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Native Americans Fight to Survive

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1 Native Americans Fight to Survive
What did the United States government do to the American Indian? Why has this terrible time in United States History been neglected?

2 Throughout American history, especially in popular media and culture, Indians have been seen as “savages” and the bad guys. In countless Cowboy western movies, Indians have been seen brutally murdering and butchering people when the US Cavalry or fearless cowboys gallop in and save the day. Why is this and is this a true depiction of Native Americans and Native American culture? Why or why not?


4 What thoughts came into your mind when you watched that segment?
If you could ask a question to an individual on the video, what would it be? Do you have anything in common with any of the people shown?

5 Native American Life on the Plains
For generations, the Native Americans of North America had lived on their ancestral hunting grounds, living a life of freedom that revolved ultimately around the Earth and nature. By the mid 1860’s, many of the Indian Tribes east of the Mississippi River were gone forever, having been decimated by disease and war or by assimilating into white culture. Those tribes west of the Mississippi River were in danger of suffering the same fate as their eastern brethren. The tribes of the Great Plains fought a losing battle to save not only their lands, but their way of life. Several tribes had already been forced to live on reservations, or lands set aside by the United States government for certain Native American tribes.

6 Sioux reservation in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

7 “Sometimes at evening, I sit, looking out on the river…In the shadows I seem…to see our Indian village, with smoke curling upward from the earth lodges; and in the river’s roar, I hear the yells of the warriors, the laughter of the children as of old. It is but an old dream…Our Indian way of life, I know, is gone forever.”

8 Life of the Plains Indian
Before the arrival of Europeans in the 1500’s, most Plains tribes lived in small villages along rivers, streams, or other bodies of water. In the mid-1500’s, the arrival of the Horse, brought into the continent by the Spanish completely revolutionized their way of life. The Plains Indian quickly became an expert horseman. Their main source of food became the buffalo.

9 The Plains Indians The buffalo was central to the life of Plains tribes. Meat became the primary food, while its skins served as shelter, clothing, shoes, and blankets. Bones and horns were used as tools and weapons. Because the buffalo herds roamed the western plains, many of the western tribes became nomads. After the War Between the States, white settlers by the thousands came pouring into Indian lands. The promises and treaties that had been in years past were quickly forgotten and broken.


11 Selected views of the Plains Indian









20 A Clash of Cultures Rather than submit to the restriction of the Reservations or let the white settlers encroach further on their lands, many of the Plains tribes preferred conflicts with the settlers and the United States military. The warfare was vicious and unforgiving and the Indians reacted by raiding white settlements and forts.

21 For a brief time in the late 1860’s and early 1870’s, a tense peace settled over the region as a treaty between the Sioux, Cheyenne and Arapaho was signed with the United States government at Ft. Laramie. In 1874, gold was discovered in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Paying no attention to the Ft. Laramie treaty, gold prospectors by the thousands rushed into Sioux land, thus sparking more armed conflict between the Indians and whites.

22 Hundreds of Sioux and Cheyenne warriors fled the reservation and joined two Sioux chiefs, Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, in an effort to push out the invaders.

23 The Battle of Little Bighorn, June 25th 1876
Colonel George A. Custer, commander of the U.S. Army’s famed, 7th Cavalry Regiment, was tasked with riding into the Indian lands and rounding up all of the warriors that had fled from the reservation with Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse. On June 25th, 1876, Custer and his entire command of 211 men were wiped out in less than two hours of fighting. News of Custer’s defeat literally shocked the nation. In the end, however, the Indian victory here had negative long-term effects as the United States military stepped up military operations against the Indians.

24 “Suddenly, we heard the far-off sound of the bugle and underneath the cloud of dust, there was steel flashing in the sun and a long thin line of blue separated from the haze.”



27 “The soldier’s are running
“The soldier’s are running. There was a line of soldiers galloping out of the trees farther up, running back to where they had come.”

28 I joined the warriors crowding there on the banks, shooting down at them all mixed up with their horses. It was terrible. Many died there that day.”

29 “When I reached that place, the fighting was almost over
“When I reached that place, the fighting was almost over. My memory now is clouded with the dust and noise and the smell of the fighting. It was like a bad dream with horses and men all mixed up in fear and hate and I do not know what I saw then and what I saw in dreams later.”




33 Resistance in the Northwest and Southwest
The plains tribes were not the only ones to resist the United States government. The Nez Perce, Navajos and Apaches did so as well, which also resulted in the loss of more Indian lives and land. As the 1800’s progressed, the Native Americans slowly lost their way of culture, identity and lands. As the buffalo herds dwindled, so did the American Indian. By the 1890’s most Indians were living on filthy government reservations.




37 Massacre at Wounded Knee
On December 28th, 1890, several Sioux tribes on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota hosted what was called a, “Ghost Dance.” It was hope by the Indians that this dance would take them back to the time of their lives before the white men came. Instead of a peaceful gathering, the US military saw this function as a hostile war dance and moved in to prevent any hostilities. Someone fired a shot and the soldiers fired into the Indians, killing over 300 men, women, and children. The Wounded Knee massacre forever ended Indian resistance.


39 The Dawes Act Passed in 1887, the Dawes Act was intended to encourage Indians to give up their traditional ways of life and become farmers. Many Indian children were taken from their homes and sent to schools in the east to learn the white man’s ways. The Dawes Act did little to help any Native American tribes.



42 By the year 1900, their land and way of life gone, traditional Native American ways were mostly non-existent. For well into the 20th Century, Native American reservations were neglected and the majority of Indians held in contempt.

43 In 3-5 well-written sentences, explain how the people of the plains had lived and survived for generations. For most of the Indians in the region, their entire life cycle revolved around what? _______________ were lands set aside by the United States government for Native Americans. _________________ and ___________________ were two Native Americans mentioned in this lesson. The ___________ of the _____________ ___________ is the place where General Custer and the 7th Cavalry were wiped out in 1876. This location is where further resistance for Native Americans in the west came to a terrible end _______________________. The ________________________ encouraged Native Americans to completely forget their traditional ways and lifestyle.

44 Bibliography

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