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The Impact Of The Gold Rush On Native Americans And Mexican Americans (Email Me For The Bibliography!)

2453 words - 10 pages

When the cry of "gold!" in early 1848 echoed through the mountains of California, the Native Americans should have run for the hills. By 1850, a flood of white settlers swarmed into the west filled with dreams of gold and prosperity. It was the single greatest migration of people in a shortest amount of time. The gold rush was a horrendous period in our nation's history; the Native American population was decimated as human rights were cast aside in a thirst for gold. The pursuit of wealth has always come at the expense of subjugated groups throughout history, and the gold rush was no different. Throughout the west the native people were enslaved and discriminated against. Explosions of violence from both natives and settlers were common in this environment of prejudice and greed. Too often the "Gold Rush" is celebrated as one of the greatest periods in our nation's history. Between 1850 and 1890 eighty percent of the total number of Native Americans in California died due to murder and massacre, disease, starvation, and forced migration from their native lands. The gold rush and the influx of settlers into the west caused the destruction of the culture and lives of the people native to California and the Black Hills of South Dakota.There were many reasons for the outrageous ways the settlers in the west treated the Native Americans. The federal government declared an open extermination policy to eliminate Native Americans and "rid the west of these heathens," (Daniels 14). Natives had just been resettled into reserved spaces of land that stretched from the plains to the Black Hills of South Dakota. (Champagne and Trafzer 44) Many of the men traveling west had already dealt with hostile Indian tribes on the Plains and wanted nothing to get in their way of prosperity and gold. With them came mining tools, destructive mining techniques, civilization, and whiskey to perpetually ruin the lives and environment of the Indians. Although Native Americans were viewed as savage and mentally inferior they were typically slaughtered instead of enslaved because many miners would have to work alongside the Natives to ensure a profit; and settlers did not want to be reduced to the same work as slaves. Gold was a sacred substance to natives, one that they would never pillage and completely eradicate from the earth, so they didn't understand the prospectors' intentions to find large ores of the precious metal.When Lieutenant James Mullan led a small party to explore the Black Hills in 1853 he declared the abundance of gold he found greater than the gold in the California Placer mines. (Longfellow 35). Mullan could not have foreseen the consequences of the discovery of gold in that region. The people of the Sioux had discovered the gold but were unable to extract it from the ground due to their lack of mining technology. What was once a desolate and wild landscape quickly turned into the boom towns of Sioux City and Deadwood. This land however, belonged to the...

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