Extermination Of The Plaines Indians Extermination of the Plains Indians The Plains Indians in the early nineteenth century, numbered approximately 250,000. The Zuni, Hopi, Navaho, Pawnee, Sioux, Apache, and Cheyenne were the major tribes of the West. By the late nineteenth century the Indians were reduced to roughly 10,000. Because of new technological advances and new industries, America expanded to the Mid-West. The railroad caused thousands of people to move west therefore reducing the number of Plains Indians and partly destroying their culture.
The decline of the Plains Indians were caused by three primary factors: the transcontinental railroad, the decrease of the buffalo, and war with the white Americans. Easy access to the West, because of the railroad, introduced a new way of life for Americans; consequently, the process destroyed the buffalo, essential to Indian survival. The buffalo supplied the basic necessities of life. The Indians used the meats as food, the hides for shelter, and the bones for tools. About 13 million buffalo roamed the Plains before the arrival of the white settlers.
Due to the railroad, the settlers nearly made the buffalo extinct. To the superior white man, the buffalo interfered with construction and derailed trains. Cattle ranching, mining, and farming appeared in the West since the rail as finished. Cattle ranchers shipped the buffalo northeast to be sold. The discovery of gold attracted thousands of people to the West by rail, contributing to the decline of the buffalo. Mining coal and steel were needed for the railroads to operate, and the Indians interfered because of their reverence to the land. Furthermore, the whites had no respect for the Indians sacred lands.
The confrontations between the settlers and Indians lead to war. Violent battles between the American Government and the Indians greatly reduced the Indian population. The Indians had no concept of land ownership causing misunderstandings between the natives and the settlers. To the Indian, owning land was like owning the air we breath. The Indians unintentionally wandered onto settlers land to hunt for food.
Settlers in the West took trespassing seriously and bloody confrontations were frequently occurring . Anglo-American culture is competitive and individualistic. The plains Indians lived in tribes and placed the well-being of the tribe over the prosperity of the individual. Therefore, with the huge cultural differences, fighting between the Indians and the settlers was inevitable. This led to Congress taking action with troops to protect the lives of the settlers.
Whites viewed the Indians as a barrier to the American expansion. The Indians were slaughtered in many different battles, and in the end, the Indians were reduced to an unthreatening number. As a result, the United States, after reducing the Indian population so they were not a threat, changed their policy to ethnocide. Congress wanted to assimilate the Indians into American society by destroying the Plains Indians culture. The Dawes Severity Act was passed as an attempt to assimilate the Indians. The Act divided the reservations into individual pieces of land to break up the tribes.
Schools were built to teach Indian children the customs of Americans and the English language. American sports were even taught to the Indians. The Snyder Act was passed in 1924, which made all Indians born in the United States citizens. This was the last action taken by Congress. The Congressmen believed they had assimilated the Indians into American society.
The schools failed to destroy Indian culture completely, but the government believed it had done its job. The Indians lost millions of acres originally given to them because they did not understand the meaning of private property. The Indians fought off the white man for almost two hundred years, but the completion of the railroad brought the people to the West in huge numbers. The government took necessary action to protect its citizens which resulted in the Indians culture being partially destroyed. History Reports.