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Chris Rogers
Professor Rioux
US History 1302
12 December 2014
Chapter 17 Discussion
The Contested West
There were many developmental changes in the West during the early periods of 18651900. It defined an era of vast territorial advancement, even to the disadvantage of minority
races, such as the Native Americans, or known as the Indians. “The West was neither free nor
open. The story of the country was a story of fierce and violent contest for land and resources.”
(Page 491) After the Civil War, there was a level of fierce opposition to people already
occupying the West, such as the Indians, African-Americans, Hispanics, and Asian-Americans.
The most appalling case of discrimination was towards the Indians. It was forced upon
them to leave their lands, which rightfully belonged to them, and to try to inhibit white culture.
“With plenty of land open in the West, the army removed eastern tribes – often against their will
– to territory west of the Mississippi.” (Page 493) When that wasn’t enough, there was
compromising which led to “reservations”. (Page 493) These compromises didn’t always work
out because the Indians didn’t always want to leave their territory so the whites drove them out.
However, this wasn’t done through military force but through strategic means such as killing off
their food supply. “With their food supply gone, Indians had to choose between starvation and
reservation.” (Page 495) Ultimately, through this, it led to the forced relocation of Indians and

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the destruction of their society. As before noted, with them leaving their lands, it was brought
upon them to change their ways to that of the white man. “Issued stiff new uniforms, shoes, and
what one boy recalled as the “torture” of woolen long underwear, the children often lost not only
their possessions but also their names: Hekakaavita (Yellow Oak) became Thomas Goldwood.”
(Page 499)
African-Americans faced hatred in the West. There was a mentality that it was supposed
to be for “whites only”. (Page 506) Similar to the Indians, they kept to themselves in reserved
places. However, in difference, they had choice and wasn’t directed to live in certain areas. “In
response, they formed all-black communities such as Nicodemas, Kansas.” (Page 506) Often,
they worked as settlers.
Hispanics had occupied Texas and the Southwest since 1598. They welcomed white rule
as they thought of it as “economic opportunity – new markets for their livestock and buyers for
their lands.” (Page 507) However, they were greatly discouraged after they experienced racial
prejudice. Californios, Mexican residents of California, often were the butt of this nature. Whites
would illegally squad over their land. Even though they would take this to court, they eventually
gave up. It took too long, often seventeen years, to have a result while they still had financial
burdens to work out. “Whites illegally squatted on rancho land while protracted litigation over
Spanish and Mexican land grants forced the Californios into court... it took so long – seventeen
years on average.” (Page 507) Greatly discouraged, they often left their residents and were
segregated into impoverished urban areas. There were countless skirmishes over land rights
between the whites and themselves. “Skirmishes between Hispanics and whites in northern New
Mexico over the fencing of the open range lasted for decades.” (Page 507)

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Lastly, Asian-Americans, often Chinese, faced brutality in the face of their employer.
They were drawn to America by the promise of gold. However, the whites were determined to
keep “California for Americans”. They passed prohibitive foreign license laws to keep them out
of the mines. That didn’t stop them though. Even though they weren’t able to do what they came
for, they took jobs that the whites abandoned after they moved on. These jobs were often railroad
laborers, cooks, servants, and farmhands. “But Chinese immigration continued. In the 1860s,
when white workers moved on to find riches in the bonanza mines of Nevada, Chinese laborers
took jobs abandoned by the whites.” (Page 507) Often, they were a scapegoat to blame for when
things turned sour. This was because the whites felt threatened by them, perhaps by jealously.
“In the 1870s, when California and the rest of the nation weathered a major economic
depression, the Chinese became easy scapegoats.” (Page 508) Due to this, Congress passed the
Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882 which effectively limited Chinese immigration. (Page 508)
In conclusion, The Contested West was a racial stain on this nation. Whites exploited the
land which belonged to the Indians, corrupted their society, and racial tensions, beyond that of
Indians, were flamed on. While there was much progress in terms of civilization and the
expansion of it, it under shadows the negative impact that was brought upon many people that
weren’t of the white majority. After the Civil War, there was a level of fierce opposition to
people already occupying the West, such as the Indians, African-Americans, Hispanics, and
Asian-Americans.

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Works Cited
Roark, James L. The American Promise: A History of the United States. Boston: Bedford/St.
Martin's, 2002. Print.