1864-1890

The Indian Wars of the West
The Indian Wars of the West

Mistreatment of indigenous tribes lead to The Indian Wars of the West

The Indian Wars were a result of the mistreatment of Indigenous People by the U.S government. Initially, President Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act in 1830. Consequently, this Act allowed the U.S. government to relocate Native Americans from their land east of the Mississippi River to the west on the American Frontier. Initially, in 1838, the government forcibly removed around 15,000 Cherokee from their homeland. Likewise, these people were made to walk more than 1,200 miles west to Oklahoma. Ultimately, over 3,000 Indians died on the grueling route, known as the Trail of Tears. As a result, this involuntary relocation fueled the Indians’ anger toward the U.S. government.

Peaceful relations

American settlers and fur trappers had spread into the western United States territories. Besides, these people had established the Santa Fe Trail and the Oregon Trail for the transcontinental movement. Relations were generally peaceful between American settlers and the natives at this time.

In the early 1830s, the Bent brothers built an adobe fort called Bent’s Fort. The fort, which is still standing, is located next to the Arkansas River on the Santa Fe Trail in southeast Colorado. The Bent’s had friendly relations with the Cheyenne and Arapaho people. As a matter of fact, William Bent was a mediator with the Cheyenne, and in 1835 he married Owl Woman, the daughter of White Thunder, a Cheyenne, chief, and medicine man. Meanwhile, on the Oregon Trail’s northern route, peace was established by the Treaty of Fort Laramie. This treaty was signed in 1851 between the United States, the Plains Indians, and the Indians of the northern Rocky Mountains.

A growing white population

The Pikes Peak Gold Rush of 1859 introduced a much larger white population onto the Rockies’ Front Range. This quick and massive growth of people was supported by a trading route that crossed the central Great Plains. Consequently, there was much more interaction between the white settlers and native tribes.

Moreover, the passage of the Homestead Act of 1862 encouraged even larger numbers of people to move westward. Furthermore, the growing transcontinental railways added to the continued destabilization of the situation between the white settlers and the natives.

Continued clashes result in the Indian Wars of the West

In light of the new competition between settlers and natives for the land and its resources, there was a series of conflicts known as the Indian Wars. Unfortunately, these clashes in the western United States between Indigenous people, American settlers, and the United States Army continued to grow. Finally, they came to a head at the Battle of the Little Big Horn.

The Little Big Horn

The battle, which resulted in the defeat of U.S. forces, was the most significant action of the Great Sioux War of 1876. On June 25–26, 1876, it took place along the Little Bighorn River on the Crow Indian Reservation in southeastern Montana Territory.

Government placements of indigenous people on reservations

The federal policy of removal of the indigenous people was eventually refined. To be sure, American settlers kept expanding their territories, and the government continued to intervene. The unfortunate outcome was the relocation of Indian tribes to specially designated and federally protected and subsidized “reservations.”

 

Painting of the battle by Charles Marion Russell

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