24 March 2005
Impact of Westward
Migration on Native Americans DBQ
ho! During the 19th Century many
Americans moved west looking for new lands and opportunity. Some were looking
for religious freedom. Others were
looking to escape restrictive Eastern society.
But still, more were just looking for cheap farmland. Unfortunately, this expansion between 1780
and 1890 caused the taking of tribal lands from Native Americans, distrust
between settlers and Indians, and many physical conflicts between the two.
of the first major instances of the taking of tribal lands was the Indian
Removal Act and the Trail of Tears in 1838.
In this event the Cherokee, who had bought land and adopted an American
lifestyle, were forced off their land and walked hundreds of miles to their new
reservation. Of the 15,000 Cherokee who
began the walk one quarter of them died before reaching the destination. In The
Long Walk a Navajo elder named Howard Gorman tells of a similar trek, “On
the journey the Navajos went through all kinds of hardships, like tiredness and
injuries. And, when those things
happened, the people would hear gunshots behind them. But they couldn’t do anything about it. They just felt sorry for the ones being shot.”
The Reservation Treaties of 1867 resulted in a relocation of a greater
scale. Instead of just one tribe being
moved, nearly all east of the Mississippi
were. However, the land the Indians were
moved to were very tough environments with no big game and poor farming
soil. Finally, the Dawes Act of 1887
divided tribal lands and gave them to individual families. After this, Native
Americans retained only half the lands they had before. By this time, the Indian culture was
effectively killed and never returned in full force.
was also heavily broken down in this time.
In 1787 the Congress under the Articles of Confederation issued the
Northwest Ordnance promising Native Americans living in territories could keep
their lands. This was broken eight years
later in 1795 with the Treaty of Greenville. This treaty recognized that tribal
lands were owned by different Indian nations.
As a result of this the U.S.
government began buying the land at ridiculously low prices therefore breaking
the promise of letting the Native Americans keep their lands. Later, in 1832, in the Supreme Court Case of
Worschester v. Georgia
the Cherokee (who were represented by Worschester) sued the state of Georgia
for trying to make laws for the Cherokee nation. The Supreme Court ruled in favor
of the Cherokee. However, President
Jackson ignored the ruling and did not enforce it. He could do this because he
had not only Congress, but the American public, behind him. This would later lead to the Indian Removal
Act and the Trail of Tears discussed in the previous paragraph. The situation in California
was adding to this distrust. There,
settlers were kidnapping Indian children and selling them as slaves. A California
newspaper in A Devastated Population reported
that, “Abducting children has become quite a common practice. Nearly all the children belonging to some of
the Indian tribes in the northern part of the state have been stolen.” This great distrust sadly led repeatedly to
armed conflict between Americans and Indian nations.
of the first of such a conflict was the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811. In this battle Indiana Governor William Henry
Harrison led 1000 soldiers in an attack against a peaceful confederation of
tribes. No clear winner resulted though
Americans claimed the field was theirs and Harrison
became famous for the battle. In 1864
Americans launched another attack on Native Americans but this time it was not
a battle but a massacre, and rightly named the Chivington Massacre. Colonel John Chivington led the attack against
a peaceful Cheyenne village that
the United States
government had earlier promised to protect.
Ignoring the flag of surrender placed over the village, Chivington
raided the settlement killing 100 men, women, and children. Nine years later the Sioux War started.
However it has its roots in the year 1874.
In that year gold was found on the Lakota (Sioux) reservation. Miners flooded the area and the Lakota, afraid
of a takeover, attacked the miners. In
response Colonel Custer led an attack against the Lakotas in the Little Bighorn
Valley with only 225 men against the Lakota’s thousands. All of Custer’s men were killed including
himself. The final major conflict was
the Battle of Wounded Knee in 1889 which started when the U.S.
army tried to arrest Sitting Bull for teaching a religious dance called the
Ghost Dance to tribes. The government had
thought it was a war dance. Sitting Bull
was accidentally killed while being arrested and the Lakota surrendered to the
government. During the surrender, however,
and shot was fired and the Battle of Wounded Knee ensued.
is apparent that all of these events are closely related. The Indian’s loss of land led to armed
conflict between Native Americans and the United
This armed conflict led to distrust between the two parties which will
lead to more armed conflict. Ultimately,
this vicious circle led to the near extinction of the Native American culture.
It should be treated as a lesson to all people of what can happen when ignorance
and racism meet and conspire to do harm.