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HOW HAS “THE WEST” SHAPED OUR NATIONAL IDENTITY?. I.       The Native American Resistance A.     Indian Country Nearly all Natives (approx 360,000) lived west of Miss. R. by 1850 Treaty of Ft. Laramie 1851 Plains Indians were promised land if they didn’t bother settlers

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I.       The Native American Resistance

  • A.     Indian Country
    • Nearly all Natives (approx 360,000) lived west of Miss. R. by 1850
    • Treaty of Ft. Laramie 1851
      • Plains Indians were promised land if they didn’t bother settlers
      • Allowed gov’t to build “roads” & forts
    • Thousands of “Americans” went West for wealth

I.       The Native American Resistance

  • A.     Indian Country (cont.)
  • Indians not independent nations, but wards of the govt.
    • Moved Natives onto Reservations in Dakotas & OK
    • Bureau of Indian Affairs (corrupt) establ. within War Dept.
  • Buffalo/Bison slaughter destroyed Native way of life

B. Years of Struggle

  • Sand Creek Massacre, CO, 1864; Col. Chivington’s soldiers killed over 200 undefended Natives
  • Fetterman WY 1866; Natives killed over 92 soldiers
  • Treaty of Medicine Lodge 1867 & Treaty of Ft. Laramie 1868 moved Natives onto Reservations

B. Years of Struggle (cont.)

  • Gold discovered in Black Hills on Indian Reservation territory in 1874
    • “Whites” pushed out Natives
    • Natives left Reservations & were ordered back by govt/army

5. Battle of Little Big Horn June 25, 1876

    • Col. Custer led 264 men of the 7th Cavalry vs. 3000 Sioux under Chiefs Sitting Bull & Crazy Horse.
    • Annihilation – “Custer’s Last Stand”
  • Actually Natives’ Last Stand…

beginning of the end


6. Chase of the Nez Perce (1877)

    • Chief Joseph tried to escape Reservation by leading his tribes to Canada
    • Chased for 3 months over 1300 miles by US Army
    • Stopped for rest 30 miles from Canada (thought they were in)
    • “I will fight no more, forever.”

7.      Wounded Knee Massacre (Dec. 1890)

a.    Ghost Dance

(1)  Wovoka 1889

(2)  Revive traditional way of life

(3)  “Ghost shirts” made them immune to bullets

b.  Soldiers sent to arrest followers of the Ghost religion

c.  Natives resisted

d.  Gunfire erupted; killing approx. 300 Sioux

e. Marks the end of the Indian Wars on the Great Plains


C. Rethinking Indian Policy

1. Assimilation (cultural absorption)

a. laws passed forcing Natives to live, dress, act, talk, like Whites

b. Indian schools set up (Carlisle)


2. Dawes General Allotment Act 1887

a. Designed to accelerate assimilation of Natives into White culture

b. Establ. private ownership of Native land.

c. 160 acres given to head of a family;

80 acres to single adult.

d. Full title gained after 25 years

e. much of Reservation land never used; nearly 2/3 of Native land lost to White settlement

3. By 1890, Native population reduced to 250,000


II. Western Farmers & Cattle Ranchers

A. Economic Development of the West

1. Land Acts

a. Homestead Act of 1862

(1) Allowed settlers to buy 160 acres for a small fee if they occupied and improved it for 5 years.

(2) Some 400,000 homesteaders became landowners… hard life, many abandoned property


b. Morrill Land Grant Act 1862

(1) Federal land be used to finance land grant agricultural colleges (State U. Aggies).

(2) Scientific and mechanical methods of farming were taught & were responsible for the development of the agricultural Midwest.

c. Oklahoma Land Rush April 23, 1889;

(1) 12 noon; over 50,000 racers/settlers

(2)“Don’t be a Sooner”

(3) former Seminole and Creek Indian lands

In all, more than 11 million acres in Oklahoma.


2. Pioneers

    • European Americans from the East
    • African Americans (Exodusters)
    • Immigrants from Europe & Asia
    • Promise of “better life” and/or racial tolerance

3. Western Farms

  • A. US Dept. of Agriculture established in 1862 to help farmers adapt to Plains environment
      • Dry farming techniques to conserve moisture- cold winters, arid conditions
      • Drill for water- adapted from petroleum industry
      • Irrigation
      • Wind power (mills) – water pumps
      • New plows- sharp- plow through tough sod soil

B. Bonanza farms possible due to efficient farm machinery & cheap land

      • Most owned by eastern companies-run like factories- buy materials in bulk to keep costs low.
      • Ex.- 66,000 acre wheat farm in California

Bonanza farms (cont)

  • 2. Profitable during boom times; trouble with bust times- large investments, droughts, low prices
      • By 1890’s most broken up into smaller “family” farms
      • New railways opened the farms up to national markets in the East

4. Cattle Boom

    • A. provides the material for most of the legends and stories of the West- (Cowboy image)
    • B. new RR’s created the “NATIONAL MARKET”
    • first ranches were in Texas (Cattle)
      • -Steer worth $4 in Texas- worth $50 in East market

5. Cattle Boom (cont)

    • D. “long drives” moved cattle hundreds of miles North to “railheads” –through converted Indian territory
    • “open range” ranching depended on grazing in public lands
    • New tougher breed of Cattle- The “Longhorn”

G. Only lasted approx 20 years

    • overgrazing
    • over supply of beef
    • invention of barbed wire in 1874 by Joseph Glidden restricted open range- controlled access to land and water
    • severe weather (blizzards & drought) 1885-1888

III.   The Mining Boom

A.  Western Mining

1. Pikes Peak or Bust in 1858

2.  1859 Comstock Lode, NV, one of the world’s richest silver veins (>$500 mill)

3.  Idaho, Montana, AZ, and Alaska

4.   Klondike Gold Rush 1896


B.     Life in Mining Communities

    • 1.   not family-oriented like farming or ranching
    • 2.   crude life with intense competition
    • 3.   mining camps become towns attracting businessmen
    • 4.  with prosperity came families, communities, and law & order

C.   Mining as Big Business

1.   most easily accessible ores were mined out within a few years

2.   well-financed companies relied on heavy equipment & science

a) hydraulic mining used water pressure to wash away mts. of gravel

b) hard-rock mining involved sinking deep shafts into veins of quartz


3. US Geological Survey formed in 1879 collected data about new mines

4. “get rich quick” replaced by jobs

5.  environment suffered greatly


IV.   Western Myth

Rugged Individuals conquering land

1. Most worked for or with others

2. Large companies made profit

3. Individual “stuck”

4.  Federal govt. provided most help

5. Technology ensured survival