Native americans

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native americans



American Indian Wars There is perhaps a tendency to view the record of the military in
terms of conflict, that may be why the U.S. Army’s operational experience in the
quarter century following the Civil War became known as the Indian wars. Previous
struggles with the Indian, dating back to colonial times, had been limited. There was a
period where the Indian could withdraw or be pushed into vast reaches of uninhabited and
as yet unwanted territory in the west. By 1865 the safety valve was fast disappearing. As
the Civil War was closed, white Americans in greater numbers and with greater energy than
before resumed the quest for land, gold, commerce, and adventure that had been largely
interrupted by the war. The besieged red man, with white civilization pressing in and a
main source of livelihood, the buffalo, threatened with extinction, was faced with a
fundamental choice: surrender or fight. Many chose to fight, and over the next 25 years
the struggle ranged over the plains, mountains, and the deserts of the American West.
These guerrilla wars were characterized by skirmishes, pursuits, raids, massacres,
expeditions, battles, and campaigns of varying size and intensity. In 1865, there was a
least 15 million buffalo, ten years later, fewer than a thousand remained. The army and
the Bureau of Indian Affairs went along with and even encouraged the slaughter of the
animals. By destroying the buffalo herds, the whites were destroying the Indian’s
main source of food and supplies. The only thing the Indians could do was fight to
preserve their way of life. There was constant fighting among the Indian and whites as the
Indians fought to keep their civilization. Indian often retaliated against the whites for
earlier attacks that whites had imposed on them. They often attacked wagon trains, stage
coaches, and isolated ranches. When the army became more involved in the fighting, the
Indians started to focus on the white soldiers. In 1862, when the north and south were
locked in Civil War, Minnesota felt the fury of an even more fundamental internal
conflict. The Santees, an eastern branch of the Sioux Nation, having endured ten years of
traumatic change on the upper Minnesota River, launched the first great attack in the
Indian wars. Eleven years earlier the tribe had sold 24 million acres of hunting ground
for a lump sum of $1,665,000 and the promise of future cash annuities. The Santee’s
culture was not only disrupted, the Sioux gradually found themselves dependent on trade
goods, which made them easy prey for the white merchants. The merchant would give them
credit and collect directly from the government. The Indians saw little of the annuities
for which they had sold their birthright. Their anger finally reached the flash point
when, following a winter of near starvation, the annual payment failed to arrive on time.
Bursting from their reservation, they killed more than 450 settlers in the region before
they were defeated by a hastily assembled group of raw recruits led by Colonel Henry
Sibley. Later the killing of the white settlers was described as “the most fearful
Indian massacre in history. Four weeks after the rampage began, 2,000 Indian men, women
and children surrendered, 392 prisoners were quickly tried and 307 sentenced to death.
Sibley favored execution at once. But Bishop Whipple of Minnesota went to Washington to
plead for clemency. After a long appraisal President Lincoln commuted most of the
sentences except for the proven rapists and murderers. On the day after Christmas 1862, 38
Sioux warriors were brought to a specially built gallows and hanged at the same time.
Three of the leaders of the massacre had gotten away. Shakopee and Medicine Bottle had
escaped to Canada, they were kidnapped back into the U.S. and were duly executed. Little
Crow went to North Dakota and returned to Minnesota the following summer and was shot by a
farmer while picking berries. Red Cloud was beginning to emerge as a major leader in 1863,
when settlers and miners began to pour over a new road called the Powder River Trail, or
the Bozeman Trail after the scout who blazed it. This road was to connect Fort Laramie,
Wyoming, to the new mining centers right through the best of all the Sioux hunting
grounds. The Indians under Red Cloud’s leadership harassed travelers on the trail
with such determination that in the summer of 1866 white leaders arranged a council at
Fort Laramie. At the outset of the council it appeared that peaceful use of the trail
might be negotiated as long as travelers did not disturb the game. But as serious talks
got underway, a Colonel Henry Carrington marched into Fort Laramie with a large body of
troops and plans to establish forts to protect the trail against Indian raids; he made no
secret of his intentions. Red Cloud exploded, he walked out on the council and half of the
chiefs went with him. Carrington went ahead with rebuilding of Fort Reno and the
establishing of Forts Phil Kearny and C.F. Smith to protect the road through Sioux
country. But soon after Carrington arrived at Fort Reno with his troops the Sioux Warriors
swooped down upon the post and ran off with a band of horses, Red Cloud’s war had
begun. The war amounted to a series of harassments. The Indians cut off the mail route,
attacked wagon trains and either destroyed them or forced them to turn back. Camps of the
Sioux war faction were strung out along the Tongue River, and the restless warriors
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