Plains Indian Wars (America at War)


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Army fought dozens of engagements with Indians in the West. Designed to bring long-lasting peace, it promised the Lakota that the Black Hills, which they considered sacred, would become a permanent part of the Lakota Indian reservation. In , however, Lieutenant Colonel George Custer led an expedition of 1, men and wagons to explore the Black Hills.

His stated goal was to identify a site for a fort to protect this Indian land. In fact, he was also interested in rumors that the Black Hills contained gold deposits. Custer found the rumor was correct. Prospectors quickly began staking illegal claims on the land, and then demanding that the army protect them from Indian attacks. This set the stage for another clash of arms.


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Army suffered its greatest loss during the western Indian Wars. On June 25, , the army sent some 1, troops, including the Seventh Cavalry, to trap a large group of roaming Lakota Indians and force them onto a reservation. The plan was to attack simultaneously from three sides. However, Lieutenant Colonel George Custer, who led one body of troops, thought he had enough men to defeat the Indians alone. He divided his troops into thirds and attacked.

The Indians greatly outnumbered Custer, and defeated each group in turn, killing Custer and more than others.

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The loss so outraged the government that it mounted a new offensive that finally crushed armed Lakota resistance. I n and , the army recruited six regiments of African Americans for regular service, about 6, men. Organized as four infantry and two cavalry regiments, they participated in many actions against Indians. Because of their thick curly hair and fighting spirit, the Indians called them buffalo soldiers. Geronimo and his band of Chiricahua Apache fought government domination longer than any other group of Indians.

In the s, the United States forcibly moved the Chiricahua to an arid reservation in eastern Arizona.

Geronimo resisted at first, but was caught and seemingly became resigned to reservation life. In , however, he and his band escaped and began raiding settlements in the United States and Mexico.

Plains Indians Wars

Until his final surrender in , Geronimo would at times agree to stay on the reservation, and then flee with marauding warriors. He became infamous in sensational press reports. In the final campaign against him, the army needed Apache scouts plus more than 5, soldiers to hunt him down.


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  4. Having lost many members to European diseases, the Iroquois waged mourning wars in a desperate effort to maintain their populations; meanwhile, having hunted out the local beaver supply, they expanded their hunting grounds, creating conflict with neighboring groups. The attendant warfare led to further depopulation, and, in a dangerous cycle, escalated mourning wars.

    Beginning in the s, wars among the Eastern Woodland Indians became entangled with the European wars for control of the continent and the Atlantic trade.

    The Last Battle of the American Indian Wars

    Incentives for Indians in these wars were both economic and demographic. Indians used European allies to further their interests in wars for captives and control of economic resources. Indian rebellions against colonial domination also tended to become wars among Indian groups. These actions reflected old rivalries among New England's Indians, as well as the view of some who preferred a strategy of accommodation toward the English over violent resistance. Similarly, in the Yamasee War , Cherokees seeking English trade goods helped white Carolinians suppress the Yamasee and Creek Indians who resisted European military encroachments.

    Wars on the Plains and in the Southwest differed from those in the Eastern Woodlands in that these primarily broke out between peoples pursuing two distinct lifestyles—nomadic and horticulturist. While such groups often forged symbiotic relationships, e.

    The arrival of Europeans and the spread of the horse heightened distinctions between nomads and villagers. Most horticulturists, like the Pueblos, Pawnees, Navajos, Omahas, and Arikaras, remained sedentary once they acquired the horse; but others, such as the Cheyennes and Crows, abandoned horticulture for nomadism. Yet other groups, such as the Lakota Sioux and Blackfeet, moved onto the Plains from the east to take advantage of the buffalo supply and became nomads in the process.

    Those Plains and southwestern groups that had practiced nomadism before European contact usually continued after the arrival of the horse. The horse enabled nomads to hunt more efficiently, but did not end their reliance on agricultural peoples for many goods; trade between nomads and villagers became rarer, however, as raids largely supplanted trading as a means of procuring agricultural products. The development of horse culture shifted the military balance of power on the Plains in favor of nomads.

    The Comanches came to dominate the southern Plains in the first half of the eighteenth century at the expense of Pueblos, Plains Apaches, and Navajos. Early in the eighteenth century, for example, the Navajos lived north of Santa Fe; pressures from northern raiders gradually drove them westward, until by they inhabited what is now Arizona and western New Mexico.

    In the second half of the eighteenth century, the Lakota Sioux did to northern and central Plains Indians what the Comanches had done to the Navajos. Originally residents of the Eastern Woodlands, the Sioux became the dominant power of the northern and central Plains through their willingness to use the horse as a tool of conquest against the horticulturists of the upper Missouri River.

    The rise of the Lakota Sioux at the expense of sedentary tribes explains why the latter behaved as they did after the arrival of the United States on the Plains in the s. Horticultural groups saw a greater threat in the expanding Lakota Sioux than the United States.

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    Indian Wars, Battles & Massacres Across America – Legends of America

    They felt that a military alliance with the United States against the Lakota Sioux offered their best hope for survival. Thomas D. Hall, Social Change in the Southwest, — , During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, European powers established military presences in North America from which they could make and defend claims—by right of discovery, settlement, or conquest—to vast portions of a continent already inhabited by Indians. In response, many Native Americans waged wars to resist European colonial domination. In the seventeenth century, the Powhatan Confederacy threatened the existence of the Virginia Colony with attacks in and Four decades after their devastation of the Pequots in the Pequot War —37 ; New England colonists faced a massive uprising among the Algonquians living within their borders in King Philip's War — In the eighteenth century, colonists in Virginia and the Carolinas forcibly acquired land from Tuscaroras, Yamasees, and Cherokees, while the French put down the armed resistance of the Natchez, Chickasaw, and Fox.

    With the French defeat in the French and Indian War —63 , Indians west of the Appalachians found their survival threatened because they could no longer play off the French against the English. Aware that the presence of only one European power in their vicinity meant that the old trade system had broken down, in the Ottawa Chief Pontiac rallied many groups formerly allied with the French in an effort to oust the English from the Ohio Valley. The English government tried to achieve peace in by a royal proclamation separating Indians and English settlers at the crest of the Appalachian Mountains.

    Throughout the colonial era, European imperial rivalries overlaid warfare between Europeans and Native Americans. In the French and Indian War, the French and their mostly Algonquian allies initially made impressive strides toward controlling the Ohio Valley, beginning with Braddock's Defeat , only to be overcome by the more numerous English and their Iroquoian supporters.

    Indians fought as European allies in these wars to advance their own perceived interests in acquiring weapons and other trade goods and captives for adoption, status, or revenge. Until the end of the French and Indian War, Indians succeeded in using these imperial contests to preserve their freedom of action. In the late s, Shawnees and other Indians launched attacks that swept across Indiana, Ohio, and western Pennsylvania, and soundly defeated contingents of the U.

    It took until for U. Following their defeat in and the Treaty of Greenville , the Indian land base continued to shrink until , when the Shawnee brothers Tecumseh and Tenskwatawa fostered a message of Indian unity and nativism among the tribes of the Old Northwest. Tensions in the region climaxed when Indians capitalized on the War of between the United States and England to wage their own war.

    The Indian Wars and Federal Peace Policies

    Despite several initial battlefield victories, these Indian efforts failed to do more than briefly delay the completion of American dominion in the Old Northwest. A final Indian attempt failed in the Black Hawk War To the south, diverse Creek leaders united to challenge white encroachment. Although some Creeks advocated accommodation, their voices went unheard as whites from Georgia, Alabama, Kentucky, and Tennessee, the last under the leadership of Andrew Jackson, sought land and retribution for alleged Creek atrocities.

    The Cherokees were driven west in the Trail of Tears — Most of the Florida Indians were conquered and forced west in the Seminole Wars ; —42; — Peace, interrupted by only periodic armed resistance to removal policies, lasted until the end of the Mexican War in After that conflict, the U. The populous yet atomized Indians of California faced local posses and militias rather than federal troops. Between and , war, disease, and starvation reduced the population of California Indians from , to 35, When prospectors found gold in the Pacific Northwest, warfare erupted in that region.

    The U. Army engaged in the Rogue River —56 , Yakima —56 , and Spokane Wars to force a number of tribes onto reservations in the eastern portions of Oregon and Washington. From this advantageous position, 60 Modoc warriors held off 1, federal troops for seven months in When the Modoc finally surrendered, the United States executed four of their leaders and sent the remainder to the Indian Territory. Initially, the United States sought to protect the overland trails leading to the West Coast from possible Indian attacks. While these attacks were minimal in the s, Indians felt the presence of the migrants early as they brought disease and depleted game along the routes.

    Such repercussions escalated tensions. The Treaty of Fort Laramie, sponsored by the United States in , sought to preserve peace on the plains by restricting tribes to designated lands. Yet fighting erupted as the parties largely ignored the treaty's terms and American migration continued to have detrimental effects on the buffalo herds on which Plains Indians relied for subsistence. Although Americans' westward migration temporarily abated during the Civil War , tensions between Indians and settlers remained high.

    In Minnesota, groups of Eastern Sioux raided American settlements in , only to face retaliation from American troops who pushed many of them onto the plains. These Sioux faced relatively disciplined American troops and fared much better than the Cheyennes and Arapahos did at the hands of a volunteer Colorado militia. Hoping to make a preemptive strike, John Chivington led volunteers from Denver in the slaughter of most of Black Kettle's Cheyenne band, together with some southern Arapahos near Sand Creek—a location in southeastern Colorado where the U.

    In the Plains Indians Wars —90 , U. In the end, U. Nevertheless, Plains Indians mounted a spirited resistance. In , the Sioux received U.

    Plains Indian Wars (America at War) Plains Indian Wars (America at War)
    Plains Indian Wars (America at War) Plains Indian Wars (America at War)
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