After the Civil War the United States declared war upon the Native Americans and their way of life. The President Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809) said the native people had two choices; either become white or moves to the stony mountains. In 1830 Andrew Jackson declared the Indian Removal Act. Any Indian east of the Mississippi River had to move west.
When the north won the civil war in 1865 the unemployed were moved west. This is what started the Indian Wars. When Ulysses S. Grant took office in 1869 the war on the Native Americans began. This was to be a war of extinction. Grant selected William Sheridan and William Sherman for his war department. Sherman wrote the only good Indian is a dead Indian. The war on the Indians lasted 21 years.
The first big event was the Washita Creek Massacre in 1869 led by Colonel Custer and the 7th Calvary. The night after Christmas they came across a group of Indians camping by the river. Custer told them to leave and they didn’t. There were no Indian survivors. Custer and his troops even killed all their ponies and horses.
The Lakota Sioux tribe’s leaders were Red Cloud, Sitting Bull, and Crazy Horse. The 1st Ft. Laramie treaty was created but Sitting Bull and crazy horse did not want to compromise with the whites. They wanted drive out the whites so they started attacking U.S. Forts. Red Cloud felt they needed to compromise in order to save their culture. In the Fetlerman Massacre they wiped out 60 U.S. soldiers.
The massacre brought about the 2nd Ft. Laramie Treaty. The U.S. surrendered, pulled out their people, and closed their forts. The U.S would not allow whites to travel through the Native peoples land without permission. They gave the Lakota Sioux land in South Dakota and Nebraska. They were also given hunting rights for buffalo in North Dakota, South Dakota, Colorado and Nebraska. The treaty was to last until the sun stops shining and the river stops running.
Six years later the U.S broke the Ft. Laramie Treaty. Two prospectors snuck onto Indian land and found gold in the black hills. On January 31, 1876 the Grant Administration ordered that all Lakota Sioux must report to a reservation and live there or they will declared hostile enemies. On February 1, 1876 most Indians were sent to the Pine Ridge Reservation. Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse did not report. They felt if they did they would be forced to be farmers or become white. In the reservations the U.S, supplied food and blankets, but the food was usually rotten.
In 1869 to get Indians to live on reservations the U.S. waged a war for the extermination of buffalo. 150 million buffalo were slaughtered. Since the Indians lived off the buffalo this would force them on to reservations.
In the 1880’s the Native Americans did a Ghost Dance. The Indians would give up everything white. They would go back to their roots and do the Ghost Dance. The Great Spirit would rise up and swallow up all the white people, return the buffalo, and return all the Indians who had died because of the white people. The whites saw this as a revolutionary insurrection. They believed Sitting Bull started the Ghost Dance so they killed him.
In 1871 there was a “Peace Proposal” by the Grant Administration. Indians would be assimilated into white people. The children were kidnapped and taken to boarding schools. They had their hair cut off, wore white peoples clothing, and were taught to speak English. They were taught white religions. These children were traumatized. They had no contact with their families. They were held at the boarding schools until they were 19 or 20. At the reservations these kids were called “Apples”; they were red on the outside and white on the inside. They could not fit in with either society.
By the 1890’s the Native Americans had been militarily defeated and restricted to geographical areas designated by administrators in Washington. Although the tribes had been subdued by superior weapons, tactics and politics the cultures of the tribes remained both viable and vibrant. It was thought that there was a natural harmony that Native Americans had achieved was threatened by the chaos of technological development and urban growth. The world was now in a state of capitalist growth but at the same time was losing an arcadia that had existed before the settlers came. Native Americans were seen as the embodiment of the harmonious natural balance that Henry David Thoreau has striven for in his book ‘Walden: or Life in the Woods’ that was first published in 1854.
Today they are very few pure Native Americans left. The U.S. could have learned so much from them. We wouldn’t have destroyed the earth as we did. We will never be able to learn from their culture. We robbed them of their culture. We gave them natural resources and then took them away. We killed their buffalo. I feel that the American people should be ashamed of what our ancestors did to the native people.