The Conquest of the Far West Chapter 16
The Conquest of the Far West • During the 19th centuryemigrants found the West was not the “great American desert” (too arid for cultivation), but a diverse environment full of opportunity • The West had a diverse population of Indians, Hispanics, French, British Canadians, and Asians • The West became part of the expansive eastern capitalist economy
The Societies of the Far West • Before the great white American migration following the Civil War, the West was home to many tribes • The Cherokeeand Creekwere forcibly moved to present‐day Oklahoma • The Pueblosof the Southwest were largely agricultural and lived in permanent villages of adobe houses and irrigated fields • Their relationship with Spanish from Mexicoincluded a hierarchical system • An Increase of whites upset this society
Plains Indians • Plains Indians were diverse; some farmed and others were nomadic hunters • The powerful Sioux subsisted by hunting buffalo& dominated Missouri River Valley • They mounted the strongest opposition to white settlement, but were unable to overcame their greatest enemies • Disease & Guns
Hispanic New Mexico • American westward integration led to the erosion of Spanish-speaking communal societies & economies. • The arrival of railroads in the Southwest brought new ranching, farming, mining opportunities as well as brought Mexican migrants. • Most were limited by the Anglo-American arrival.
Hispanic California & Texas • Most Spanish missions employed Indians as slaves until 1830s. • White settlers expelled Hispanic californios from the land. • The demand for cattle allowed some rancheros to continue to own land, but most Mexicans became working class members. • In Texas, Mexicans were also unable to compete with enormous Anglo-American ranching kingdoms- most were relegated to unskilled farm & industrial labor
Chinese Migration • The Chinese came to California as the result of mining opportunities offered by the Gold Rush. • The Chinese were industrious& hardworking, which caused publicopinion to turn against them. • As a result , a taxon foreign miners restricted their activity in mining. • The Chinese therefore took new opportunities working on the Transcontinental Railroad. • The Chinese comprised 90% of Central Pacific Railroad labor
Chinese in California • The Transcontinental Railroad was ultimately completed. • Economic opportunity increased in the citiesresulting in the Chinese settling in “Chinatowns” (largest in San Francisco) • Discrimination forced Chinese into less desirable occupationssuch as laundering clothes • The presence of Chinese and meager economic success fostered anti‐Chinese reactions • The most extreme was Chinese Exclusion Act • Passed by Congress in 1882 and made permanent in 1902
Migration from the East • A Federal policy encouraged settlement of the West called the Homestead Act (1862) • It Provided 160 acres for those who stayed for 5 years and improved the land • The land proved too small to be economically viable • Subsequent legislation provided more land to homesteaders • Ultimately an individual could acquire 1,280 acres at little cost • Settlement was rapid;By 1900 only 3 territories had not gained statehood
The Changing Western Economy • Commercial enterprise such as mining, timbering, ranching, and commercial farmingforgedstrong ties with the East • Recruiting labor was a challenge and the nature of the work was difficult • Workers were mostly single men and faced competition from Chinese, Filipinos, Mexicans, and Indians • A Dual labor system developed with white workers occupying more attractive jobs
Mining • Mining was at the core of first economic boom • Gold was discovered in California and Colorado’s Pike’s Peak while Nevada’s Comstock Lode yielded silver • Romance lay with gold and silver yet in the long run resources such aluminum, lead, tin, quartz, and zinc were more significant to the national economy • Few miners ever found fortunes; Corporationsreplaced individuals • Lawlessness and disorder characterized western communities • Vigilante committees often formed when a lawless situation became intolerable, but often they became part of the problem)
Cattle Ranching • Cattle ranching followed patterns established by Mexicans and Texans in the Southwest. • The Open rangewas part of the vast public domain that provided lands for unrestricted grazing • Longhorn cattle, horses for cowboys, and cattle ranching methods such as branding, roundups, and the long drives all had Mexican roots. • Ranchers drove herds over long trails like the Chisholm Trail to Abilene to get to railroad centers
Cowboys • Although the image of cowboys is American, his way of life was adopted directly from Spanish ranchers in Mexico. • A cowboy’s clothes, food, & vocabulary were influenced by Mexican Vaqueros. • Vaqueros were the first to wear spurs • Chaparreras, or leather overalls, became chaps • Charqui, or “jerky” – dried strips of meat – were eaten • Bronco caballo, or rough horse, was a bronco • Mestenos, were mustangs prized by the American Cowboy • Rancho became the American Ranch • Rodeo was a term borrowed from the Spanish
Cattle Ranching Declines • Increasing settlement& competition for the open range grew from sheep ranchers and farmers who fenced in the range (invention of barbed wire by Joseph Glidden). • Range wars erupted between these groups. • The Cattle boom crashed in 1887 after two harsh • winters and a dry summer • The industry abandoned the open range and grazed cattle on fixed ranches.
Women • The biggest difference with their eastern counterparts was that western women participated in politics • Wyoming was the first state to grant women the vote • Throughout the West women were a political presence & were also considered a moral presence. • They were also needed to swell the voter population when applying for statehood.
The Romance of the West • The West, free from the unnatural influence of civilizationhas been highly romanticized in American culture • The Rocky Mountain School of painting followed in the steps of the earlier Hudson River Schoolby portraying the majesty and awesome nature of the landscape. • This inspired tourism once the Native American population had been contained on reservations and the Transcontinental Railroad made travel possible.
The Cowboy • An example of individualism, morality, and ingenuity, the Cowboy struck a positive vein in American culture. • This ideal differed from the low‐paid and rough life cowboys actually lived, butpopular Wild West shows and novels made cowboys American heroes.
Literature • Literature heralded the frontier as the last place one could seek refuge from organized society. • The 1893 census declared the frontier closed • Historian Frederick Jackson Turner argued that the frontier was the most important aspect of American development. • His “frontier thesis” claimed an era of American History was over with the disappearance of the frontier • Although generally accepted as valid, Turner’s contentions were generally inaccurate (but did capture the light in which Americans saw themselves)
The Dispersal of Tribes • The federal government had searched since its beginning for a policy to minimize conflict between Indians and whites • At the same time, they allowed whites access to Indian land when it suited them (gold). • Settlers increasingly encroached on tribal lands, which led to conflict • The concentration policy of 1851 attempted to define lands for tribes in treaties • This divided Indians and made them easier to control, but eventually encouraged even more conflict.
Troubled Relations with Natives • Cultural Preservation vs. Prosperity • Manifest Destiny – the belief that the U.S. Government & its people had the God given right to own North America from coast to coast. • Self – Preservation – the Natives fought to maintain their way of life as settlers poured into their lands.
Reservation Policy • In 1867, a new reservation policy was adopted that created two large reservations in Oklahoma and the Dakotas. • Management of the reservations was left to incompetent and dishonest agents from the Bureau of Indian Affairs. • Many tribes were tricked into accepting the new policy
Reasons for Conflict • Pioneer Settlement on the Great Plains • Native resistance to the destruction of their culture • Broken treaties & promises • Revenge on both sides • Slaughter of the Buffalo
Slaughter of the Buffalo • Devastating to Indian life and culture was the slaughter of the buffalo herds • Eastern demand for hides as souvenirs and symbols of the West • Migrants used buffalo for food, and factories used the hides for machine belts • Railroads slowed by herds on their tracks, encouraged killing the buffalo • The Bureau of Indian affairs saw this as a way to weaken and control Indian tribes by eliminating their main source of food and supplies • From 1865 to 1875 the herd declined from 15 mil to less than 1,000.
Conflict • Elimination of the buffalo increasingly led to conflict, especially when the US government committed more troops to the West after theCivilWar • Colonel J.M. Chivington massacred Arapaho and Cheyenne Indians at Sand Creek in Colorado • Fighting continued throughout the 1870s where mostencounters eventually resulted in white victories • In 1876, George A. Custer and his troops were annihilated by 2,500 Indians at the Battle of Little Big Horn. • The Indians did not remain united for long, which was one of their major weaknesses in the face of U.S. forces.
Conflict • White settlers and troops were more vicious than Indians • Predicting the coming of a messiah, in 1890 a Native American prophet led a spiritual revival centered on a Ghost Dance • When fighting broke out between Indians and troops at Wounded Knee in South Dakota, troops turned machine guns on the Indians and ended Native American resistance.
Assimilation • Just before Wounded Knee, a final blow came to Indians with the passage of the Dawes Act of 1887. • It provided for the elimination of tribal lands and the transfer of 160‐acre lots to individual Indians, with smaller allotments for each family member. • A system of boarding schools was developed to eradicate all evidence of Native American culture and speed the acceptance by Native American children
The Western Farmer • After mining and ranching, farming became the dominant economic activity in the West, butafter a time farming also declined • Railroads made western farming possible by bringing settlers and taking their produce back to the east • The completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869 and the construction of branch lines improved access to markets • Railroads received government subsidies and loans • In the 1870s above‐average rainfall encouraged • farming • The invention of barbed wire and methods of irrigation spurred agricultural development.
The Western Farmer • In the late 1880s, the weather shifted to long periods of drought that destroyed crops and farm prices began a long period of decline. • Many debt‐ridden farmers abandoned their farms • and moved back east • Commercial farming began to rise in place of the independent farmer who Specialized in cash crops for national and international markets • The boom in agricultural production was matched around the world.
The Western Farmer • Farmers had to rely on bank loans, railroad companies, and prices set elsewhere • In the 1880s, worldwide overproduction led to lower prices and increased indebtedness • Some commercial farms prospered, but the agricultural economy on the whole declined.
The Western Farmer • There was a sense that eastern manufacturers exploited farmers • Farmers saw their social and economic position decline relative to city dwellers • Rural isolation and loneliness, inadequate education for children, lack of cultural activities, and the migration of farm children to the city all combined to create agrarian malaise.
Legacy of the West • The forces transforming the American West after the Civil War were significantly different than the romantic image of the West most Americans embraced. • The growth of the West was influenced by same capitalistic forces that were driving industrialization.