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The Frontier Experience The Plains Indians

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1 The Frontier Experience The Plains Indians

2 Introduction From the early days of the colonies, settlers simply took the land they wanted from the Indians. Some Native Americans were paid for their land, but most never received anything. Early in the 19th century, tribes from east of the Mississippi River were gathered up and marched off to lands in the unorganized territory that is now Oklahoma. The territories given to Native Americans were called reservations. Reservations were supposed to be permanent, but eventually white men took most of that land, too. No wonder Native Americans did not trust the U.S. government.


4 Introduction Early settlers on their way to the “far west” saw little value in the Great Plains where many of the Indians lived. As a matter of fact, these first settlers on their way to California and Oregon referred to the Great Plains as the Great American Desert. It was not until miners, cattlemen, and farmers moved into the region that its full value was realized. As more and more people came, conflicts arose between the new settlers and the Native Americans who already lived there. At first, the Plains Indians were not concerned about the “white men” who were just “passing through.” But the “passing through” soon changed. Miners, ranchers, and farmers began to move in, and the Native Americans were forced to move out. Let’s see what happened.


6 Killing the Buffalo Before Americans began moving west, many buffalo (also called bison) roamed the Great Plains. Some estimate that they numbered many millions. But once American settlers began to travel to the West, the buffalo populations drastically declined. Railroads were the chief cause of the disappearing herds, both directly and indirectly. After the Civil War, transcontinental railroads were built to connect the East to the West. Large numbers of buffalo were killed to feed the workers, but simply killing the buffalo for food did not greatly affect the vast herds. Killing buffalo was encouraged since the animals blocked and destroyed railroad tracks. The hides were quite the sensation in the East. Buffalo hunters began killing thousands of animals just for their hides. American and foreign sportsmen decorated their mansions with trophies from the dwindling bison herds. When the slaughter had ended, fewer than one thousand of the magnificent animals remained.

7 Killing the Buffalo The Great Plains were the “hunting grounds” for the Plains Indians, which included tribes such as the Sioux, the Apache, and the Cheyenne. The Plains Indians depended on the buffalo for almost every aspect of their lives. The animals provided them with food, clothing, shelter, tools, and weapons. The buffalo hunt was not only a quest for food but also a test of bravery and manhood. Because the Plains Indians depended so heavily on the buffalo, killing of the buffalo was also a way to control the Indians. As the buffalo began to disappear, so did the Native Americans.

8 Indian Conflicts and Wars
As the numbers of miners and settlers on the plains grew, battles with the Indians were inevitable. During the late 1800s, these battles became more and more frequent. The United States Army tried to maintain order, but the West was a very big place. Throughout the last decades of the 19th century, the Indians fought to keep their land and their dignity. Here are a few of the important events in the struggle between the Army and the Native Americans.

9 The Sand Creek Massacre
At Sand Creek, Colorado, in 1864, a detachment of local Colorado militia attacked a group of Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians and slaughtered innocent men, women, and children. Although the number killed is unclear, the brutality of the attack, known as the Sand Creek Massacre, is certain. The commander of the attack was forced to resign from the Colorado militia, but a committee in Congress decided not to charge him with a crime. General Nelson Miles did not agree and called the incident “the foulest and most unjustifiable crime in the annals of America.” News of the massacre hardened the resolve of other tribes who were now certain that whites could not be trusted.

10 The Fetterman Massacre
Gold was discovered in Montana in 1863, and miners began using a trail called Bozeman Trail through Sioux land to get to the gold fields. In 1866, the United States met at a peace conference to ask the Sioux and the Cheyenne for permission to pass through the land, but the Army set up military posts and several forts to protect the trail before permission was granted. These actions angered the Sioux and the Cheyenne. Colonel William Fetterman, an experienced Civil War leader, was sent to one of the forts along Bozeman Trail. He boasted that 80 disciplined soldiers from the United States Army could defeat the entire Sioux nation. Colonel Fetterman rode out with his 80 men to support a wood-carrying train that was being attacked by Indians. The Indian warriors lured Fetterman and his troops away from the train and then slaughtered them all. This event was called Fetterman Massacre.

11 The Fetterman Massacre
Fighting between the United States and the Plains Indians over the Bozeman Trail continued until 1868 when the United States signed a treaty that agreed to abandon the Bozeman Trail. The treaty established a large Sioux reservation by giving them all free land in western South Dakota and also parts of Nebraska. The Sioux agreed to stay within the reservation boundaries.

12 Battle of Little Bighorn
In 1876, news of a gold strike in the Black Hills brought many prospectors pouring into South Dakota. Again, miners began traveling the Bozeman Trail and settling in the surrounding area. The problem was that the area had been given to the Sioux by the treaty of According to the Sioux, these prospectors broke the treaty. Many Sioux left the reservation to hunt in the Bighorn Mountains of Montana. The Army sent an expedition, which included General George Custer, to put the Sioux back on the reservation. The Sioux were led by the great warrior named Sitting Bull. In a foolhardy attack on a vastly superior force of warriors, Custer and all 210 of his soldiers were killed in the Battle of Little Bighorn (also called Custer’s Last Stand). As the Sand Creek Massacre had hardened the resolve of the Native Americans, the battle at the Little Bighorn made whites want revenge against the Indians.

13 Chief Joseph Surrenders
In 1877, gold was discovered on the Nez Perce Indian reservation in Idaho. In a protest against being forced onto a smaller reservation, Chief Joseph led his tribe on a journey of more than 1,300 miles through Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana towards Canada. Forty miles from the Canadian border, federal troops caught up with the Nez Perce in the Bear Paw Mountains. Starving and cold, Chief Joseph and his tribe surrendered. Initially sent to a dusty reservation on the Plains, the Nez Perce were eventually allowed to return to a reservation in Idaho.

14 The Ghost Dance 2:14
The Ghost Dance was a ritual dance created by the Indians in the late 1800s. According to the Indian tribes, the dance would cause the Great Spirit to honor the Native Americans once more by making the white men disappear, bringing back the buffalo, and returning many Indians who had been killed in battle. The dance became a religious movement among the tribes of the Plains Indians. Although many Ghost Dancers preached peace, more radical ones believed that Ghost Dance shirts worn by the warriors could stop white men’s bullets. The United States government made the Ghost Dance illegal, and Indians were forbidden to perform it.

15 Wounded Knee Massacre Because the government was concerned that the Ghost Dance would encourage the Native Americans to fight, the Army decided to take away their guns. In December 1890 on Wounded Knee Creek in South Dakota, a group of Sioux were being disarmed. When soldiers tried to take a deaf Indian’s gun, a shoving match caused the weapon to discharge, and a battle between the Army and the Indians began. When the shooting stopped, about 200 people, mostly Sioux and half of which were women and children, lay dead in the snow. Wounded Knee was the last battle fought between the Army and Native Americans.

16 A Century of Dishonor In 1881, Helen Hunt Jackson, a Massachusetts transplant living in Colorado Springs, awakened the conscience of the Americans toward the Indians with the publication of her book A Century of Dishonor. In her book, she traced the dealings of the government with the Native Americans since the revolution through the 1800s. Ordinary Americans began to see what was happening to the Indians and to care.

17 The Dawes Severalty Act
The federal government’s way of dealing with the Indians continued to be to force them onto reservations and to insist that they adopt the culture of white men. In 1887, the government passed the Dawes Severalty Act. Under this Act, Native Americans were made wards of the state and forced onto smaller and smaller reservations. To “Americanize,” or to make the Indians more like the Americans, tribal lands were divided among the male population of the tribe. Similar to the Homestead Act, each Native American family received up to 160 acres, but could not sell the land for 25 years. The Act failed to recognize that Native Americans were not farmers, that reservation lands were not suited for agriculture, and that the tracts were too small for farming in the arid (dry) West.

18 The Indian “New Deal” The policy assimilation established by the Dawes Act remained in effect until 1934 when the government chose a new path. This new policy was officially called the Indian Reorganization Act of In the Act, an attempt was made to rebuild the tribes and their culture. Native Americans were encouraged to form their own local government. The Act also helped stop the loss of tribal lands.

19 Indian Reservation Lyrics by John D
Indian Reservation Lyrics by John D. Loudermilk Performed by Paul Revere and the Raiders They took the whole Cherokee Nation And put us on this reservation Took away our ways of life The tomahawk and the bow and knife They took away our native tongue And taught their English to our young All the beads we made by hand Are nowadays made in Japan Cherokee people, Cherokee tribe So proud to live, so proud to die They took the whole Indian Nation And locked us up on this reservation And though I wear a shirt and tie I’m still a red man deep inside But maybe someday when they learn Cherokee nation will return Will return

20 Practice Questions In which state did the Sand Creek Massacre take place? a. Montana b. Wyoming c. Texas d. Colorado

21 Answer: D-Colorado

22 Practice Questions 2. In which state were General Custer and his men defeated? a. Montana b. Wyoming c. Arizona d. South Dakota

23 Answer: A-Montana

24 Practice Questions 3. In which state was the last Indian battle fought? a. Montana b. Wyoming c. Arizona d. South Dakota

25 Answer: D-South Dakota

26 Practice Questions 4. Where did Chief Joseph surrender in 1877?
a. Sand Creek, Colorado b. Houston, Texas c. Bear Paw, Montana d. Wounded Knee, South Dakota

27 Answer: C-Bear Paw Mountain, Montana

28 Practice Questions 5. When white men killed most of the buffalo roaming the Great Plains, how were the Plains Indians affected? a. It disrupted their entire way of life b. It caused them to want to farm c. It improved their way of life d. It allowed their population to grow rapidly

29 Answer: A-It disrupted their entire way of life

30 Practice Questions 6. What did the Dawes Severalty Act of 1887 give to Native Americans? a. money b. land c. citizenship d. hunting ground

31 Answer: B-land

32 Practice Questions 7. General Custer and his men were all killed in the Battle of Little Bighorn. What was the general attitude of the public toward this event. a. People felt compassion for the Native Americans b. People wanted revenge against the “savages” c. People were angry with Colonel Custer for losing d. People were tired of fighting the Native American tribes

33 Answer: B-People wanted revenge against the “savages”

34 Practice Questions 8. Which of the following caused the American people to care about how Native Americans had been treated by the federal government during the 1800s? a. the Dawes Severalty Act b. Uncle Tom’s Cabin C. A Century of Dishonor d. the Indian Reorganization Act

35 Answer: C-A Century of Dishonor

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