Extermination Of The Plaines Indians Essay Research

Extermination Of The Plaines Indians Essay, Research Paper

Extermination of the Plains Indians

The Plains Indians in the early nineteenth century, numbered approximately

250,000. The Zuni, Hopi, Navaho, Pawnee, Sioux, Apache, and Cheyenne were the

major tribes of the West. By the late nineteenth century the Indians were reduced to

roughly 10,000. Because of new technological advances and new industries, America

expanded to the Mid-West. The railroad caused thousands of people to move west

therefore reducing the number of Plains Indians and partly destroying their culture. The

decline of the Plains Indians were caused by three primary factors: the transcontinental

railroad, the decrease of the buffalo, and war with the white Americans.

Easy access to the West, because of the railroad, introduced a new way of life for

Americans; consequently, the process destroyed the buffalo, essential to Indian survival.

The buffalo supplied the basic necessities of life. The Indians used the meats as food, the

hides for shelter, and the bones for tools. About 13 million buffalo roamed the Plains

before the arrival of the white settlers. Due to the railroad, the settlers nearly made the

buffalo extinct. To the “superior” white man, the buffalo interfered with construction and

derailed trains. Cattle ranching, mining, and farming appeared in the West since the rail

as finished. Cattle ranchers shipped the buffalo northeast to be sold. The discovery of

gold attracted thousands of people to the West by rail, contributing to the decline of the

buffalo. Mining coal and steel were needed for the railroads to operate, and the Indians

interfered because of their reverence to the land. Furthermore, the whites had no respect

for the Indians? sacred lands. The confrontations between the settlers and Indians lead to


Violent battles between the American Government and the Indians greatly reduced

the Indian population. The Indians had no concept of land ownership causing

misunderstandings between the natives and the settlers. To the Indian, owning land was

like owning the air we breath. The Indians unintentionally wandered onto settlers? land to

hunt for food. Settlers in the West took trespassing seriously and bloody confrontations

were frequently occurring . Anglo-American culture is competitive and individualistic.

The plains Indians lived in tribes and placed the well-being of the tribe over the

prosperity of the individual. Therefore, with the huge cultural differences, fighting between

the Indians and the settlers was inevitable. This led to Congress taking action with troops

to protect the lives of the settlers. Whites viewed the Indians as a barrier to the American

expansion. The Indians were slaughtered in many different battles, and in the end, the

Indians were reduced to an unthreatening number.

As a result, the United States, after reducing the Indian population so they were not

a threat, changed their policy to ethnocide. Congress wanted to assimilate the Indians

into American society by destroying the Plains Indians? culture. The Dawes Severity Act

was passed as an attempt to assimilate the Indians. The Act divided the reservations into

individual pieces of land to break up the tribes. Schools were built to teach Indian

children the customs of Americans and the English language. American sports were even

taught to the Indians. The Snyder Act was passed in 1924, which made all Indians born

in the United States citizens. This was the last action taken by Congress. The

Congressmen believed they had assimilated the Indians into American society. The

schools failed to destroy Indian culture completely, but the government believed it had

done its job.

The Indians lost millions of acres originally given to them because they did not

understand the meaning of private property. The Indians fought off the white man for

almost two hundred years, but the completion of the railroad brought the people to the

West in huge numbers. The government took necessary action to protect its citizens

which resulted in the Indians culture being partially destroyed.


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