People move west
For a long time only the Indians lived on the Plains, but by the beginning of the nineteenth century many people who lived in the east of North America were beginning to explore the rest of the country whihch lay west of the Appalachain Mountains. Beyond the Mississippi River were the praire grasslands and the Great Plains.
It seemed that the Indians might be the only people who were able to live on the plains. This did not, however, stop people from exploring and settling in new lands west of the original thirteen states.
Cattlemen and Cowboys
Cattlemen owned the acttle which the cowboys loked after, Texas was the place where the cattlemen first bread cattle.
In the late 1860's, a railroad was built for the first time which joined the ast and the west. This meant that cattlemen were able to take and sell their cattle to buyers in all the states.
Indians were worried that their hunting grounds might be taken away from them. There were frightened of the huge, noisy iron horse which crossed the Plains, billowing smoke and pulling carriages full of people.
Settlers on the Great Plains
By the end of the nineteenth century thousands of families had settled on the Plains and were growing crops successfully.
1840s and 1850s - Families who wanted to start a new life crossed over the Plains to settle in California or Oregon.
1860s - Most of the land was being farmed and was becoming expensive to buy
The US Government wanted people to settle on the great plains, so the Government helped people to get land cheaply. It also made sure that there was law and order in the newly settled areas.
The struggle for the Plains
By the 1880s the great Plains were no longer thought of as the Great American Desert.
Previously in 1832, the US Government had said that the whole of the Great Plains would be given over to the Indian tribes. This was so that white people could have all lands in the eastern states without the Indians getting in the way. They started moving some Indiands from these staes as early as 1825. By 1840 the government had moved all the Indian tribes who lived in eastern states, like the Cherokess and Seminoles, into 'Indian Territory; in the plains. They joined those who already lived on the Plains, like the Arapahos, the Sious and the Comanches, behind an imaginary line known as the Permanent Indian Frontier.
Then white people started to cross Indian land! No wonder the Indians often attacked the,. The white people who crossed Indian land son demanded protection from Indian attacks.
Plains Indians defending their land
The Plains Indians were much more determined to defend their lands than any of the Indians who came into contact with white people. This was because the Plains Indians were wandering hunters who needed to be able to freely to follow the herds of buffalo.
The US Government made agreements with several indian tribes between 1849 and 1851. The idea was that each tribe should have its own hunting grounds, away from white people's trails, and away from other tribes. The trails would then be safe.
So Indians agreed to allow roads and military posts to be built. In return the Government would protect them and give them $50,000 a year for ten years. The tribes were put in different parts of the Plains. The Indians didn't realise just what a cleveer move this way by the Government. If the tribes were separated it would be much easier to force one group to give up its land to the Government in the future. Separation would prevent other tribes from supporting others whose lands were threatened.
Trouble starts again
Within a few years it was clear that these treaties were not working. Trouble started again in Colorado, where the Cheyennes and the Arapahos had settled. In 1859 gold was discovered at Pike's Peak in the Colorado Mountains. In the rush for gold, the white men who surged through the Cheyenne and Arapaho lands forgot agreements made with the Indians. In 1861, the US Government declared that Colorado was part of the United States of America.
The Indians however, remembered the white men's promises. They began serious attacks on the railroad surveyors and travellers.
- For several years there was fierce warfare as the Indians fought to stop white people taking away form them the lands which the US Government had earlier given them 'forever'.
The Plains Wars
In the early hours of 29 November 1864 a regiment of 1000 men, with their leader, Colonel John Chivington, quietly surrounded and Indian camp at Sand Creek, Colorado. At daybreak the soldiers charged the camp. They took the Indians completely by surprise.
Why did this happen? For about three years, Indians had been raiding and attacking the army and white people. They were trying to get back the lands which they believed were theirs. The soldiers in the local regiments were determined to fight back.
Treaties and reservations
In 1867-8 the Government held a series of meetings with all the Indian tribes who were still fighting them. They now believed that the best idea awas to put the Indian tribes seperately in the small reservations. The Plains Indians could not live their old nomadic way of life in the reservations. Many of them longed to return to the open plains to hunt buffalo.
- Indians found it hard to adapt to the new way of life and could not change their views about the lands, white people used the land to farm and grow crops, where as the Indian tribes respected the land and used it to hunt on.
Battle of Little Big Horn
The Battle of the Little Bighorn, fought on June 25, 1876, near the Little Bighorn River in Montana Territory, pitted federal troops led by Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer (1839-76) against a band of Lakota Sioux and Cheyenne warriors. Tensions between the two groups had been rising since the discovery of gold on Native American lands. When a number of tribes missed a federal deadline to move to reservations, the U.S. Army, including Custer and his 7th Calvary, was dispatched to confront them. Custer was unaware of the number of Indians fighting under the command of Sitting Bull (c.1831-90) at Little Bighorn, and his forces were outnumbered and quickly overwhelmed in what became known as Custer's Last Stand.
Battle of Little Big Horn continued
The Battle of the Little Bighorn, also called Custer's Last Stand, marked the most decisive Native American victory and the worst U.S. Army defeat in the long Plains Indian War. The demise of Custer and his men outraged many white Americans and confirmed their image of the Indians as wild and bloodthirsty. Meanwhile, the U.S. government increased its efforts to subdue the tribes. Within five years, almost all of the Sioux and Cheyenne would be confined to reservations.