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Chapter 16, The American WEST.
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Probably 100,000 Native Americans lived on the great Plains at mid 1800’s with at least 30 tribal groupings in the Eastern End, the Mandan, Arikaras, and Pawnees planted Corn & beans and lived in permanent villages, European diseases ravaged the populations. The Hunting populations, Kiowa, Comanche, Arapahos, Cheyenne, Blackfeet, crows, & The Sioux were more dispersed and so suffered from less exposure to those diseases.
Their lifestyle centered around Hunting, and the plains had an abundance of grazing animals such as the Buffalo & the Antelope. • The Teton Sioux Moved westward in the mid 1700s acquired and mastered horseback riding and were the most powerful tribe on the plains. Either dominating or expelling other tribes in the region.
As early as 1850, plans were taking place to build a TRANSCONTINENTAL RAILROAD but until the civil war determined Northern dominance and a Northern route, the project had been delayed. In 1869 the Railroad had been completed in Promontory Point Utah, with the Central Pacific railroad moving Eastward from Sacramento and the Union Pacific moving Westward from Omaha Nebraska. and the Union Pacific moving Westward from Omaha Nebraska.
The federal government subsidized the Project… giving generous land grants and millions of dollars in loans to the railroad companies. The Central Pacific took much longer to progress Eastward, as it was difficult to plow through the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. The Union Pacific employed Primarily Irish immigrants whereas the Central Pacific employed primarily Chinese immigrants
The building of the railroad encouraged westward settlement of the great Plains… lands that had been left to the Indians. With the migration the Buffalo and the Indians both had to go. The extermination of the Buffalo would help to starve the Indians into submission, removing the buffalo made room for grazing cattle on the plains, and Eastern Tanneries had learned how to cure buffalo hides which helped create a lucrative market.
In 1862 President Lincoln signed the HOMESTEAD ACT into law Giving 160 acres of land in the great plains to anyone who was willing to develop, live and work on the land for five years…. Even better, if you raised cattle government land was available for grazing of cattle. From 1862 to 1885 Open range ranching was available and profitable.
The cattle Boom on the plains ended in 1886 after the killing winter of 1885/86 destroyed most of the cattle and sending ranchers into debt. Theodore Roosevelt Had just come out to the west to become a Rancher and after his herd was destroy he went back east and back into politics.
Some Women were liberated from traditional gender roles by moving out to the plains, where farm work was shared by families and women took on “men’s” work . And when husbands died women took over the entire responsibility of the farm.
Former slaves mostly from Louisiana and Mississippi also headed for homestead lands after Reconstruction ended in 1870’s and protection from the troops ended… Primarily to Kansas. They were called EXODUSTERS. To get to Kansas, the Exodusters had to cross the Mississippi River and after a time the river boat captains refused to allow more Freedmen to pass across the river.
Because of the limitations of water supply, farmers used an agricultural technique known as “dry Farming” It involved deep planting to bring subsoil moisture to the roots and quick harrowing after rainfalls. Unfortunately dry farming technique needed 300 acres to support a family farm. For this reason the Great plains farms tended to be bigger than Eastern farms.
The Plains states required the railroads to get their product to market and the railroads all ended in Chicago. The Stockyards that cattle ranchers took their livestock to the slaughter houses were in Chicago. This makes Chicago the economic capital of the Great Plains.
Railroads advertized to the public about the land opportunities… In order to sell the land the federal government granted them. It effectively changed the attitude of the public which had been told of the Great American Desert, and before gold was discovered in the Black Hills, they believed it was too dry for farming. Now they were beating a path to the Great farm land. A land that had belonged to the native Americans. The Great Plains Indians fought back in the expectation that if they exacted a high enough price in blood, than Whites would leave them in peace.
Red Cloud’s war for the Powder River 1868 • Red Cloud was the Oglala Lakota Sioux Chief Who successfully battled the White armies and was able to keep the sacred Powder River for the Sioux… Red Cloud Had Captain Fettermen and 79 soldiers chase after a decoy (Crazy Horse on the right) who led all 80 men into an ambush.
Sand Creek Massacre 1864 The Sand Creek Massacre was an atrocity in the Indian Wars that occurred on November 29, 1864, when a 700-man force of Colorado Territory militia attacked and destroyed a peaceful village of Cheyenne. Killing mostly Women and Children & Taking body parts for trophies • The Slaughter at Sand Creek was not an isolated event, and all tribes of Indians were not likely to trust treaties after this event.
Sitting Bull & Crazy Horse • In 1876, Col. George Armstrong Custer believed he needed one more great Indian victory to Launch his Presidential campaign, attempted to attack an unsuspecting tribe of Cheyenne and Sioux, But the Indians, Under the leadership of Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse they quickly turned the assault around and wiped out Custer and his men at the Battle of Little Big Horn. The U.S. military pursued Sitting Bull and his tribe Briefly ran off to Canada, but it was too cold so he returned with his tribe surrendered and settled in a reservation. Although Sitting Bull did appear in Buffalo Bill’s Wild west Show for a time.
In Arizona The Apache put up a great resistance Cochise Was chief, but he was eventually brought into a reservation • Geronimo was another Apache chief Who made attacks on Mexican and Americans for several decades until he was forced to surrender in 1886
Some white Reformers created the Indian Rights Association & advocated the Assimilation of Indians into the White Culture. Eventually the idea of assimilation gain favor in US. Policy for Indians and The Dawes Severalty ACT of 1887 was passed. This law broke up reservations into 160 acre lots that were distributed to each adult male. Children were sent off to boarding schools to be taught the White way.
Many Whites believed that they were helping the Indians by removing the culture from the children at boarding schools, where children as young as five had been forcibly removed from their families, and punished for speaking in their home language or for practicing their own religious traditions. In her book, “BECOMING WHITE” Gertrude Simmons Bonnin recalled that White Teachers did not understand the psychological impact of cutting the hair of Indian Children.
By 1890 all the tribes had been reduced to living on small reservations and compelled to become farmers, but drought had wiped out the crops and promises of supplies to help the Indians get through the winter turned into one more lie the white man gave them. But a new Prophet named Wovoka Came along , promising that if the Indians danced a great GHOST DANCE, the White man would disappear and the plains would be restored to the old ways. Wovoka never talked of War, but settlers in the area became alarmed and called in the Calvary.
The Calvary brought in Sitting bull, In December of 1890, who had been quietly on his reservation and had opposed Wavoka’s teaching, but the military was afraid and when they decided to put Sitting Bull in a jail, an unarmed Sitting Bull struggled and was shot by “Dog soldiers” Including Little Big Man, Who had just 10 years before threatened to kill any chief that agreed to give away Indian land.
BIG FOOT (Who was ill at the time) and his Tribe agreed to surrender themselves to the soldiers, but the military demanded that the Indians surrender their rifles and the Indians said that the promise of food had never arrived and they needed their rifles for hunting. The Indians were aware of past cases where tribes had surrendered their weapons, only to be shot down in cold blood, and they were not trusting the soldiers this time. The Soldiers opened fire.
The battle of Wounded Knee was short, 25 soldiers were killed, 146 Indians were killed including women and children who were shot down as they tried to flee. Wounded Knee was the last battle for the Plains Indians. The division of tribal lands into 160 acre parcels, proceeded without hindrance.
Wounded Knee • On New Years Day January 1891, The bodies of the Indians were dug out of the Snow and tossed into a mass grave
MINING • The Original attraction for settling out west was the discovery of minerals that brought wealth. The Discovery of gold in 1848 in California , turned San Francisco into the Hub of the Mining economy for everything West of the Rockies, Denver was also a community that blossomed as a Mining center. Montana developed as a result of the discovery of copper deposits.
Following the Mexican American War, Many Americans migrated to the former territories of Mexico and felt free to take land away from the Mexicans as they had from the Indians. As the Tejanos were forced back across the border they felt justified in periodically jumping back across the border to raid the wealth of the lands they had taken from them. This continued right up through WWI.
Americans have always had problems with Immigrants settling in on American soil. The Nativist movements in New England opposed Irish, Scots, Polish and other Eastern Europeans transplanting themselves. But they seemed particularly opposed to immigration of Asians. Employers in the 1800’s had high praise for Chinese work ethic, but White Workers hated them because they were willing to work for low wages and whites stereotyped them as being Immoral. Chinese were originally flocking to The gold rush in 1849, were mostly male and by 1860 numbered about 9 % of California’s population. Led (ironically by a former discriminated class ) by Dennis Kearney , an Irishman, Who campaigned that “The Chinese Must Go” Discrimination toward the Chinese was so great that the federal government responded by passing the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882, barring Chinese immigration to the United States
Japanese immigrated to California as well, and by 1910 they made up half of California’s agricultural labor force. They too found Prejudice and legal restrictions.
California was fertile ground for writers; • Mark Twain began his career as a prospector in the California gold camps and as a columnist for a San Francisco Newspaper. And Helen Hunt Jackson, Who wrote “A Century of Dishonor” about the Genocide of Native Americans, also wrote about the Spanish Culture in California.
John Muir Explored much of California and fell in Love with Yosemite. He spent many years trying to insure that Yosemite woiuld be preserved as a National Park…. And through his efforts it eventually did.