Westward Expansion Essay

785 words - 4 pages

In the late 1870s, the American Indian life had changed drastically. Native Americans lived in the Great Plains, in the grasslands west of the United States. Tribes such as the Osage, Iowa, Sioux, and Cheyenne hunted, farmed, and made tools and clothing to survive. Horses, brought by the Spaniards in 1598, made hunting easier for Native Americans. They were capable of traveling farther and hunt more efficiently. Native Americans lived in small extended family groups. Young men became hunters and warriors, while women helped butcher the game and prepared hides. They also believed in powerful spirits, which resulted in people becoming shamans, medicine men and women. Indian tribes were never dominated by a leader, but by a counsel of people. On the other hand, white settlers had a different perspective. They believed owning land, making a mining claim, or creating a business is what made a successful country. Because Native Americans weren’t “improving” their land, white settlers traveled west to take over it. Later on, more and more settlers began to move west. Westward expansion threatened the American Indian way of life by the destruction of buffalo, bloody battles between the Native Americans and white settlers, and enforcing the Dawes Act.
The destruction of buffalo affected the Native Americans because buffalo were their main source of food, clothing, and shelter. Native Americans never let any part of the buffalo go to waste. They ate buffalo meat because it was nutritious and plentiful. As the population of buffalo dropped, Native Americans began to starve. Buffalo hides and skins were used for clothes, shoes, and blankets. After the destruction, the Native Americans had trouble collecting hides to make teepees and clothing because buffalo were so scarce. They could not protect themselves from harsh weather, thus, causing many to get sick and die. Tourists and fur traders shot buffalo as a sport. In 1800, 65 million buffalo roamed the plains. By 1890, there were less than 1,000. The Native Americans became so dependent on the buffalo that as soon as they began to disappear, they were fighting to survive.
While more settlers and miners moved westward, they clashed with Native Americans, causing tragic wars. The Cheyenne tribe, in the winter of 1864, returned to Colorado’s Sand Creek Reserve, assuming the U.S....

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