Chapter Seven: The Invasion of the Great West

Chapter Seven

 The Invasion of the Great West



As the citizens of the republic began the difficult work of colonizing the West, the United States confronted the age-old challenge of governing the frontier and incorporating the people who lived their, native and newcomer, into an expanding American state.  As in the past, natives and newcomers competed for control of the land in ways that ultimately were incompatible.  And as in the past, that fundamental incompatibility bred aggression, violence, and warfare.  The American invasion of the Great West brought devastating change to native peoples.

The people of the Great West had learned through the course of their long history much about encounter and exchange, and the Americans were not the first outsiders they had seen. Lewis and Clark, for instance, leading their “Corps of Discovery” into the Great West found native peoples wearing woolen blankets acquired from British and French traders, carrying guns, and speaking bits of English and French.  In this sense, at least, Lewis and Clark discovered less than they thought.  All that they saw had been seen before by native peoples.  The peoples of the American interior were not idly waiting for the Americans to arrive and for their history to begin.  But the nineteenth-century American invasion intensified the pace of change, a process the historian Elliot West called the “unsettling of mid-America.”  Native peoples encountered the pioneers, those farming families who moved out onto and across the Plains, relentless and unceasing, who displaced them, appropriated their lands, and destroyed the material basis upon which their way of life depended.


To Learn More

For overviews of Plains history, the federal policy of concentration, and the reaction of native peoples to that policy, see Stuart Banner, How the Indians Lost Their Land, (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2005); Norman J. Bender, “New Hope for the Indians”: The Grant Peace Policy and the Navajos in the 1870s, (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1989); Dee Brown, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West, reprint ed., (New York: Holt, 1995); Brian W. Dippie, The Vanishing American: White Attitudes and U.S. Indian Policy, (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1982); Loretta Fowler, Shared Symbols, Contested Meanings: Gros Ventre Culture and History, 1778-1984, (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1987); Robert H. Keller, American Protestantism and United States Indian Policy, 1869-1882, (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1983); Robert W. Larson, Red Cloud: Warrior Statesman of the Lakota Sioux¸(Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1997); Francis Paul Prucha, The Great Father, 2 vols., (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1984); Stephen J. Rockwell, Indian Affairs and the Administrative State in the Nineteenth Century, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010); Michael L. Tate, Indians and Emigrants: Encounters on the Overland Trails, (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2006); Elliott West, The Contested Plains: Indians, Goldseekers, and the Rush to Colorado, (Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 1998).

For the history of the Santee Sioux in the nineteenth century through the signing of their concentration treaties in 1851, see Gary Clayton Anderson, Kinsmen of Another Kind: Dakota-White Relations in The Upper Mississippi Valley, 1650-1862, (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1984.  For the Kiowas, see Alice Marriott, Saynday’s People: The Kiowa Indians and the Stories They Told, (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1963); James Mooney, Calendar History of the Kiowa Indians, Introduced by John C. Ewers, Classics of Smithsonian Anthropology, (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1979).  On the burdens horse herds placed on stocks of bison, see Pekka Hämäläinen, “The Politics of Grass: European Expansion, Ecological Change, and “Indigenous Power in the Southwest Borderlands,” William and Mary Quarterly 67 (April 2010), 173-208 and Dan Flores, “Bison Ecology and Bison Diplomacy: The Southern Plains from 1800 To 1850,” Journal of American History, 78 (September 1991), 465-485.  Crow history during these years is ably recounted in Frederick Hoxie’s excellent Parading Through History: The Making of the Crow Nation in America, 1805-1935, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995).

For the history of the southwest and the Pueblos who lived there, see Alfredo Ortiz, The Tewa World: Space, Time, Being and Becoming in a Pueblo Society, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1969); Deborah L. Rosen, “Pueblo Indians and Citizenship in Territorial New Mexico,” New Mexico Historical Review, 78 (no.1, 2003), 1-28; and James A. Vlasich, Pueblo Indian Agriculture, (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2005).  For California’s violent policies toward native peoples see Robert F. Heizer, The Destruction of the California Indians, (Santa Barbara: Peregrine Smith, 1974); Brendan Lindsay, Murder State: California’s Native American Genocide, 1846-1873, (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2012) and Benjamin Madley, An American Genocide: The United States and the California Indian Catastrophe, 1846-1873, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016).

There is a dearth of scholarship on the nineteenth century native communities of Virginia.  The best starting place remains Helen C. Rountree, Pocahontas’s People: The Powhatan Indians of Virginia Through Four Centuries, (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1990).  For the Senecas in the nineteenth century, Laurence M. Hauptman’s work is extremely valuable.  See The Iroquois and the Civil War: From Battlefield to Reservation, (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1993), a work that covers much more than its title would suggest, and Conspiracy of Interests: Iroquois Dispossession and the Rise of New York State, (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1999). In The Tonawanda Senecas’ Heroic Battle Against Removal: Conservative Activist Indians, (Albany: SUNY Press, 2011), Hauptman tells the tale of this important community, which remained apart from the Seneca Nation of Indians, as it worked to hang onto its lands in western New York. Thomas Abler’s dissertation remains important reading for the Seneca Revolution of 1848. See “Factional Dispute and Party Conflict in the Political System of the Seneca Nation (1845-1895): An Ethnohistorical Analysis,” (Ph.D. diss., University of Toronto, 1969).  Dan Mandell’s work is essential for understanding the historical experience of the Mohegans and their neighbors in southern New England: Tribe, Race, History: Native Americans in Southern New England, 1780-1880, (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008).

Native peoples were part of the westward movement of peoples that characterized much of the nineteenth century of the United States.  For histories of the Potawatomis as “pioneers,” see John Bowles, Exiles and Pioneers: Eastern Indians in the Trans-Mississippi West, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007) and James Clifton, The Prairie People: Continuity and Change in Potawatomi Indian Culture, 1665-1965, (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1998). Stephen Warren’s work on the Shawnees is also useful for understanding the experience of eastern Indian peoples relocated against their will to the Great West: The Shawnees and Their Neighbors, 1795-1870, (Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 2005).

For the Cherokees in the Indian Territory, Andrew Denson’s Demanding the Cherokee Nation: Indian Autonomy and American Culture, 1830-1900, (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2004), as are the more recent works by Gregory Smithers, The Cherokee Diaspora: An Indigenous History of Migration, Resettlement, and Identity (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2015) and Rose Stremlau, Sustaining the Cherokee Family: Kinship and Allotment of an Indigenous Nation, (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011).  For early federal discussions of the importance of education to help transform the Indians, see David Wallace Adams, Education for Extinction: American Indians and the Boarding School Experience, 1875-1928, (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1995) and Michael Coleman, American Indian Children at School, 1850-1930, (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1993).

The best way to understand the policy of concentration is to read the words of the succession of Commissioners of Indian Affairs who advocated the policy. There annual reports, cited above, are well worth considering, and work well in the classroom.  For the application of the concentration policy to the native peoples living in the vicinity of the Puget Sound, see Alexandra Harmon, Indians in the Making: Ethnic Relations and Indian Identities Around

Puget Sound, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998), an excellent and wide-ranging book.  For the Caddos’ reservation experience, see The Conquest of Texas: Ethnic Cleansing in the Promised Land, (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2005); and F. Todd Smith, The Caddos, the Wichitas, and the United States, 1846-1901, (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1996) and The Caddo Indians: Tribes at the Convergence of Empire, 1542-1854, (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1995).  For the Dakota Sioux, see Gary Clayton Anderson, Kinsmen of Another Kind: Dakota-White Relations in The Upper Mississippi Valley, 1650-1862, (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1984) and the excellent document collection he co-edited with Allan R. Woodworth, Through Dakota Eyes: Narrative Accounts of the Minnesota Indian War of 1862, (St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1988).  For the Dakotas’ reservation experience, see Colette A. Hyman, “Survival at Crow Creek, 1863-1866.” Minnesota History 61 (Winter 2008/2009), 148-161 and Roy W. Meyer, History of the Santee Sioux: United States Indian Policy on Trial, revised ed., (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1993).

For the Sand Creek Massacre of 1864, see Christopher Rein, “’Our First Duty was to God and our Next to our Country’: Religion, Violence and the Sand Creek Massacre,” Great Plains Quarterly, 34 (Summer 2012), 217-238.  The Powhatans’ Civil War experience is treated by Rountree in Pocahontas’s People.  For the New England Indians’ history during the Civil War years, see Mandell, Tribe, Race, and History and David Naumec, “From Mashantucket to Appomattox: The Native American Veterans of Connecticut’s Volunteer Regiments and the Union Navy,” New England Quarterly 81 (December 2008), 596-635.  The history of native peoples in the eastern United States during the Civil War years still awaits its historian.

Nobody has written as much about the Senecas’ experience during the Civil War as Laurence Hauptman.  See his The Iroquois and the Civil War, cited above. Also useful are recent biographies of Ely Parker.  See William Armstrong, Warrior in Two Camps: Ely S. Parker, Union General and Seneca Chief, (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1978) and C. Joseph Genetin-Pilewa, “Ely Parker and the Contentious Peace Policy,” Western Historical Quarterly 41 (Summer 2010), 196-217.

The Cherokees fought a brutal civil war of their own in the Indian Territory.  To read more about this experience, see Denson, Demanding the Cherokee Nation; Diana Everett, The Texas Cherokees: A People Between Two Fires, (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1990); W. Craig Gaines, The Confederate Cherokees: John Drew’s Regiment of Mounted Rifles, (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1989); William G. McLoughlin, After the Trail of Tears: The Cherokees’ Struggle for Sovereignty, 1839-1900, (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1993); Tiya Miles, Ties that Bind: The Story of an Afro-Cherokee Family in Slavery and Freedom, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006); Gary E. Moulton,  John Ross: Cherokee Chief, (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1978); Smithers, Cherokee Diaspora and Stremlau, Sustaining the Cherokee Family.

The Kiowas’ warfare against the United States, and that of the Comanches as well, is discussed in many of the works on the Kiowas listed above. Also useful for this period is Brian DeLay, War of a Thousand Deserts: Indian Raids and the US-Mexican War, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008 Pekka Hämäläinen, The Comanche Empire., (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009) and “The Rise and Fall of Plains Indian Horse Cultures,” JAH, 81 (December 2003); Thomas Kavanaugh, The Comanches: A History, 1706-1875, (Lincoln: University of  Nebraska Press, 1999); Joaquin Rivaya-Martinez, “A Different Look at Native American Population: Comanche Raiding, Captive Taking, and Population Decline.” Ethnohistory, 61 (Summer 2014), 391-418.

General overviews of the fighting on the Northern Plains are provided by West, The Contested Plains and Robert M. Utley, The Lance and the Shield: The Life and Times of Sitting Bull, (New York: Holt, 1993) and The Indian Frontier of the American West, 1846-1890 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1984).  Both books are dated somewhat, but contain nonetheless a useful overview of the principal events.

For the Red Cloud War, in addition to those sources listed above, see Larson, Red Cloud, and James C. Olson, Red Cloud and the Sioux Problem, (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1965).  For President Andrew Johnson’s Peace Commission and the negotiation of the important treaties at Medicine Lodge Creek in 1867 and Fort Laramie in 1868, see Colin Calloway, Pen and Ink Witchcraft: Treaties and Treaty-Making in American Indian History, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013); Francis Paul Prucha, American Indian Treaties: The History of a Political Anomaly, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994).  Douglas C. Jones, The Treaty of Medicine Lodge: The Story of the Great Treaty Council as Told By Eyewitnesses, (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1966) is also useful.

Grant’s “Peace Policy” is covered by Norman J. Bender. “New Hope for the Indians”: The Grant Peace Policy and the Navajos in the 1870s, (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1989); David S. Trask, “Episcopal Missionaries on the Santee and Yankton Reservations: Cross-Cultural Collaboration and President Grant’s Peace Policy,” Great Plains Quarterly 33 (Spring 2013), 87-101.  C. Joseph Genetin-Pilewa, Crooked Paths to Allotment: The Fight Over Federal Indian Policy after the Civil War, (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2012) is a recent addition to the literature.

For the renewal of warfare on the Southern Plains after 1867, see Hämäläinen, The Comanche Empire; Catherine R. Franklin, “’If Only Will Only . . . Fulfill Its Obligations’: Colonel Benjamin Grierson, Rations Policy, and the Kiowa Indians, 1868-1872,” Southwestern   Historical Quarterly, 118 (October 2014), 178-199; William T. Hagan, “Kiowas, Comanches and Cattlemen, 1867-1906: A Case Study of the Failure of U.S.Reservation Policy,” Pacific Historical Review, 40 (August 1971), 333-356; Brad D. Lookingbill, War Dance at Fort Marion: Plains Indian War Prisoners, (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2006) and  Mayhall, The Kiowas.  For the Northern Plains, see the works listed above, and for the Modoc War, Boyd Cothran, Remembering the Modoc War: Redemptive Violence and the Making of American Innocence: Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2014). The Crows’ experience during the fighting of the 1860s and 1870s is recounted, in Frederick Hoxie, Parading Through History.



Some material on Zebulon Pike is included on the Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello website, and can be read here. also has good material on Pike. The journals of the Atkinson-O’Fallon expedition, Wheel Boats on the Missouri, have been published by the Montana Historical Society and are readily available through your college library.  For the founding of Fort Snelling, click here.  For the Treaty of Prairie du Chien, click here, and for the 1851 Fort Laramie Treaty, click here. The “Indians of the Midwest” site hosted by the Newberry Library has a wealth of information that touches upon the historical experiences of the Dakota Sioux.  The site includes wonderful visual and documentary material. For the 1851 and 1858 treaties negotiated by the Dakota Sioux before the war, see Kappler, here, here, and here.

George Nidever’s manuscript, “The Indian Woman of San Nicolas” is housed in the Autry National Center in Los Angeles.  The document has not been digitized. Some material on “Juana Maria” is housed at the California Missions Resource Center, and some more at the Channel Islands National Park website. The Los Angeles Times in 2012 reported on archaeological work on San Nicolas Island that had identified the cave on the island where “Juana Maria” may have lived.  Some students might be familiar with the fictionalized version of this story, published by Scott O’Dell as The Island of the Blue Dolphins (New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1960).

Henry Schoolcraft’s Notes on the Iroquois (1847) is available online. Students might find the tabular data presented by Schoolcraft worth discussing.  The 1848 constitution of the Seneca Nation of Indians has been placed online by the Library of Congress. For subsequent amendments, students should consult the Seneca Nation of Indians’ website.   And for students who want to read even more about this significant moment in Iroquois history, the Official Reports, Illustrating the Causes Which Led to the Revolution in the Government of the Seneca Indians in the Year 1848 (Baltimore: Wm. Wooddy, 1857), is available on Google Books.

Mohegan historian Melissa Tantaquidgeon Zobel has written a history of the Mohegan Wigwam Festival on the Connecticut History website.  For the history of the Cherokees in the Indian Territory, students might start with the 1846 federal treaty that helped erase for a time the deep divisions within the nation. The statements from the Commissioners of Indian Affairs used in this chapter—by T. Hartley Crawford, William Medill, Luke Lea, and George Manypenny, are all available online.

For Isaac Stevens’ career in Washington Territory, click here and here. For the treaties he negotiated with the Coast Salish in 1854 and 1855, click on the copies here, here, here, and here from Kappler. To learn about how a Washington court far too late exonerated Leschi for his role in rising up against territorial authorities, click on this NBC News story, and this, from a Seattle newspaper.

A fantastic collection of source material on Dakota life before the war in 1862 is Gary Clayton Anders and Allan R. Woodworth, eds., Through Dakota Eyes: Narrative Accounts of the Minnesota Indian War of 1862, (St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1988).  Any of the documents in this collection could serve as the basis for class discussion or a writing assignment. The Minnesota Historical Society’s Dakota War website is an outstanding resource. A photo essay by Minnesota Public Radio is also rich with resources. The Los Angeles Times published a nice historical piece on Henry Whipple in 2014.

The Texas Beyond History Website maintained by the University of Texas has a nice website with resources on the Kiowas and the Red River War.  Instructors will find the images here suitable for classroom use.  Historian Claudio Saunt of the University of Georgia has created a valuable “Invasion of America” website that is searchable by Indian nation, which will allow students to visually comprehend the rapid rate of dispossession between the Revolution and 1887.  Charles Royce’s Indian Land Cessions in the United States, 1784-1894 is also available online, though his maps must be used with some caution.

Students find the violence of the Sand Creek Massacre unsettling.  There is material on this atrocity at the Arapaho Project website, which includes letters from eyewitnesses.  The Digital History housed at the University of Houston also contains excerpts suitable for a class discussion.  The Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site has a webpage,   Silas Soule, a soldier who was with Chivington, refused to participate in the battle.  His letters provide a devastating account of this horrific event.

Sand Creek, of course, was part of the Plains Wars, the decades’ long struggle to win the west.  For the Plains Wars in general, Charles Collins’ “Atlas of the Sioux Wars” contains outstanding maps that will help students understand how the important battles played out.   It can be read here and here.   Ely Parker, the Seneca who served as Ulysses S. Grant’s aide-de-camp during the Civil War and, afterwards, as the first Native American Secretary of War, factors largely in this chapter. To learn more about Parker, check out the New York Historical Society’s website discussing the role he played at Appomatox.  His annual reports as Commissioner of Indian Affairs are worth reading about, and students should be familiar in particular with his arguments calling for an end to treaty-making with Indian tribes.

For the Cherokees’ Reconstruction Treaty, consult Kappler’s Indian Affairs.  It was these years that saw the origins of the Cherokee Freedmen controversy. Students should be familiar with the process through which Cherokee slaveowners came to terms with their own participation in the enslavement of African Americans.  Anthropologist Circe Sturm covers this topic with great depth and sensitivity in her books.  An article by her which appeared in Cultural Anthropology is available online.

For the Red Cloud War, students might look at Heather Cox Richardson’s appreciation of Red Cloud’s career on the “We’re History” website.  Shannon Smith’s “New Perspectives on the Fetterman Fight” is useful as well. Students from outside of Montana may wonder what route the Bozeman Trail followed.  There are many maps available online, and in the secondary sources listed above. Those in Utley’s Indian Wars are among the best.

The first phase of the Plains Wars came to a close with the work of the Peace Commission headed by Nathaniel Taylor and two treaties: Medicine Lodge Creek (1867) and Fort Laramie (1868).  Together, the two treaties provide students with a picture of what the United States government hoped to achieve through the policy of Concentration. Calloway’s Our Hearts Fell to the Ground includes a useful chapter on Medicine Lodge Creek. Francis Paul Prucha, in this Documents of United States Indian Policy, excerpts a number of valuable documents providing insights into the form and function of the Peace Commission.

The Kiowas who signed Medicine Lodge Creek did so reluctantly.  These Kiowa leaders were important figures, and students will find them interesting.  For Satanta, some insights are available on the Texas State Library and Archives Commission website.  Kicking Bird can be read about on the Texas State Historical Association “Handbook of Texas” page. Satank can be read about there as well. All of these figures were leaders when warfare resumed in the treaties’ aftermath.  The fighting was vicious. To read about Washita, for instance, check out the resources on the NPS website for the Washita Battlefield National Monument in Cheyenne, Oklahoma.  George Armstrong Custer’s report of the battle is available at the Gilder Lehrman Institute’s website. Texas Beyond History has a useful website for understanding the Red River War.  The Modoc War, which I mention briefly in the text, can be read about at the National Archives page here.  The National Anthropological Archives has some pictures of the Modocs, including this photograph of Captain Jack’s stronghold.

Students always find accounts of Custer’s campaign highly interesting, and there is a wealth of visual and documentary material online to help them make sense of it.  Red Horse’s pictographic account of the battle, a series of 42 ledger drawings, is available at the National Anthropological Archives Website.  The Smithsonian has placed online one of many excellent maps of the battle.

The Crows fought on the American side in the Battle of Little Bighorn.  As with so many topics, the National Anthropological Archives has so many photographs of Crow life after the battle, like these, documenting visitors to the battlefield in 1886.  On how the Crows saw their own homeland, they might read the speech of Arapooish, quoted in Washington Irving’s Adventures of Captain Bonneville, pages 225-227.  The Crows factor largely in Colin Calloway’s useful Bedford Reader, Our Hearts Fell to the Ground: Plains Indian Views of How the West Was Lost (Boston: Bedford, 1996).


Assignments and Study Questions

  1. People, Peoples, Places and Things


Lewis and Clark Expedition                                    Mille Lacs

Dakotas                                                                       Zebulon Pike

Benjamin O’Fallon                                                    Fort Snelling

Wanmdisapa                                                              Treaty of Prairie du Chien

Lawrence Taliaferro                                                  Little Crow

Mendota                                                                      Traverse des Sioux

Dohasan                                                                      Fort Gibson

winter counts                                                              bison

Atkinson-O’Fallon Expedition                                Red Plume

Fort Laramie Treaty (1851)                                      Plan of Iguala

Slavery in California                                                  George Nidever

Juana Maria                                                                Pamunkey Reservation

Henry Schoolcraft                                                      Seneca Revolution, 1848

Mohegan Wigwam Festival                                      Eastern Band of Cherokees

William Medill                                                            Prairie Band of Potawatomis

Citizen Band of Potawatomis                                   Treaty Party

Old Settlers                                                                  John Ross

Major Ridge                                                                 John Ridge

Elias Boudinot                                                            1846 Cherokee Treaty

T.Hartley Crawford                                                    Concentration

Manifest Destiny                                                        Luke Lea

George Manypenny                                                    Oregon Land Donation Act

Patkanim                                                                     Fort Nisqually

Snatlum                                                                        Chowitsut

Leschi                                                                           Governor Isaac Stevens

Medicine Creek Treaty                                              Point Elliott Treaty

Point No Point Treaty                                                Neah Bay Treaty

Chaoosh                                                                       Robert Neighbors

Lower Sioux Agency                                                  Wabasha

Wakute                                                                         Mankato

Big Eagle                                                                      Andrew Myrick

Henry B. Whipple                                                      Redwood Agency

Crow Creek                                                                  Flandreau, South Dakota

Santee Reservation                                                    Sisseton Reservation

Devil’s Lake Reservation                                          J. M. Chivington

Ely Parker                                                                    Keetoowah Society

“Civilized Tribes”                                                        Kit Carson

Adobe Walls                                                                 Dohasan

Satank                                                                           Satanta

Red Cloud                                                                    Crazy Horse

William Fetterman                                                    Transfer Issue

James Doolittle                                                          Peace Commission

Nathaniel Taylor                                                        Medicine Lodge Creek (1867)

Fort Laramie Treaty (1868)                                     William Tecumseh Sherman

Grant’s Peace Policy                                                  KCA Reservation

George Armstrong Custer                                        Washita

Lawrie Tatum                                                             Red River War

Adobe Walls                                                                Richard Henry Pratt

Modoc War                                                                  Black Hills

Plenty Coups                                                                Little Big Horn


  1. Discussion Questions and Writing Assignments
  1. Compare the relationships that developed between the Santee Sioux, the Kiowas, and the Crows with the United States with those early English encounters involving the Mohegans and Powhatans.  Keep an eye on the dynamics in the relationship. What did Plains people hope to achieve through their relationships with emissaries from the United States?  What did the Americans want to accomplish? How close did the participants in this encounter come to achieving their goals, and what were some of the obstacles that stood in their way?
  2. Using Kiowa winter counts as a source, how might a history of the Plains look when written facing eastward from Rainy Mountain?
  3. Juana Maria:  In her conversations with George Nidiver, she left him with the impression that the defining event in her life was the death of her daughter.  Think of Fogleson’s essay on events and non-events: What might a Native American history of these years, the opening years of the American invasion of the Great West, have looked like?
  4. Historians have in general neglected the experiences and stories of native peoples living behind the frontier.  Students should know these stories, and the struggles of native peoples living within the states and the cities of the American Republic. It is a story that remains vital today in terms of discussions of federal recognition, which is discussed in the tenth chapter. Using some of the sources listed under Resources, what did these native communities look like? In what ways do they defy conventional stereotypes about native peoples?
  5. Students will be at least partially familiar with the notion of (white) American settlers as homesteaders, moving to seek out new lives and opportunity in the Great West.  What happens when we include native peoples in this story, Indian pioneers like Cherokees and Potawatomis and others, who had to carve new homes for themselves in the west?
  6. If the sixth chapter focused on the federal policy of Indian Removal and its consequences, this chapter examines the shift towards a policy called “Concentration.” By reading treaties, laws, and the annual reports of the Commissioners of Indian Affairs, students might arrive at an understanding of what American policy makers hoped to achieve by concentrating native peoples on reservations in the west.  How well did federal policy makers achieve their goals, and what were the obstacles that stood in their way?
  7. Indian Reservations: It is a phrase students will be familiar with, but which they may not understand completely.  What was reservation life like for native peoples?  The National Anthropological Archives, as well as a host of local and state historical societies and museums, have placed photographs from the early reservation period online that students might examine in class.  In what ways was the adjustment to reservation life difficult for native peoples?  Describe the process through which some Indians were able to transform their reservations from prisons into homelands.
  8. Students should examine closely a concentration treaty, to examine the details of federal policy, the guarantees included in treaties, and to understand why native peoples may have signed them.  The resources for doing this are readily available in Kapper.
  9. Given the overwhelming military superiority of the United States when placed in comparison to that of the Plains tribes, why did the conquest of the American plains take so long?
  10. Students understand at a basic level the importance of bison and horses to the Plains tribes, but their understanding is usually quite superficial.  Students might compare the articles written by Dan Flores, Richard White, and Pekka Hamalainen (all listed on the Bibliography) and Eisenberg’s book on the destruction of the bison, to examine the fragility of this world.
  11. President Grant’s “Peace Policy” may sound appealing at a certain level to your students, but it is important for them to understand that it was, at heart, neither peaceful nor a complete break with the past.  In what ways was the Peace Policy innovative?  In what ways did it continue older policies? Why did Grant’s Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Ely Parker, call for an end to treaty-making, and how significant was that act?  Here again, the annual reports of the Commissioners of Indian Affairs will be useful to your students and offer important fuel for discussion.




A Discussion Forum for Teaching and Writing Native American History