Settlers Effects On American Indians Essay, Research Paper
Ever since the first Europeans inhabited America there has been a fascination with
its land. Its beautiful scenery and its rich soil made, for the settlers, an attractive place to
settle . Shortly after the colonies formed, the people started to accept farming as a way of
life. Gradually the colonists became self-sufficient and eventually broke all political ties
with their mother country, England. In the distance the native Americans (dubbed
Indians by the settlers) watched as more and more Europeans came into their homeland.
American government took advantage of the Indians by tricking them into selling there
lands, not aware of what they were doing, and forcing them off if they resisted. The
Indians became upset as they were constantly being shouldered off of their land. In order
to respect each others space, treaties were made between the government and the various
tribes of Indians. The discovery of gold, however, changed all of this. Instantaneously
the treaties were out of the question and white settlers streamed into tribal lands. As
society kept surging west and more treaties were broken, Indian tribes either resisted or
were taken advantage of in the formation of other treaties. The beginning of capitalism
only enhanced the whites progress west. After the civil war ended people flowed into the
west in search of new land. Soon, railroads were plowing through Indian lands, then
telegraph wires, then stagecoach lines. The end result was the Indians lost their homeland
and their way of life. Because the Indians did not understand-until it was too late-the true
essence of white culture, their existence as a people was essentially doomed.
Part of the cause of the Indian?s downfall was related to certain assumptions that
they made regarding the white culture. One assumption was that the whites would fight
with honor on the battlefield, and that they would use tactics similar to those used by
Indian war parties. The honorable way of fighting to an Indian was one on one, or one
warrior?s tactics and skills against anothers. When they fought the whites, however, they
found themselves up against not individual men, but a group of soldiers fighting in a line
together. This put the Indians at a serious disadvantage, and brought them to defeat very
quickly. Also, they had never heard of the tactic of pursuit before. In the winter months,
when normally they would have time to rest and no tribes would declare war, they found
themselves under attack from pursuing American soldiers. The one assumption that led
to the Indians losing almost all of their land was that they thought they could hold whites
to their word. Time after time, whites made treaties with tribes, declaring a mutual
respect for each others land. While the Indians thought they were holding up their end of
the treaty, the whites would invade or push the tribes off their precious land to go live – at
gunpoint – on an Indian reservation. The Black Hills in South Dakota were the most
sacred of all places for the Sioux Indians. Under the Treaty of 1868, no white person or
persons shall be permitted to settle upon or occupy any portion of the territory, or without
the consent of the Indians to pass through the same. By 1875 the sacred grounds were
ridden with greedy prospectors, pouring in from all over the country. This was just one
example of many instances where Indians lost their land. Treaty-maker, James Steele
talking to Cheyenne and Arapahos, ?We all fully realize it is hard for people to leave their
homes and graves of their ancestors, but, unfortunately for you, gold has been discovered
in your country…? (Brown 100)
Another thing the Indians did not understand about the whites was the extent of
their ?land greed?. Part of the ?American Dream? was to own land, so, white settlers
sought it out where it was plentiful – in the West. The only problem was that it was
inhabited by Indians. To justify the invading of Indian territories, the Americans came up
with Manifest Destiny. This said that, ?The Europeans and their descendants were
ordained by destiny to rule all of America.? (Brown 8) Also, it said that because the
whites were the dominant race, they are responsible for all Indians and all that they own.
Now that it was morally o.k., whites moved onto tribal lands, broke sacred treaties with
the Indians, and even fought with the Indians to get land of their own. Eventually, all of
the Indians would lose their lands to white settlers.
The one thing that doomed the Indians the most was the whites determination to
achieve progress. After the civil war America was left with a highly productive economy.
Capitalism emerged as a new force in society, speeding up the individual?s pace of life.
Industry was booming, entrepreneurs established businesses everywhere throughout the
country as the Industrial Revolution brought technology across the country like a mighty
iron horse. Railroads smashed paths through Indian lands, forts sprang up around the
railroads, then more forts. Communication increased with the invention of the telegraph.
Soon, telegraph wires streamed from the west coast to the east coast. This, to the white
society, was progress and the Indians were in the way. The government sent soldiers to
enforce the dehabitation of Indian lands. When a tribe resisted they kidnapped their
chiefs, shot all of their horses, and killed off the buffalo-their main food supply. From
1872 to 1874 3,700,000 buffalo were killed, only 150,000 of them were killed by Indians.
(Brown 265) The white soldiers were too many for the brave Indian warriors to fight off,
and eventually, they lost their struggle for freedom.
The Indian way of life was fundamentally different from that of white culture.
While the Indian was at peace with nature, the white man was destroying it, cutting down
its forests and exploiting its natural resources. The Indian had no concept of time other
than that of the sun and of the seasons, while the whites had business deadlines and busy
schedules. Because of this vast difference in values, peaceful coexistence was not easy to
achieve. The Indians assumed that they could trust the whites – they were wrong. They
thought they could stop prospectors from invading their territories – they were wrong.
The white society would not stop as long as there was land to be had and money to be
made. ?They made us many promises, more than I can remember, but they never kept but
one; they promised to take our land, and they took it.? (Brown 449)