The American West


Who were the Plains Indians?

Family Life

  • Bands are a group of male fighters. Each band had their own village. 
  • Women were responsible for looking after the tipi, cooking and were recognised for their skill.
  • In the event of a divorce, women got to keep the tipi. 


  • Conflict helped each family survive. This was due to the fact that conflict included riting other bands villages.
  • The Plains Indians rarely attacked people.
  • Although migrants saw themselves as superior, they were scared of the Plains Indians. 
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What brought settlers to the West?

Pull Factors

  • The homestead Act of 1862 offered free land to settlers willing to travel West.
  • Religious persecution caused people to seek the freedom of the West.
  • There were few good jobs in the East and many jobs paid low wages.
  • Opportunities to purchase cheap land. 

Push Factors

  • Eastern farmland became too expensive.
  • Gold was discovered in California in 1849.
  • Farmers were facing ruin because the price of the corn they wee growing in the East collapsed. 
  • Outlaws (criminals) sought refuge in the wilderness of the west. 
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1830- President Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act. This pressured 46,000 American Indians to move to new land to the West of the Mississipi river. They were promised that they wouldn't lose their new land; they were also promised protection. 

1834- The Government wanted to keep the Plains Indians and the white Americans apart. Therefore a Permanent Indian Frontier was put forward. This Act also prevented the Whites from settling on the American Indians land. 

1840-The USA won a war with Mexico resulting in them claiming large amounts of land such as California. The land claiming began causing problems. For example, the Government wanted the US citizens to move to the West; where the newly claimed land was. The US policy began to change.

1851- A new act was passed supplying Plains Indians with reservations so they could carry on hunting. However, the Governments plan was to encourage the Plains Indians to begin farming by suppling them with land in hope that the Plains Indians would begin to live like white Americans. 

Indian Appropration Act- Provided the Government with money in order to pay for Plains Indians in Indian territory onto reservations. 

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The Oregon Trail

This was a very dangerous journey which am Americans were willing to take in order to move West. 

  • The journey would have taken around 5 months.
  • 500,000 Americans risked this journey. 
  • Most of these people were poor or workers.
  • Cholera was a major issue on this journey.- It was ddue to this that many people died while travelling. 

Problems included:

  • Getting stuck
  • Getting ill
  • Running out of resources- food/water
  • Weather
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The Fort Laramine Treaty

What was it?

  • The fort laramine treaty was something the Governmentmade up to bring many tribes together into one designated area. 
  • This wasto prevent the white settlers frm feeling threatened from the Plains Indians.
  • There were consequences to this governemnt action. For example, each tribe had their own designated area. This prevented them from travelling elsewhere for their food.
  • This resulted in many tribes from  not sticking to their area.
  • Not oly this, but the settlers also didn't stick to their part of the deal. They had a path they the were required to follow yet didn't stick to that path at all. Instead, they went whichever way they wanted, making the Plains Indiand feeling unsafe and theatened. 
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  • Claim- A legal document that someone intends to take control over a piece of land.
  • Migration- Movement of people.
  • Settlement- People moving to live in an area.
  • Road agents- Gangs of criminals who attacked and robbed travellers in remote areas. 
  • Villigantes- People who took law into their own hands.
  • Lynching- People who took the law into their own hands and executed the suspect of a crime.
  • Homesteaders- People who lived on Plains. They chose to survive out here. 
  • Long drives- Herding cattle long distances.
  • Cattle trails- Routes used for drivng cattle- needed to have easy access to food and water.
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1862- Homestead Act. People wre entitled to 160 acres of land. However had to stay there for 5 years else you would have to face a fee.

1878- Timber Culture Act. This act allowed a homesteader to claim a further 50% more land if they promised to plant trees on a quarter of their land. They acted as a 'windbreaker' and could shelter crops from damage. 

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Ranchers vs Homesteaders

There were rivalries between homesteaders and rancehers for many reasons. These included:

  • Ranching relid on access to huge amounts of public grazing lands. However, homesteaders turned small parcels of public land into private farms.
  • Homesteaders were accused of cattle rustling.
  • Ranchers complained that the homesteaders barbed wire harmed their animals. 
  • Homesteaders filed clams for good quality land. 
  • Homesteaders cut barbed wire to steal cattle.
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Red Clouds War

Main Causes:

  • People began following the shorter Bozeman Trail instead of the Oregon Trail. Because of this, Red Cloud and his Sioux began to fight. This happened because gold was discovered in Montana, in 1862.

People Involved:

  • Red Cloud was the respected war chief and warrior of Lakota Sioux. We he decided to fight, not all of the sioux agreed that fighting was the answer. 
  • B fighting soldiers and other wokers, Red Cloud got other Sioux to join.
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The Exoduster Movement


  • The black slaves wanted to bvecome independent.
  • The slaves began to move to Kansas.

What happened:

  • The government said they had set aside somewhere for the slaves.
  • By 1880, 1500 slaves moved to Kansas.


  • The slaves wre no longer slaves.
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Johnson County War

  • Took place in 1892.
  • The smaller rancher were fed op of the bigger ranches.
  • This was due to the bigger ranches always claiming land.
  • Tension emerged as smaller ranches were accused of stealing cows and rustling from bigger ranches.
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