Stripped Of Personal Freedom: Native Americans In The West

1111 words - 4 pages

Throughout our country’s history there have been several groups who have fared less that great. Every minority group was treated unfairly, Indians were uprooted and had no control, I can’t imagine for a second being a soldier in combat, women struggled for basic rights, and many people fell victim to the changing ways of our economy, losing their jobs and fighting to survive. It seems wrong to pick one group over another, as if to say some people who were treated horribly or who faced mounting obstacles didn’t actually have it as bad as another group. But throughout all the years we’ve studied, one group that stood out to me who were dealt a horrible fate were Native Americans living in the west during the 19th century. When Americans began to expand westward, Indians unwillingly had their lives flipped upside down and changed drastically. After years of displacement, they were being forced to live in certain areas and follow certain rules, or risk their lives.
While the US may have prided themselves in the fact that we didn’t practice imperialism or colonialism, and we weren’t an Empire country, the actions conquering land in our own country may seem to rebuff that claim. In the 19th century, the West was a synonym for the frontier, or edge of current settlement. Early on this was anything west of just about Mississippi, but beyond that is where the Indian tribes had been pushed to live, and promised land in Oklahoma after policies like Indian removal, and events like the Trail of Tears. Indian’s brief feeling of security and this promise were shattered when American’s believed it was their god given right, their Manifest Destiny, to conquer the West; they began to settle the land, and relatively quickly. And with this move, came the recurring displacement of Indians from their lands, and onto new territories or reservations.
The reservation conditions were deplorable, with poverty, starvation, armed confinement, and forced assimilation. They were given annuities that barely kept them fed. The natives had “their culture assaulted, their religious practices outlawed, their children sent away to school, ad their way of life attacked in the name of progress and civilization” (Roark et al. 494). They were forced to march to these reservations exhausted and hungry, like the “Long Walk” for the Cherokee tribe in New Mexico. There were assaults like the Sand Creek massacre, killing a Cheyenne troop still living in their Colorado village. Also contributing to the end of Indian freedom was the devastation to the bison herds that they once relied on, being killed by military and industrial expansion (greater need for their leather, better weapons, and the rail system that disrupted them). Indians were now almost forced to choose reservations, or else they may starve and no longer survive. The reservations were guarded, and anyone who refused to stay risked being hunted down. Indian’s attempted to fight wars in order to resist the conquest. One such was...

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