There were many different Native American tribes in the West during the 1800s. The Plains Indians were one tribe which had many other groups in it such as the Apache, the Comanche, the Cheyenne, the Arapaho, the Pawnee, and the Sioux. The Indians in the Southwest and Far West were the Navajo, the Nez Perce, and the Apache which were also in the Plains Indians tribes. The Indians in the Southwest and Far West, such as the Navajo, lived in what became Arizona and New Mexico. Northeastern Oregon was home to the Nez Perce tribe. The Rocky Mountains, which stretch north into Canada and south into Texas, were home to the Plains Indians despite the sometimes harsh conditions. The Apache and Comanche groups lived in Texas and in what is now Oklahoma. Different parts of the central Plains were home to the Cheyenne and the Arapaho groups. Nebraska was the home of the Pawnee and to the north were the Sioux, who spread from Minnesota to Montana. The way of life for most American Indians in the Great Plains was that they depended on two animals for survival, horse and buffalo. They learned to ride horses and used them to follow the buffalo herds, which were used for food, shelter, and tools.
Key Native American People
There were many key Native American people in the West during the 1800s such as the Cheyenne chief Black Kettle, Sioux chief Red Cloud, chief Crazy Horse, William Tecumseh Sherman, Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer, Sitting Bull, Geronimo, and Sarah Winnemucca. - Chief Black Kettle was the Cheyenne tribe chief who did not want to fight with the whites, but U.S. Army troops attacked his camp in November of 1864 on Sand Creek in southeastern Colorado. Many people were killed by the soldiers, but Black Kettle was one of the lucky Cheyenne who escaped the Sand Creek Massacre. - Chief Red Cloud was a Sioux tribe chief who responded with war when the U.S. Army built forts along the Bozeman Trail to protect the miners and pioneers who continued to cross the Great Plains because the trail ran through Sioux hunting grounds. - Chief Crazy Horse led Sioux forces in 1866 to ambush cavalry troops resulting in much success because they killed them all. Crazy Horse was also involved in Custer's Last Stand because he, Sioux forces, and Sitting Bull surrounded Custer and his troops. The Sioux were described to have "shot straight" killing the many soldiers including Custer. Crazy Horse was killed in prison in late 1877 after surrendering to the U.S. Army. - William Tecumseh Sherman was the famous Civil War general and was in charge of the western armies. He also threatened the "extermination of men, women, and children" of the Sioux tribe. - George Armstrong Custer was a Lieutenant Colonel in 1874 whose soldiers found gold in the Black Hills of the Dakota Territory. When the U.S. government insisted that the Sioux sell their reservation land in the Black Hills, many Sioux leaders refused resulting in war between the U.S. Army and the Sioux. Custer was a Civil War veteran who was in command of the U.S. Army 7th Cavalry. On June 25, 1876, he and his troops found a Sioux camp in Montana along the Little Bighorn River, but as soon as Custer saw them, he raced ahead without waiting for backup. Custer died at this battle that newspapers later called "Custer's Last Stand." - Sitting Bull was the main Sioux leader that protested what the U.S. government said about the Sioux selling their reservation in the Black Hills. Many other Sioux leaders listened to him and refused to give up their land which soon lead to fighting between the U.S. Army and the Sioux. After the Battle of Little Bighorn, Sitting Bull fled to Canada with few of his followers, but he did return to Standing Rock Reservation in Dakota after their food ran out in Canada. U.S. officials feared that the Ghost Dance, which was a religious movement led by a Paiute Indian named Wovoka, would lead to a Sioux uprising. They then killed Sitting Bull in 1890 while following orders to arrest him. - Geronimo was a Chiricahua Apache who was the rebel of his tribe. He and his small group of raiders left the Apache reservation and managed to avoid capture until 1884. But the following year, Geronimo escaped again and when the U.S. Army caught him, he broke free another time on the way to the reservation. He said that he "feared treachery, or dishonesty." 5,000 soldiers and 500 Apache scouts were sent this time by the army to capture both him and his followers. In September of 1886, Geronimo finally surrendered which ended the Apache armed resistance. Geronimo and many Chiricahua Apache were sent to Florida as prisoners of war by the U.S. government. - Sarah Winnemucca was a Paiute Indian who in the late 1870s became one of the first American Indians to call for reforms. Lectures were given by her on the problems of the reservation system. Sarah eventually pleaded her case in Washington, D.C. People were said to have been "moved to tears" after listening to her.
Changes to the West
There were many changes to the West during the 1800s that involved settlers, miners, government, army, forts, and much more. By the time that the Plains Indians prospered, some 75,000 American Indians were living on the Plains in 1850. Many miners and settlers had begun crossing the Great Plains in the mid-1800s and in order to protect these travelers, many U.S. officials sent agents to negotiate treaties with the Plains Indians. The Treaty of Fort Laramie was the first major agreement that they made with the Indians. It was signed with northern Plains nations in Wyoming in the year 1851. Several southern Plains nations signed a treaty at Fort Atkinson in Nebraska two years later. These treaties accepted Indian claims to much of the Great Plains and also allowed Americans to build forts and roads and to travel across Indian homelands. The government promised to pay for any damages to Indian homelands. Even though the government and army were trying to protect the Indian lands, the treaties did not keep the peace for long. In 1858, thousands of miners were brought to the West because of the news that gold had been discovered in what is now Colorado. These miners soon clashed with the Cheyenne and the Arapaho. A new treaty was then negotiated by the U.S. government in 1861 with these Indians. The treaty created reservations, or areas of federal land set aside for American Indians. The government had expected Indians to stay on these reservations, which made hunting buffalo almost impossible, but many American Indians refused to even live on reservations. The argument of whether American Indians were to live on assigned reservations or live where they wanted kept going until the late 1800s when the Dawes Act was passed and resulted in the Indians losing much of the land that they had previously occupied. Reformers had hoped this act would help American Indians, but instead, it resulted in the loss of about two thirds of their land. The Dawes Act also did not lead to citizenship for many American Indians. The new policy overall did not improve Indians' lives.