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HIST 114: History of the American West

Professor Will Barnett


Lecture, October 2, 2020

Indian Wars in the West and the End of Native American Resistance

I. The West’s Violent Civil War Years: 1864’s Navajo Long Walk (AZ) + Sand Creek Massacre (CO)
New, more aggressive volunteer soldiers replace army regulars in the West during Civil War
Colonel Kit Carson attacked deep into Navajo country in 1863, burning crops, killing livestock
Many Navajo surrender in 1864: 8000 men, women, children forced to take “Long Walk”
Marched 400 miles from AZ to NM, held as prisoners until Navajo reservation created in 1868
In Colorado, whites poured in during 1859 Pikes Peak gold rush, Cheyenne feel threatened
800 Cheyenne led by Black Kettle went to Colorado fort for protection, were flying US flag
Brutal surprise attack at dawn: 700 whites kill + mutilate 200 Indians, ¾ women and children
Sand Creek Massacre in 1864 was led by Colonel John Chivington, resigned due to criticism

II. The Lakota/Sioux and their Fierce Battles for the sacred Black Hills of South Dajota, 1865-1877
Great Sioux War of 1865-1867: Red Cloud fought invading miners and destroyed new forts
1868 treaty ends war, forms Great Sioux Reservation, all of South Dakota including Black Hills
But in 1874, gold discovered, miners poured in, Congress pushes Sioux to sell but they refuse
U.S. army marched in and Colonel Custer made reckless daytime attack on Sitting Bull’s camp
1,800 Indians kill all 210 of Custer’s men at Little Bighorn in 1876 in “Custer’s Last Stand”
A rallying cry to starve Indians + force surrender; Crazy Horse killed; Sitting Bull imprisoned

III. The Pursuit and Defeat of Chief Joseph + Nez Perce, 1877 (ID); “I will fight no more forever,”
Nez Perce allied with whites since Lewis and Clark, had ceded 9/10 of their land in 1863 treaty
Whites find gold, push Nez Perce onto smaller reservation, some warriors reject plan and fight
Warriors raid whites, U.S. army attacks, Chief Joseph decides only option is escape to Canada
350 Nez Perce, including 50 warriors, go on 1,300 mile journey across Montana + Wyoming,
Army pursues, 3 battles and 150 dead. Exhausted Nez Perce surrender 50 miles from Canada
Nez Perce were told they could go home to Idaho, but were prisoners in Oklahoma for 7 years

IV. The Last Resistance: The Defeat of Geronimo and the Chiracahua Apaches (AZ) in 1886
Apaches near Mexico border were last to accept reservations, some still raided white outposts
In 1870s, U.S. pursued Geronimo’s band, his mounted warriors raided in Arizona and Mexico
Geronimo went to reservation but escaped 1885, Army hunted band for a year, they surrender
in 1886 for promised new reservation, but 500 sent to Florida prison, Geronimo died in prison

V. Terrible Blows to Native Americans: 1887 Dawes Severalty Act + 1890 Wounded Knee Massacre
1887 Dawes plan by white reformers to distribute tribal lands to individual Indian families
White Americans value private property/individual landowners, oppose collective ownership
Homestead Act, 1862: fed. gov’t gave white settlers low-cost land, soon cattle replace bison
Goal to transform Indians into farmers, but most reservation lands were arid, barren, + remote
In 1888, Indian tribes held 138 million acres, but by 1934 the tribes held only 47 million acres
In 1890, massacre of 146 Sioux at Wounded Knee on Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota
Sioux had been involved in Ghost Dance, a visionary religious revival, and it terrified whites
Federal officials arrested Sioux traditional chiefs, moved in to disarm camp of Ghost Dancers
Gun went off, soldiers fired 4 machine guns, left 84 men, 44 women, 18 children dead in snow
This tragic massacre of Sioux is widely seen as low point of Native American history in U.S.