Defeat and demise of the Native Americans of the Plains

Defeat and demise of the Native Americans of the Plains

Impact of the Gold Rush

  • The Gold Rush starting in 1848 brought mass migration, often called ‘the 49ers’, to California, encroaching on Native American territories.
  • The non-Native settlers were merciless in their pursuit of land and resource, disregarding treaties and rights of the Native Americans, leading to numerous violent clashes.

Railway Expansion

  • The Transcontinental Railroad, completed in 1869, had a devastating impact on the Plains Indians’ way of life, disrupting buffalo herds and traditional hunting grounds.
  • The railway brought an influx of settlers, miners, and hunters to the West, escalating conflicts over land and resources.

Battles and Conflicts

  • Sand Creek Massacre (1864): In Colorado, a militia attacked a camp of Cheyenne and Arapaho people, igniting the Indian Wars between Plains Indians and U.S. forces.
  • Battle of Little Bighorn (1876): General Custer and his men were famously defeated in Montana by Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho warriors, but it sparked a concentrated effort by the U.S. government to subdue the Plains Indians.
  • Wounded Knee Massacre (1890): The U.S. 7th Cavalry Regiment slaughtered Lakota Sioux people, marking the end of the Native American resistance.

Federal Policies and Acts

  • The Indian Removal Act (1830) aimed to relocate Eastern tribes to the Western territories, causing immense suffering and death during the forced moves.
  • The Reservation Policy of the 1850s confined tribes to specified areas, stripping them of their traditional lands and disrupting their nomadic lifestyle.
  • Dawes General Allotment Act (1887) subdivided tribal lands into small plots for individual families, promoting assimilation and farming at the expense of communal and cultural practices.

Demise of the Buffalo

  • The destruction of the buffalo, largely by professional hunters for the railway industry, had a catastrophic impact on the Plains Indians who relied upon the buffalo for food, clothing, and materials for shelter.
  • By the 1880s, the buffalo population had been decimated, reflecting the fate of the Plains Indians themselves.

Cultural Suppression

  • The U.S. government implemented policies aimed at Americanising Native Americans, including the Indian boarding school system which attempted to erase their indigenous languages, religions, and cultural practices.
  • The Ghost Dance Movement, a spiritual response to the intense pressure, was brutally suppressed leading to further disenfranchisement and displacement.