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Samantha Vanderhorst

HST 122
Dr. Ellis
March 7th, 2017

Manifest Destiny Post-Civil War West

While it may seem like Americans got what they wanted from the West with assimilation

and manifest destiny, there is a deeper narrative to it. Manifest destiny, as Senator Thomas Hart

Benton said in 1846, was that, the White race alone received the divine command, to subdue and

replenish the earth and that the Indians must face civilization, or extinction (Congressional

Globe). Matthew Baigell shows how prevalent the idea of manifest destiny was in his article called,

Territory, Race and Religion. He explains that in the art work form the 1850s-1900s, the

economic, territorial, political, and religious aspects of Manifest Destiny are laid out as plainly as

they can be, as can be seen in pieces such as American Progress, Osage Scalp Dance and

Progress (Baigell 18). As a part of manifest destiny, Americans tried to use schooling as a way to

assimilate the Indians into white and Christian culture, as shown in Thomas G. Andrews article

called Turning the Tables on Assimilation: Oglala Lakotas and the Pine Ridge Day Schools, 1889-

1920s, however this did not happen. How were the Natives able to push back against manifest

destiny and Assimilation, while being forced to be educated by Americans with middle-class,

white, Christian values? Andrew clearly states that while the schools were created to assimilate

the Native Americans into American culture, the Oglalas managed to blunt the blow of

assimilationist education, and that the people of Pine Ridge were able to turn these day schools

into tools of individual and collective survival (Andrews 408). Throughout this essay, I will

explain what manifest destiny and assimilation are, with the help of Baigells article, and will that

prove that white people did not defeat the Indians by showing and explaining the evidence from

Andrews article.

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Samantha Vanderhorst
HST 122
Dr. Ellis
March 7th, 2017

Manifest destiny, coined in 1845 by John L. O Sullivan aimed to completely rid the west

of Native Americans because white people had, the right of manifest destiny to overspread and

to possess that whole continent which province has given us for the development of the great

experiment of liberty and self government (Lehman 10). Sullivan believed we have the right to

take over all the lands because white people were Gods chosen people and therefore had claims

that transcended laws, customs, or other peoples rights (Baigell 7). Also at the time, the US had

the largest population on record, so people they believed they had a divine command to keep

expanding. This divine command is mentioned in Senator Thomas Hart Bentons address in the

Congressional Globe, in 1846. He exclaimed that Manifest Destiny was subd[ing] and

replenish[ing] and that Americans had to the right to expand their culture all around the world;

the sun of civilization must shine across the sea (Congressional Globe). All of this belief in

manifest destiny is captured in many pieces of art work and writings at the time.

These pieces capture the attitudes of peoples belief in manifest destiny, where white

people seeing as being superior and of a higher power. In John Gasts painting in 1872, called

American Progress, he highlights the divine command of manifest destiny by showing an

angelic woman walking through the land, carrying a telegraph line and a book, showing how she

is bringing American culture with her, and as she moves she brings the light with her. The Indians

in the land are looking up to her and joining her in her journey to promote American Progress.

This piece is portraying Americans takeover of the west as angelic like, guiding the Indians with

them into their culture, bringing light and prosperity with them. Another example that captures

manifest destiny is of the Osage Scalp Dance from 1845, showing an innocent woman with her

child surrounded by Native Americans who appear as savages (Baigell 18). Indians many times in

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Samantha Vanderhorst
HST 122
Dr. Ellis
March 7th, 2017

these pieces were seen as sadistic tortures and killers (Bagiell 5). These paintings desensitized

people to the Indians and their culture because they were always painted in a negative light,

however, it did help to show the obvious racism at the time. Asher B. Durands piece of a landscape

called Progress, painted in 1853, portrays the relation of manifest destiny to Genesis 1:28, which

was to subdue the lands, justifying that Americans should legally own and be able to use all of the

lands. In the piece the Indians are simply watching the Americans make progress in the land

because of their intelligence and determination, portraying the Indians as useless and in the way.

All of these paintings were created on, the assumption that whites were entitled to western lands,

that white settlement was inevitable (Bagiell 5). The manifest destiny displayed in these pieces

explained how Americans had no problem taking the Native Americans lands because they

believed God had given them the divine command, and it explains how white people turned to


Assimilation of Native Americans was an attempt to make Indians adopt to American

culture. This culture consisted of white, middle-class, Christian values and Indians were taught

these values through farming, religion and education. Commissioner of Indians Affairs TJ Morgan

said in 1889 the Indians need to be freed from tribalism because it was going to lead them to,

either to destruction or to hopeless degradation (Andrews 409). In order to save individuals,

assimilations focused on allotment and education. By creating the Dawes Act of 1887,

assimilationists hoped to move Natives away from ownership of communal lands and towards

privately owned lands with agriculture. They also hoped that allotment would help assimilate

Indians into the nations economy, while learning to adapt to American culture through education.

Originally, when the first Indians schools were created in the 1600s, Christian missionaries were

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Samantha Vanderhorst
HST 122
Dr. Ellis
March 7th, 2017

in charge. After the Civil War, the government took up the responsibility for educating the Indians,

building them many schools. When reservations were developed in the 1850s and 1860s, it created

an easy way to control and contain the Natives. By keeping them in one place they, the

assimilationists could have an easy time forcing them to become educated and could keep them

off the frontier.

Through education, the assimilationists hoped that the Natives would abandon their values,

essentially turning them into white people. Education was very important to assimilation, many

reformers saw education as the human alternative to extinction, and that the only difference

between Americans was not biological but cultural (Lehman 141). As Richard Henry believed,

the key to saving the Natives was to change the environment of Indian children by removing them

from their culture at an early age, so by forcing children to learn these American values so young,

they would take up these values instead of being taught what their parents had learned (Lehman

141). These values that Morgan stressed was that the education for schools should be, fairly

saturated with moral ideas, fear of God and respect for the rights of other; love of truth and fidelity

of duty; personal purity, philanthropy, and patriotism (Andrews 410). Assimilationists hoped to

replace Native languages with English because these languages were the, symbolic forms Indians

used to conceptualize and communicate their ideas of the physical, social, and, spiritual realm, so

by destroying tribal language, assimilationists thought that in turn it would destroy their culture

(Andrews 411). After learning English, the Indians could then learn trades such as printing,

machining and most importantly agriculture. The assimilationists hoped that if the Natives took up

agriculture they would stop hunting. The assimilationists were sure that that this program of moral

indoctrination, linguistic instruction and manual training would turn Indians into Americans

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Samantha Vanderhorst
HST 122
Dr. Ellis
March 7th, 2017

(Andrews 411). However, the assimilationists hope for Indians to adapt to these ideals did not

happen, and through education, the Natives were able to take advantage of it, preserving their


One can see how assimilation failed at the Pine Ridge Day Schools from the 1889s- 1920s.

This school, provides an illuminating counterpoint to the better-known tale of deculturation,

abuse, and resistance at residential institutions during the assimilation era (Andrews 408). This

school system created by policymakers, bureaucrats, and philanthropists, hoped to save Indians

from extinction, by getting rid of their culture and turning Indians towards what the assimilationists

believed in, which was Protestant Christianity, Anglo- Saxon civility and the republic virtue. This

was not what the Native Americans had in mind however, in 1889, Oglala leaders argued that

children educated in American schools would serve as the tribes best defense against the

misunderstandings and errors of translation that have plagued the tribe in previous negotiations

with the United States, they could protect the tribes next generation by becoming educated

(Andrews 416).

The Oglalas hoped that education would give their children the best of both world, by

blending new skills they learned from the white people with their culture, which is not what

assimilationists hoped for. The assimilationists did not intend for Indians to be teaching the

students, but in some cases, for example with Three Stars this is what happened. He believed that

by incorporating some of what they learned from the assimilationists into their culture, it would

ensure the Oglalas individual and collective survival (Andrews 422). He was able to teach them

English, better than many other teachers, by using old Lakota traditions, such as games, which

helped to bridge Lakota and the English language together for children, and with this imagined a

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HST 122
Dr. Ellis
March 7th, 2017

bilingual future. The Natives on Pine Ridge were also supposed to learn how to farm, but they

couldnt do to the poor soil and very unpredictable climate. This allowed them to garden instead

of farm, teaching them more skills for survival. They used gardening as a way to grow more food,

providing them with lots of nourishment (Andrews 427). Additionally, schools helped to

strengthen community bonds, allowing tiyopaye or fortified bands to stay in tact. It also lessened

the burden of children for parents by feeding, clothing and caring for them (Andrews 428). The

Native Americans were also able to form alliances with teachers, who could help them with the

medical, legal and bureaucratic difficulties reservation life presented (Andrews 429). The

assimilationists assumed that the Indians would leave their ties, however all it did was allow them

to resist assimilation by blending the two cultures and giving the Indians a way to record their


Through looking at the Pine Ridge Day Schools, one can see how the Natives resisted the

ideals of assimilation and manifest destiny by taking advantage of the school system as a way of

preservation. With manifest destiny, white people hoped to claim all of the west as a divine

command and with the help of assimilate, people thought they could achieve their goal of taking

over the lands and getting rid of the Natives. Through education, however, the Natives held,

preserving their culture. By learning English they could record stories of their pasts and better

understand American policies. By learning techniques such as how to garden, it provided them

with new food sources, and by attending school it strengthened the ties between children and

created alliances between the teachers and natives. The Indians, to this day, show that by taking

advantage of education, they were effective at keeping their culture, as one can see online, many

tribes are still around today. For example, the Rosebud Sioux, who are located right next to Pine

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Samantha Vanderhorst
HST 122
Dr. Ellis
March 7th, 2017

Ridge, are still a tribe alive and well in South Dakota. They have their own very detailed website.

The opening page has tabs with the options on how to enroll, job opportunities, tribal councils,

sports and committees such as the police or health committees. There is a video of the tribal

meeting and descriptions of the tribe president, vice-president, treasurer and secretary. By looking

at this website one can see how well developed they still are as a culture and that assimilation did

not destroy them, as the assimilationists had hoped for. The Rosebud Siouxs website is only one

of the many tribal websites around, which all have their own structure and policies. The obvious

proof that Indians still around today with their own, distinct culture makes it evident that manifest

destiny and assimilation failed.

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Samantha Vanderhorst
HST 122
Dr. Ellis
March 7th, 2017

Work Cited

Andrews, Thomas G. Turning the Tables on Assimilation: Oglala Lakotas and the Pine Ridge

Day Schools, 1889-1920s. The Western Historical Quarterly, vol. 33, no. 4, 2002, pp. 407


Lehman, T. (2010). Bloodshed at Little Bighorn: Sitting Bull, Custer, and the destinies of

nations. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Gast, J. (1872). American Progress [Painting].

Senator Thomas Hart Benton on Manifest Destiny (1846). (917-18). Congressional Globe.

"Welcome Page." Welcome Page. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Mar. 2017.


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