Native Americans - Fitchburg State University

Native Americans
Culture and Change
• Some Native Americans were farmers,
most were nomads following buffalo herds
• Native Am lived in extended family groups
• Dependent on nature for food and religion
• Lived in bands of 500 headed by
governing council
• Gender determined task assignment
Changes under Pressure
• Ranchers, miners, and farmers move into
Plains territory
• Result deprived Native Am of hunting
grounds and forced to relocate
• Railroad building through plains territory
• Disruption of buffalo herds
• 1862 Sioux uprising; Sioux moved to
reservations in Minnesota
• Government promise payments to support
• Traders keep payments to pay off debts
• 1862 Congress delayed payments
• Dakota tribe faced starvation; denied
credit to buy food
Sioux uprising
• Chief Little Crow wage war against
soldiers not civilians
• Lost control of warriors- slaughter civilians
• Military tribunal sentenced 307 Dakota
Indians to death- only 38 executed
• Military troops sent to patrol plains to
prevent further uprisings
Lakota Indians
Chief Red Cloud, Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull
Fight to control their hunting grounds
1866 Military defeated by Red Cloud
Fetterman’s Massacre- Crazy Horse
ambush army
• Sand Creek Massacre- between
Cheyenne, Arapaho and miners
Sand Creek cont.
• Native Am attacked wagon trains, stole
horses and cattle; 200 settlers killed
• Native Am orders to surrender at Fort
Lyons and some complied
• 1864 Remaining Indians under Chief Black
Kettle seek peace; told to wait at Sand
• No one knows what really happened
Sand Creek cont.
• Some say Chief Black Kettle flew both the
American flag and white truce flag
• Some say the army brutally murdered the
• Others say they battled for two days and in
the end 14 soldiers died and anywhere
from 60-600 Native Americans died
Indian Peace Commission
• Formed in 1867
• Created two large reservation for Sioux
and Southern Plains Indians
• Bureau of Indian Affairs put in charge
• Native Am were forced to sign treaties
• Did not guarantee compliance with terms
• Result- Indians on reservation faced
poverty and corruption
Last Native American Wars
• By 1870’s many Native Am leave
reservations in disgust
• Return to traditional life of hunting
• Buffalo herds depleted
• Buffalo hunters kill for hides and sport
• Railroad hire sharpshooters
• Military encouraged buffalo hunting
Battle Little Bighorn
• Background- Lakota and Sioux
reservations located in Black Hills where
gold discovered
• Native Am moved to Bighorn Mts. In
• June 25,1876 Lt. Col. George Custer
launched a 3 prong attack in broad
daylight on Lakota
Battle Little Bighorn cont
• 2500 Lakota and Cheyenne resist; killed
210 soldiers
• Newspapers portrayed Custer as victim of
• Fear retaliation, Sitting Bull flees to
• Chief Joseph of Nez Perce tribe refused to
return to reservation
Little Bighorn cont.
Chief Joseph retreat on 1300 mile journey
1877 Chief Joseph surrendered
Native Am resistance ended 1890
Lakota defied army orders and continued
to perform the “Ghost Dance”
• Sitting Bull arrested but in resistance died
• Troops tried to disarm Native Am at
Wounded Knee Creek
Last Battle
• Wounded Knee; 200 Native Americans
died, 25 soldiers
• In the aftermath- authors such as Helen
Hunt Jackson bring attention to the plight
of the Native Americans
• She wrote “A Century of Dishonor” 1881
• Focus on the need to assimilate Native
Dawes Act 1887
• Head of household received 160 acres;
single men 80 acres, children 40 acres.
• Rest of reservation land sold to settlers
and the money put into a trust fund for
Native Americans
• Some Native Am succeeded as farmers
• Most lacked the desire or the training
• Private ownership of land went against

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