American West

A breakdown of the topics.

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  • Created by: Emily
  • Created on: 19-06-12 13:23

The REAL Cowboys

*In Hollywood and on films cowboys were not portrayed realisticly. Many cowboys were actually black ex-slaves.

*After the hardships of the long drive, it seems unlikely that many genuine cowboys were actually good-looking! (unlike Hollywood films!)

*Cowboys were actually highly skilled. They could ride, shoot, lasso, wrangle, round up, herd, cross rivers, keep watch and drive off rustlers - all in rain, hail and burning sun.  

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The Hardships cowboys endured.

Real life cowboys had to endure numerous hardships:

  1. freezing winter cold in the line camps
  2. danger of being trampled (especially in a stampede)
  3. danger of drowning (crossing rivers)
  4. rain, hail and burning sun on the long drive
  5. having to stay awake all night on guard duty on the long drive
  6. having to ride 'drag' on the long drive (dust from the herd)
  7. attacks from Native American warriors on the long drive
  8. attacks from rustlers
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Why did they live in Tipis?


*Tipis were warm in winter, cool in summer.

*A tipi's shape protected it from the Plains winds.

*Tipis were easy to move (and fitted the nomadic lifestyle).

*Tipis were circular, and Native Americans thought that: "...the power of the world works in circles".

*Tipi dwellers believed that a fixed home was unhealthy - a cage - while a tipi was healthy.

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The importance of the buffalo?

*Buffalo provided the people's main food - buffalo liver, brain and nose gristle were a treat, eaten raw.

*Dried buffalo meat, called pemmican, provided food to eat through the winter.

*Buffalo bones were also carved to make knives, and boiled to make glue.

*Buffalo skin could be used to make tipis, clothes, moccasins, bedding, parflèches, saddle covers and water-bags.

*Dried buffalo dung provided fuel for fires.

*Buffalo horns and hooves were made into cups.

*Buffalo sinews were used as bowstrings and thread.

*Buffalo fat was used as soap.

*The rough tongue of a buffalo could be used as a hairbrush.

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The Donner Party

Map showing Donner Trail ( Donner along with 80 others, set out from Missouri in May 1846. The party left Fort Bridger, at the foot of the Rockies on 31 July. They made the tragic decision to take a shortcut which they were told would save them 400 miles. The route was too hard. They had to abandon all their cattle while crossing the Salt Lake Desert .On 30 October the party reached the last mountain pass before California, where they were stopped by snow.The party were so hungry they turned to canabalism and began eating each other. A search party began in April 1847 and of 87 who set out, 46 survived, and 41 died.

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In order to encourage the railroad companies to build the transcontinental railways, the government gave them a two-mile stretch of land either side of the railroad - part of the companies' profit came from selling this land. Therefore they launched a massive sales campaign, offering a 'settlement package', which included:

*a safe, cheap and speedy journey west

*temporary accommodation in 'hotels' until the families had built their own home

*other attractions such as schools, churches and no taxes for five years.

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Problems farmers faced

 *A hard crust on the soil made it hard to start farming.

*Farmers could not afford a plough or machines.

*There were not enough workers.

*There was only 38cm of rainfall in a year, and the hot summers evaporated dampness from the land. Droughts = fires.

*Farmers could not grow enough on their farms to feed a family.

*Lack of wood for fencing meant farmers could not keep cattle off their crops. This led to trouble with the cattlemen.

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Map showing major battles between white and Native Americans ( Americans wanted war. Early travellers on the Plains were robbed and murdered.

Little big horn- gold was discovered in the black hills and the sioux refused to sell their land. Custer was ordered to move the Sioux off of the land. The sioux had 3,000 men and Custer had 600. Custer was defeated as he made many fundamental errors.

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Law & Order

*Distance (difficult to cover the large areas and isolated communities of the West)

*Poverty and harsh conditions (people were prepared to resort to desperate measures)

*More men than women (no calming influence; prostitution)

*Different races (differences of language and culture led to there being little sense of a united community)

*Culture of violence (everyone carried guns, and sorted out problems by using violence)

*Land claims and gold (arguments over land ownership; greed, gamblers, criminals)

*Cattle barons (fear of reprisal; 'respectable' citizens were scared to speak out; juries could be bribed and were often biased)

*Poor court system (judges often had poor knowledge of law; courts often gave unfair verdicts; lack of convictions)

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The Key thing in a Native Americans Life....... Cowboy with a rifle standing over a dead buffalo (

                                                                           The Buffalo

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