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American West GCSE History Revision

All notes taken from BBC Bitesize website which you can download directly from the BBC website.

BBC Bitesize Notes

The development of cattle ranching


Cowboys and cattle ranchers were the first group of European settlers to move permanently onto the Great Plains. They did so, to a degree, by adopting or copying many of the ways of the Native Americans. So why and how did cattle ranching develop on the Great Plains?

BBC Bitesize Notes

Cattle ranching - a brief history

1820-1865: Origins in Texas


Ranching first started in Texas, with ranches mostly manned by Mexican cowboys called vaqueros. In 1836 Texan ranchers drove many Mexicans out, and claimed the cattle left behind. The Civil War started in 1861, and Texans went off to fight. The cattle roamed free as huge herds grew up. On returning home, the Texans started rounding them up and driving them to sell in places such as New Orleans and California.

BBC Bitesize Notes

1865-1870: The 'long drives' & first 'open range' ranch


Great demand for beef in the north of the USA, the Texans drove their cattle north on a long drive to Sedalia in Missouri, where they were loaded onto trains for Chicago. Two Texas ranchers, Charles Goodnight and Oliver Loving, pioneered a second trail, to Denver in Colorado, where they sold their cattle to gold miners. In 1868, a rancher named John Iliff (the 'cattleking of the northern plains') won the contract to supply beef to the Sioux, who had been forced onto a reservation in the Black Hills. A safer drive (the Chisholm Trail) was established to Abilene. This was set up by Joseph McCoy as a 'cow-town', with railroad stockyards (and numerous saloons where the cowboys could spend their wages). John Iliff was the first rancher to set up an 'open range' ranch - in Wyoming in 1867.
BBC Bitesize Notes

1870-1885: The 'open range'


There were huge areas of 'open range' - unfenced land which was free for anyone to use. Charles Goodnight is reputed to have invented the crazy quilt (by buying small patches of land here and there over an area, he could effectively control all of it). Refrigeration cars on trains opened a world-wide market for beef. By 1885, just 35 cattle-barons owned 8 million hectares of range, and owned perhaps 1.5 million cattle.

BBC Bitesize Notes

1885-1890: The end of the 'open range'

Ranchers had over-grazed the plains. Overstocking had also led to a fall in prices. In spring 1886 there was a drought, followed by a scorching hot summer (up to 43C). This was followed by a winter storm in January 1887, in which the temperature dropped to -43C. Half the cattle on the plains died in a single year. More and more homesteaders were coming onto the plains, and fencing off their farms with barbed wire (patented in 1874).

BBC Bitesize Notes

Practice Question - 'The railroads were the critical factor in the development of cattle ranching. Discuss
List all the ways the railroads affected the development of cattle ranching. Think about the arguments and facts you would use to describe: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. Why cattle ranching developed in Texas? How and why cattle ranching spread from Texas further into the Great Plains? Who the cattle pioneers were? Why cattle trails and 'cow towns' were set up in the 1860s? How cattle ranching was affected by the railroads? Why the 'open range' had come to an end by the 1890s?

BBC Bitesize Notes

Suggested answers
The railroads affect the development of cattle ranching

In 1865-1870 beef was transported north on the railroad from Sedalia, causing the opening up of Chicago and the other northern markets. The long drives were developed solely to get the cattle to the railroads. The development of 'cow-towns' such as Abilene were to allow the safe loading of cattle onto the railroads. In 1870-1885, refrigeration cars on trains opened a world-wide market for beef. After 1885 many homesteaders, who eventually destroyed ranching, were brought to the West on the railroads.
BBC Bitesize Notes

Why cattle ranching developed on the Great Plains?


Vast fortunes were made for a while out of cattle ranching on the Great Plains.
The industry was based on a combination of factors that made it highly profitable, though unfortunately for the cattle barons the bonanza did not last for ever.
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Key factors in the development of the cattle industry


The underlying factor in the development of cattle ranching was the free availability of three crucial natural products: wild cattle wild horses grass
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These factors, together with a huge and growing market for beef in the north, meant that ranching became a good way to make a living. For ranching to work, several things had to be in place. The railroads were a critical factor in the development of cattle ranching - without them the cattle would not have reached the marketplace. The long drives (which took the cattle to the railroads), cow-towns and stockyards (where the cattle were loaded onto the trains) were also all vital in getting the product to market.

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Cowboys
The cowboys were another essential ingredient - without their skills nothing, particularly the long drives, would have been possible.
Engraving by GH Delorme, 1892, showing Abilene cattle trail from Texas, on the way to markets in the north
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Other factors added weight to the basic elements


Range rights and the invention of crazy quilt allowed ranchers to acquire huge areas of land very cheaply. Skilful breeding (the development of heavier cattle, which were still tough enough to survive on the plains) increased the ranchers' profits. Also important for profits was the defeat of the rustlers and the Indians (which allowed ranchers to trade unhindered). Finally there was publicity - which encouraged people to take up cattle ranching.
BBC Bitesize Notes

Charles Goodnight
Charles Goodnight had a huge effect on the history of cattle ranching: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. He was one of the original Texas ranchers, starting as a rancher in 1856. He was the first to recognise and exploit the huge and growing market for beef in the mining towns of Wyoming. He pioneered the 'long drive' (the Goodnight-Loving Trail). He helped to develop the cowboys' skills on the long drives. Range rights: Goodnight is reputed to have invented the technique he called the crazy quilt. By crossing the Texas Longhorn with British Herefords, Goodnight was able to breed heavier cattle, which were still tough enough to survive on the plains. He made a truce with a famous local rustler, 'Dutch Henry', then helped to form the Panhandle Stock Association, which drove out rustlers (especially Billy the Kid, who was killed in 1881). James Brisbin's book about Goodnight - 'How to Get Rich on the Plains' encouraged many other people to take up cattle ranching.
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8.

Revision preparation Identify eight factors that helped cattle ranching develop on the plains.

Think about the arguments and facts you would use to explain:
1. 2. 3. Why cattle ranching developed in Texas. How cattle ranching was affected by the railroads. Whether the railroads or Charles Goodnight had the greater impact on the development of cattle ranching.

BBC Bitesize Notes

Suggested answers
Eight factors that helped cattle ranching develop include: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. three essential natural products for the task a growing market 'long drives' and 'cow-towns' cowboys range rights skilful cattle breeding the defeat of rustlers Charles Goodnight
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Who were the cowboys?


When cattle ranching declined in importance, many cowboys ended up working as extras on cowboy films! Hollywood films, cowboy novels and, later, TV programmes such as 'Bonanza', glamorised the cowboys, and made them seem like heroes. Was this a true reflection of genuine cowboys?
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The real cowboys


The Hollywood image of cowboys was not realistic. Many real cowboys were black ex-slaves, whereas the Hollywood heroes were always white. Also, after the hardships of the long drive, it seems unlikely that many genuine cowboys were specially goodlooking! They were, however, highly skilled. They could ride, shoot, lasso, wrangle, round up, herd, cross rivers, 'turn' stampedes, scout, keep watch and drive off rustlers - all in rain, hail and burning sun.
Nat Love, African American cowboy, c.1876
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Life as a cowboy
The life of a cowboy followed the seasons: In winter they hung round the ranch, or lived in 'line camps', taking daily rides to stop the cattle 'drifting' onto the open plain. In spring, they went 'bog-riding' to haul out 'mired' cows, and then went on the 'round-up'. In summer, they went on the trail drives to market.
BBC Bitesize Notes

Cowboys' lives were similar in many ways to the lives of Native Americans:
They were entirely dependent on the natural products of the Great Plains. They moved around (though the cowboys were herding cattle, whereas the Native Americans were following the buffalo). They cared for the cattle (eg by bog-riding and from line-camps) in a way similar to the way Native American dog-soldiers cared for the buffalo. Their food and clothing was derived from cattle (beef and leather). The round-up was a collective, community event similar in many ways to a buffalo hunt. Cowboys developed a system of long-range signals, such as waving a hat, in much the same way as the Native Americans used smoke signals.
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Real life cowboys had to endure numerous hardships:


1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. freezing winter cold in the line camps danger of being trampled (especially in a stampede) danger of drowning (crossing rivers) rain, hail and burning sun on the long drive having to stay awake all night on guard duty on the long drive having to ride 'drag' on the long drive (dust from the herd) attacks from Native American warriors on the long drive attacks from rustlers
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7.
8.

The Homesteaders - Moving to the Great Plains


Setting up home on the Plains was not an easy option for those considering a new start in life in the middle of the 19th century. But there were many desperate (or adventurous) people prepared to overlook the difficulties.

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Who settled the Great Plains?


Before 1860, few people moved west to try to settle on the Great Plains. The poor soil and harsh climate discouraged them (along with the fact that the Plains were officially 'Indian territory'), land was expensive to buy, and anybody wanting to go west faced a long, dangerous and uncomfortable journey. After 1865, thousands of settlers moved onto the Plains.
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Who settled on the Plains? continued


Freed slaves went there to start a new life as freemen, or to escape economic problems after the Civil War. European immigrants flooded onto the Great Plains, seeking political or religious freedom, or simply to escape poverty in their own country. Younger sons from the eastern seaboard - where the population was growing and land was becoming more expensive - went because it was a chance to own their own land. They were followed by other Americans - such as tradesmen and government officials - who hoped to make their living from the farmers who had moved onto the Plains.
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Factors encouraging people to go West


1. The Homestead Act, 1862 This allowed homesteaders to claim 160 acres of land free if they lived and worked on it for five years. The prospect of free land was very attractive to people who could never have afforded a farm back home. Railroads In order to encourage the railroad companies to build the transcontinental railways, the government gave them a two-mile stretch of land either side of the railroad - part of the companies' profit came from selling this land. Therefore they launched a massive sales campaign, offering a 'settlement package', which included: a safe, cheap and speedy journey west temporary accommodation in 'hotels' until the families had built their own home other attractions such as schools, churches and no taxes for five years
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2.

Factors continued ..
3. Manifest destiny The idea grew up that white Americans were superior, and that it was America's manifest destiny (obvious fate) to expand and encourage 'the American way of life' on the Great Plains. The writer Horace Greeley, who popularised this idea, advised Americans: 'Go West, young man'. Tall tales Once the population of an area reached 60,000, it could apply to become a state of the USA. Local governments therefore encouraged publicity campaigns which claimed (for example) that farmers in the west could grow pumpkins as big as barns and maize as tall as telegraph poles. Many people moved west thinking they would make a fortune

4.

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Myth of the Great Plains


Henry Worrall was a Kansas vine-grower and artist, who painted this picture to contradict claims that Kansas was a place of drought. This painting shows farmers harvesting huge grapes, melons, maize, pumpkins and parsnips. It was used in railroad company pamphlets and became 'the biggest single advertisement Kansas had ever had.
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Revision preparation Make spidergrams to show the four reasons people did not settle on the Plains before 1865, four kinds of person who went to live on the Plains after 1865 and four factors encouraging people onto the Plains
As part of your revision, think about the arguments and facts you would use to explain:
1. Why people settled and stayed in the West. 2. Why people moved west to become homesteaders in the late 1860s and 1870s. 3. Which of the following was the most important factor in opening up the West: the railroad and the railroad companies, federal and state government actions, the belief in 'manifest destiny' and the hopes and aspirations of the settlers, the Homestead Act of 1862.
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Homesteaders' problems
Life was very tough for early settlers and homesteaders on the Great Plains - how did they cope with the harsh conditions?

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Problems and solutions


Early settlers and homesteader on the Plains faced huge problems. The burden of many of these fell on the women, whose lives were burdensome and Unpleasant.

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Homesteaders: Problems and Solutions

Building a house
There was little wood to build log cabins. Settlers built 'sod houses', while they lived out of doors people did their cooking on an open fire.

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Homesteaders: Problems and Solutions

Dirt and disease


Outdoor toilets and open wells. The sod houses leaked, and fleas and bedbugs lived in them 'by the million'. It was impossible to disinfect the floor. As a result the death rate, especially from diphtheria, was high. A 'good thick coat of whitewash' killed bedbugs. 'A layer of clay' stopped leaks. Homesteaders eventually built more modern houses.

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Homesteaders: Problems and Solutions

Housework
There was no wood for fuel, and no shops to buy items such as candles and soap. A typical household had only two buckets, some crockery and one cracked cup. There was no water and little food.
A travelling shoe-maker or tinker might pass through who would provide or mend household items, but usually families just had to make do. The women collected 'buffalo chips' for fuel, stoked the stove, and made their own candles and soap. 'I have often wondered how my mother stood it', wrote an early settler.

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Homesteaders: Problems and Solutions

Isolation
No doctors or midwives. No social life 'because of the distances between farmhouses'. In the winter families were shut in 'and longed for spring'. People had to make the most of any trip to their nearest town, where the women talked of the harvest and the men smoked corncob pipes and talked politics.

BBC Bitesize Notes

Homesteaders: Problems and Solutions

Law and order


Local government was non-existent, and some early lawmen (such as Henry Plummer) were worse than the bandits.
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Law courts and sheriffs such as Wyatt Earp slowly established law and order.

Answer preparation As part of your revision, think about the arguments and facts you would use to explain:

1. What life was like for the early homesteaders? 2. What problems faced the homesteaders, and how they overcame them? 3. What life was like for women in the early homesteads?
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Farmers' problems in the West


Life on the Plains was really tough for the first European farmers there. But they were determined to survive, and found ingenious answers to many of the problems that faced them.

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Farmers - Problems and solutions

Farming
A hard crust on the soil made it hard to start farming. Farmers could not afford a plough or machines. There were not enough workers. Teams of 'sodbusters' using steel ploughs did the first ploughing.
After 1880, thresher teams travelled around following the harvest. Farmers could hire them for just a few days.

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Farmers Problems and solutions

Drought
There was only 38cm of rainfall in a year, and the hot summers evaporated dampness from the land. In the 1860s there were terrible droughts, followed by fires.
The well driller and windpump allowed deep wells to be dug, which gave water. New methods of dry farming were invented (the 'Turkey Red' variety of wheat was imported from Russia, and farmers put a layer of dust on the soil after rain,
which stopped evaporation).

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Farmers Problems and solutions

Food
Farmers could not grow enough on their farms to feed a family.
The government realised that 160 acres was not enough to sustain people. The Timber Culture Act of 1873 gave farmers another 160 free acres if they grew some trees.

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Farmers - Problems and Solutions

Fences
Lack of wood for fencing meant farmers could not keep cattle off their crops. This led to trouble with the cattlemen. Barbed wire (patented by Joseph Glidden in 1874) solved the problem of fencing.

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Farmers Problems and Solutions

Insect pests
In the 1870s, grasshopper plagues stripped the cornstalks naked as beanpoles' and sent pregnant women insane. Colorado beetle destroyed potato crops. Settlers tried to harvest the crops before the grasshoppers came. They tried to kill them, but gave up, 'weary and dispirited'.
The government raised relief funds. Modern insecticides solved this problem.

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Farmers Problems and Solutions

Law and Order


Rival settlers - Bandits - Renegade Native Americans - Vigilante cattlemen Law courts and sheriffs such as Wyatt Earp slowly established law and order

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Source analysis and answer preparation


See how many problems you can spot facing the homesteader in Source A. Relate each of the problems in the source to the problems.
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Answer preparation Think about the arguments and facts you would use to explain:

1. Why farmers were able to settle on the Great Plains. 2. How homesteaders reacted to the many problems facing them on the Plains. 3. What life was like for the first farmers on the Plains. 4. How important the Timber Culture Act of 1873 was, in helping homesteaders to settle on the Plains.
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Suggested answers
farmers struggling to use hoes and pick axes (problem 1: farming on hard soil) sun and sparse vegetation (problem 2: drought) no trees (problem 3: food) few fences (problem 4: fences) Colorado beetle (problem 5: insect pests) grasshoppers (problem 5: insect pests) Native Americans (problem 6: law and order) bandits (problemBBC 6:Bitesize lawNotes and order)

Problems of law and order


The first settlers of the American West had to be extremely tough to survive, so law and order was a rough and ready business in the newly settled territories.

Things started to improve as more people arrived, and federal territories became fully fledged American states.
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Federal territory
At first, newly-occupied land on the Plains was federal territory (it belonged to the US government) and was administered by a governor, three judges and a US marshal. When the area reached a population of 5,000, it became a territory, with - in addition - locally elected sheriffs, who could deal with local criminals. New territories were notoriously lawless.
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Township of Tombstone, Arizona, in 1881 The gunfight at the OK Corral took place near here on 26 October 1881 Miners in the mining towns set up miners' courts, which settled local matters such as disputed claims, but were powerless to stop gangs of outlaws or rustlers. In many areas, local citizens set up vigilante groups, who dished out summary justice to people suspected of BBC Bitesize Notes crimes

Federal territory continued

When the population reached 60,000, the territory became a state, with its own laws, government and finances, although there was still a US marshal with responsibility for criminals who broke federal laws. Slowly, helped by improved communications (for instance the telegraph), law and order was established. Among the lawmen who helped achieve this were Pat Garrett (who shot Billy the Kid) and Wyatt Earp (famous for his shoot-out with the Clanton gang at the OK Corral).
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Nine problems of law and order in the West


1.
2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9.

Distance (difficult to cover the large areas and isolated communities of the West) Poverty and harsh conditions (people were prepared to resort to desperate measures) More men than women (no calming influence; prostitution) Different races (differences of language and culture led to there being little sense of a united community) Culture of violence (everyone carried guns, and sorted out problems by using violence) Land claims and gold (arguments over land ownership; greed, gamblers, criminals) Cattle barons (fear of reprisal; 'respectable' citizens were scared to speak out; juries could be bribed and were often biased) Poor court system (judges often had poor knowledge of law; courts often gave unfair verdicts; lack of convictions) Vigilantes (often as much a problem as the criminals)
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Answer preparation As part of your revision, think about the arguments and facts you would use to explain:

1. What the structure of government was on the Plains. 2. Why law and order was a problem on the Great Plains. 3. What ways were used to try to solve the problems of law and order. 4. How successfully law and order was established on the Plains.
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The Johnson County War (Wyoming) 1892


The first farmers on the Plains clashed with the cattle barons who had their ranches there. There were many disputes, particularly over fencing and waterholes, leading to a series of clashes known as the range wars. The most famous confrontation was the Johnson County War.
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Events of the Johnson County War Part 1


Governor Barber of Wyoming supported the cattlemen, who said homesteaders ('nesters') were rustling (stealing) their cattle. The sheriff of Buffalo (Red Angus) supported the homesteaders, who said the cattle barons were stealing their land.

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Events of the Johnson County War Part 2


The cattlemen regularly caught and hanged local homesteaders. Among those they hanged were Ella Watson and Jim Averill (a poor local couple), and nine trappers who were out hunting wolves.
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Events of the Johnson County War Part 3


The cattlemen assembled a list of 70 rustlers they wanted killed. In spring 1892 they hired a lynching party of 43 cattlemen (including 20 hired gunmen). The lynching party attacked a ranch known as the KC ranch. They killed Nick Ray and his partner Nate Chapman, who was roundup foreman of the local Northern Wyoming Farmers & Stock Growers Association.
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Events of the Johnson County War Part 4


In response, Red Angus raised a posse of 319 men, who rode out and trapped the cattlemen at a ranch called the TA. The cattlemen were eventually rescued by the Army cavalry.

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Events of the Johnson County War Part 5

The cattlemen were charged with murder. They bribed the jury and the case was dropped. Nevertheless, the war marked the end of the power of the cattlemen.
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Answer preparation As part of your revision, think about the arguments and facts you would use to explain:

1. Why cattlemen and homesteaders clashed on the Great Plains. 2. What the problems were that hindered the establishment of law and order on the Plains. 3. Who won the Johnson County War, and what the main events of that war were.
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Struggle for the Plains


The struggle for the Plains was an unequal one, with the US government putting great pressure on Native Americans. They put up a vigorous resistance, but their way of life was doomed.

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Main events in the struggle for the Plains 1803-1851: The Permanent Indian Frontier

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Policy

Pressures on Native Americans


Results

In 1803, the US government purchased Louisiana from the French. The Indian Removal Act of 1830 forced all Native Americans in the eastern United States (eg Cherokee, Seminole) to go there (the Trail of Tears). First settler trails across Plains to the West - Oregon Trail (1841), Mormon Trail (1846), California Trail (to the goldfields, 1849). First skirmishes between Native and white Americans.
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1851-1867: Concentration of Native American land

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In the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851, the US government agreed that large areas of land should belong to Native American tribes 'for all time' (eg the Sioux were given the Black Hills of Dakota). Pressures on Native Gold was discovered in Colorado (1859). The first cattle drives were opened up (eg the Americans Goodnight-Loving Trail, 1866). The Pony Express and a regular stagecoach service to California started up. Indian wars of 1860-1867 Results Little Crow's war (1860-61) Massacre of Sand Creek by Chivington's 3rd Colorado Volunteers (1864) Red Cloud led the Sioux in a successful war against the US (1866-7). During this war the Fetterman massacre (1866) occurred, in which 80 US cavalry troopers died. Policy
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1867-1875: Native Americans on small reservations

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In the Treaty of Medicine Lodge (1867) the southern plains tribes agreed to move to Oklahoma. In the Second Treaty of Fort Laramie (1868) Red Cloud realised he could never defeat the US permanently, and the Sioux agreed to move onto a small reservation. The US government promised to supply food and medicine. Pressures on Native Railroads. Cow towns and cattle ranching. Americans Gold was discovered in the Black Hills. Many white Americans wanted to exterminate the Native Americans. Slaughter of the buffalo. The US government broke its promises of 1868, and supplies were inadequate. Indian wars of 1875-85 Results Custer and his army were wiped out at the battle of Little Bighorn (1876). Custer's Avengers swelled the US Army, and superior US numbers, technology and winter campaigns forced the Sioux to surrender. BBC Bitesize Notes
Policy

1885: Opening up Native American territory

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Policy

The US government made Native American territory available to white settlers (eg the Oklahoma Land Run, 1889). Homesteaders arrived. The Native Americans' own law courts were abolished. The Native Americans had to seek justice in the white man's court. End of the Native American way of life.
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Result

Answer preparation As part of your revision, think about the arguments and facts you would use to explain: 1. How the policy of the American government towards the Indians changed between 1803 and 1890. Why the policy of the American government towards the Indians changed so often between 1803 and 1890. What the consequences were of the changes in policy of the American government towards the Plains Indians. What the causes of the Plains wars were. What the consequences of the Plains wars were.
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2.

3.

4. 5.

Conflict on the Plains


The harsh conditions of the Great Plains meant that both the new settlers and the Native Americans had to struggle to survive, and they fought hard against anyone who threatened their way of life.
There was certainly little understanding between the various sides in the conflict, making it hard to distinguish between 'goodies' and 'baddies'.
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Looking at the conflict


There a number of ways you can look at the conflict on the Plains. It is possible to see the conflict as a clash of cultures. White Americans did not understand the Native Americans' way of life. Consequently, they distrusted and feared them, and could believe anything (including torture and deceit) of a people they did not understand. Conversely, the Native Americans felt that white Americans were devils who ruined the earth. Differences of culture caused them to hate and despise each other, and led to war. The wars might be seen as the result of racism. The white settlers believed that the Native Americans were inferior. They felt justified in saying that 'complete extermination is our motto', and in slaughtering the buffalo to starve the Native Americans to death. In 1864, Colonel Chivington justified the massacre at Sand Creek by saying: 'Kill them all, big and little: nits make lice'. Faced by an attitude of genocide, Native Americans had nothing to lose - as the Sioux Chief Gall said: 'You fought me and I had to fight back'. It could be argued that war broke out simply because the white men wanted the Great Plains - firstly to cross, then for gold, then for cattle and then for farming. Many white Americans believed that it was their manifest destiny to take over the Plains. They took the land that Native Americans believed belonged to everyone.
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Bad behaviour
However, bad behaviour on both sides added to the confrontation. The US government regularly broke its treaty promises - as the Sioux Chief Gall said: 'If we make peace, you will not keep it'. Meanwhile, some Native Americans wanted war. Early travellers on the Plains were robbed and murdered. And when some Native Americans made peace with the US government, others would stay out on the warpath - white Americans could not understand that the chiefs had no power to make their warriors obey.
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Map showing major battles between white and Native Americans

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Negotiation to Extermination
In 1866, a group of Native Americans wiped out a unit of US cavalry (the Fetterman Massacre), and events like this, and the defeat at Little Bighorn (1876), made the white Americans determined to win the war.

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White Americans attitudes to ..

Race and Red skin


White Americans regarded Native (and black) Americans as subhuman. Horace Greeley wrote that: '...their wars, treaties, habitations, crafts, comforts, all belong to the very lowest ages of human existence'. President Jefferson wrote that they were: '...backward in civilisation like beasts'.
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White Americans Attitudes to ..

Adapted to the Plains


(Nomadic, Tipis, Leisure crafts and Acceptance)

White Americans demanded a settled, farming way of life. They thought that tipis were: '...too full of smoke ... inconceivably filthy'. Horace Greeley despised the Native Americans for: 'sittingaround the doors of their lodges at the height of the planting season', and said they were '...squalid and conceited, proud and worthless, lazy and lousy'. 'These people must die out,' he wrote, 'God has given this earth to those who will subdue and cultivate it.'
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White Americans attitudes to ..

Loved the land

Land cannot be owned or sold

White Americans believed that God had given them the right to 'subdue the earth', and they wanted to make money from it. They thought land ownership, fences and cultivation were natural. White Americans thought only they could make full use of the land. They gave the Plains to the Native Americans when they thought they were 'wholly unfit for cultivation', but when they found this not to be true, they took the land for themselves.
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White Americans attitude to ..

Government and laws


Influence of chief, Community spirit and Horse stealing White Americans could not understand why chiefs could not make their warriors obey them. Government based on 'community spirit' was incomprehensible to white Americans, whose government was based on laws and compulsion. They particularly hated horse stealing, because 'depriving a man of his horse could mean life itself on the Plains'. White observers declared that the Native Americans were 'without government'.
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White Americans attitude to ..

Religion and morality


(Animistic (spirits) Medicine men young marriage Easy divorce Polygamy, Exposure of old people to the elements to die)

Christian preachers thought '...the Indians have no religion, only ignorant superstition'. Native American customs of marriage, divorce and exposure of old people to the elements offended white Americans' religion and morality.
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White Americans attitude to ..

War
Preserve life, Ambush and stealth, Coups & Scalping

White soldiers saw ambush as treachery, scalping as barbarous and retreat as 'a total lack of courage'. 'The first impulse of the Indian,' wrote Colonel Dodge, '...is to scuttle away as fast as his legs will carry him ... there is one example of a fair stand-up fight.'
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Answer preparation As part of your revision, think about the arguments and facts you would use to explain:

1. What attitudes different white Americans had towards Native Americans. 2. Why white Americans and Plains Indians came into conflict on the Plains. 3. Why white Americans and Plains Indians found it so difficult to reach a peaceful settlement of their differences.

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The Battle of the Little Bighorn 1876


The Battle of the Little Bighorn was the most decisive defeat for the US Army during the whole of the Indian wars.

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Events leading up to the Battle of Little Bighorn


Chiefs Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull refused to accept the peace of 1868. Gold was discovered in the Black Hills in 1874. The Sioux refused to sell their land in the Black Hills. The government ordered the Sioux onto small reservations. When the Sioux refused, they were declared 'hostile'.
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The Battle Plan


General Philip Sheridan was sent to defeat the Sioux. In June 1876 US armies, led by the generals Alfred Terry and John Gibbon, met at the Yellowstone river. Gibbon was set to march up the Little Bighorn river, and Lt Colonel George Custer was ordered to march round the Wolf mountains, as part of a two-pronged attack on the Sioux camp.
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The Battle
The Sioux had been joined by the Cheyenne and Arapaho, making an army of more than 3,000 warriors, armed with Winchester repeating rifles. Custer marched his men through (not round) the Wolf mountains, to arrive at the Sioux camp first. Custer divided his 600 men into three groups.
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The Battle
Custer sent Captain Frederick Benteen scouting, and sent Major Marcus Reno to attack the Sioux village from the south. Custer headed north of the village with 215 men. The Sioux cut off both Reno and Custer. Benteen rescued Reno, but Custer and all of his troops lost their lives. The Sioux withdrew when Terry and Gibbon arrived.
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Why was Custer defeated?


Custer was defeated at the Battle of the Little Bighorn because he made a lot of fundamental errors. 1. He acted alone - even though Gibbon's last words to him were: 'Custer, don't be greedy. Wait for us.' 2. Instead of going round the Wolf mountains, Custer force-marched his men through the mountains. His troops and horses arrived tired after the long march. 3. He weakened his forces by dividing them into three (although this was classic US Army tactics). 4. He expected the Sioux warriors to scatter and run. Instead they outmanoeuvred and surrounded him. 5. He was hugely outnumbered. 6. He was arrogant and over-confident, and wanted the victory to bolster his political ambitions. He ignored the advice of his Crow scouts to wait for reinforcements. 7. The Sioux leaders - especially Crazy Horse - were expert and experienced generals. 8. The Native Americans regarded the war as their last chance - they fought with desperation. 9. The Sioux were determined: 'The whites want a war and we will give it to them', said Chief Sitting Bull. 10. Custer had poor information - he did not know how big the Sioux army was, nor that they were armed with Winchester repeating rifles.
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Source analysis
This painting depicts the traditional view about the heroism of Custer and his men at the Battle of the Little Bighorn - Custer can be seen brandishing two guns, fighting until the very end. However, this painting illustrates the problem of reliability of sources. This depiction is almost certainly wrong. An archaeological survey in 1983 found that Custer's men fell in a running battle, perhaps as they scattered and fled down the hillside towards the river. It also found that Custer was not scalped, which suggests that he shot himself, because the Sioux did not scalp a suicide.
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Answer preparation As part of your revision, think about the arguments and facts you would use to explain:

1. Why war broke out between the US government and the Sioux in 1876. 2. Why the Sioux won the Battle of the Little Big Horn.

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The end of the Native American way of life


The Battle of the Little Bighorn only seemed like a Sioux victory. In fact, it was the start of the total defeat of the Sioux.
Before long the US government had completely defeated the Native Americans, and their way of life was destroyed over the next 15 years. So what were the key steps?
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November 1876
The US Army began winter campaigns against the Sioux, starving them into surrender. Colonel Mackenzie destroyed Dull Knife's Cheyenne camp - driving the Cheyenne into the hills to survive the winter without any food.

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January 1877
Chief Sitting Bull fled to Canada. He joined a Wild West show, but eventually returned to join the reservation.

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October 1877
Chief Joseph of the Nez Perc tribe tried to flee to Canada, but was intercepted. 'I will fight no more forever', he vowed.

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1879
Richard Pratt opened the first boarding school for Native American children.

The Sioux were given cattle and forced to become cattle-herders.

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1881 (-1887)
Geronimo led a series of rebellions by the Apache warriors, but eventually had to surrender and become a vegetable farmer.

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1883
The Bureau of Indian Affairs issued the Code of Religious Offences, banning Native American religious customs such as the Sun Dance.

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1887
The Dawes Act divided the Native American reservations between the different families.

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1889
The Oklahoma Land Run. The government split 2 million acres of former 'Indian territory' into 160 acre plots, and people had to race to claim a plot. The race began at noon on 22 April 1889 and by next day all the land was claimed.

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1890
A medicine man called Wovoka started a Ghost Dance - although it was peaceful, the Army, fearing a rebellion, tried to arrest Sitting Bull, who was taking part (he was killed during the attempt). Then when Sioux Chief Big Foot, trying to avoid the trouble, led his people to Wounded Knee Creek, they were massacred by the US Army.

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Why did the white Americans win the West?


White Americans won the West because everything was on their side. The Native Americans fought bravely, but the odds were completely against them.
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Reasons why the Whiteman won


Little Bighorn - the massacre of Custer's regiment caused thousands of 'Custer's Avengers' to join up, and it made the US Army determined to hunt down and destroy the Native American warriors. Lies - the US government made promises which it later broke. Economy - the US government had unlimited men and money. After the Little Bighorn, the Sioux had to disband their army because the land could not support so large a group for long. Technology - the US Army had access to repeating rifles, machine guns, cannons and the telegraph. The Native Americans had to buy rifles, and used smoke signals to communicate. Railroads - thousands of white Americans and US soldiers could travel to the West in hours by railroad.

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Reasons why continued


Slaughter of the buffalo - after the 1870s, white hunters destroyed the buffalo, not only for their hides, but partly to destroy the Native Americans, whose way of life depended on these animals. By 1895, less than a thousand buffalo remained on the Great Plains. The US Army was too big and strong for the Native American warriors. It controlled the Plains from a system of forts. Reservations destroyed the Indian way of life, because people on them were forced to become farmers. Many warriors became alcoholics. The influence of the chiefs declined, because the reservations were run by agents. The Code of Religious Offences destroyed the Native American religion, and the Dawes Act ended community ownership. Education - the Indian boarding schools (which the children were made to attend) forced Native American children to become 'white'. They were beaten if they even whispered in their own language - the motto of one school was 'kill the Indian to save the man'.

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Answer preparation As part of your revision, think about the arguments and facts you would use to explain:

1. What the purpose and effect was of the reservations. 2. Why the Native Americans lost the battle for the Plains. 3. How important the Battle of the Little Big Horn was in the eventual defeat of the Plains Indians. 4. How successfully the so-called Indian problem was resolved.
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