American West Note Booklet

This 17 page booklet contains information on everything you will need in the exam from Indian lifestyle to the destruction of the Plains Indians

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GCSE History ­ American West Revision Notes
In the 1840s the Great Plains were sparsely inhabited by the Plains Indians. The Indians depended upon
huge herds of buffalo that roamed the grasslands. To the few non-Indians who travelled across them, the
Great Plains was seen as a useless desert.
By 1895 the Great Plains were populated by thousands of homesteaders and ranchers. The once-empty
grasslands were dotted with towns and cities and crossed by railroads. Those Plains Indians who still
survived were confined to reservations and the buffalo had all been slaughtered.
Native Americans used to be more commonly known as American Indians or the Plains Indians. This is
because when Columbus thought he'd reached Indian when he first got to America in 1492. He soon
realised he hadn't, but called the people Indians anyway. The Plains Indians weren't a single group with a
single culture ­ there were many different tribes.
Each family lived in a home called a tipi
The tipi was the home of each Indian family. It was made from buffalo skins
sewn together and supported by a circular frame of wooden poles. It was the
responsibility of the women. They made it, owned it, put it up and moved it.
It could be taken down and packed for transport in ten minutes. This made it
an ideal home for people who were frequently on the move.
In the summer the tipi bottom could be rolled up to let air in. In winter it
could be banked with earth to keep the tipi warm. The conical shape of the
tipi made it strong enough to resist the strong winds on the Great Plains.
They relied on the buffalo
Plains Indians were nomadic hunter gatherers ­ they followed the
buffalo around the Plains. They provided the necessities of life:
o meat
o skins for wool, clothing, shoes, tipis
o sinews for thread, ropes, bowstrings
o bones for implements
o dung for fuel
The horse increased the tribes' power and efficiency
The lives of the Native Americans were transformed by the horse.
It became much easier to hunt, and to transport stored food and other
belongings across the Great Plains.
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GCSE History ­ American West Revision Notes
Religion ­ Spirits
Believed in Wakan Tanka, the Great Spirit. He created the world and everything that lives.
They believed all things had spirits and that spirits could influence their lives.
Religion ­ Land
The Plains Indians came from the land and would return to the land when they died.
They believed the land could not be owned or bought by an individual, or even by a nation.…read more

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GCSE History ­ American West Revision Notes
Children ­ highly valued as they were the future of the band. They learned useful skills from their
parents and other relatives. Boys were taught to hunt whilst girls were taught to maintain a home.
Old people ­ important as they were able to give advice. They were involved in helping to bring up the
children. However, when they became too old and weak to keep up they might have to be left behind.…read more

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GCSE History ­ American West Revision Notes
The Great American Desert
Between the East and the fertile land in Oregon and California were The Great Plains.
The extremes of climate, sparse rainfall and hard ground meant they were at first thought sustainable
for agriculture. They were called the Great American Desert.
Why did people go west?
Many factors influenced people to risk the journey across America.…read more

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GCSE History ­ American West Revision Notes
Not everyone made a fortune
The first gold was found by panning the stream beds. Most people only came equipped for this
method, but the streams were soon exhausted and expensive underground mining took over.
Prices for everything were huge, including transport home. Many `49ers had little choice ­ they could
work for mining companies in foul conditions, or starve.
Problems of law and order in mining towns
Criminals were attracted to the Gold Rush.…read more

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GCSE History ­ American West Revision Notes
Why did the Mormons have to keep moving in the east?
Kirtland, Ohio
The Mormons were hardworking and successful. They founded a bank in Kirtland. Many non-Mormons
invested in the bank for religious reasons.
In a financial crisis the bank went bankrupt and everyone lost the money they had invested. The
Mormons were blamed and driven out of Kirtland. Joseph Smith was tarred and feathered by locals.…read more

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GCSE History ­ American West Revision Notes
The Mormon journey west across the Great Plains
Brigham Young was a brilliant organiser. He was practical and more down-to-earth than Smith. He was
also a determined man and very considerate too.
Preparations went on all winter. This included the building of wagons, collecting of equipment and
gathering food supplies.
Pioneer bands left first to set up camps along the way. They planted crops and marked out the routes
for the rest of the Mormons to follow.…read more

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GCSE History ­ American West Revision Notes
Why did so many people want to become homesteaders and settle on the Plains?
Homestead Act 1862 ­ families were given 160 acres of land for free, providing that they lived on it and
farmed it for five years
Timber Culture Act 1873 ­ settlers were given a further 160 acres of free land if they agreed to plant 40
acres of their land with trees
Desert Land Act 1877 ­ settlers who…read more

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GCSE History ­ American West Revision Notes
How did homesteaders survive on the Plains?
Problem Solution
Water was scarce. It was difficult to grow Windmills were used to pump water from
crops without water and homesteaders underground. Methods of dry farming were
couldn't keep themselves clean. also used.
There was draught in the summer and cold Dry farming techniques were used to
in the winter. Fierce winds blew. This could overcome problems of draught.
destroy crops.…read more

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GCSE History ­ American West Revision Notes
How did the cattle industry develop?
Background Information
Cattle had been first introduced to America by European invaders
By 1850s Southern Texas was the major centre of cattle ranching
Texas Longhorn was the traditional breed of cattle that were very hardy
In the 1850s beef became a popular food
Cattle were driven by cowboys to the markets where they were sold
As they did so they came into conflict with…read more


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