the Senate to reject the treaty.

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