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Homeland Security-Part 4

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Now that we've taken a break it's time to get back to the Indian Conflicts and Wars. We'll start with Death on the Plains as previewed by Rhodes Educational Publications. When the government first moved Indians beyond the Mississippi River, it settled them in what they called Indian country. This huge region included almost all the land between the Missouri River and the Oregon Territory. Treaties guaranteed this land to them "as long as the rivers shall run and the grass shall grow". Americans at first considered the area too dry for farming. But pioneers who traveled to the Southwest, California and Oregon soon began to cast hungry eyes on the land they passed through. Prospectors discovered gold and silver on Indian land. The government began buying parts of the land back from the tribes in the 1850's and settled them on reservations throughout the West. The Plains people fought to keep their hunting lands and to avoid being confined to reservations. These Indians unlike those in the East, owned horses. American soldiers praised their daring enemies as "the best fighters the sun ever shone on". But fighting between them and the whites was so bitter that many Westerners claimed that "the only good Indian is a dead Indian." In this later period of warfare, the U.S. Army took over from the state militias the job of fighting the tribes. Also, the Indian Bureau, formerly the War department, became part of the Department of the Interior.

The Sioux Wars [1854-1890] began with small clashes at Fort Laramie, Wyoming and nearby posts. In 1862 Little Crow led an uprising in Minnesota. The Sioux massacred hundreds of settlers in the New Ulm area before Army troops subdued them. Many of the surviving Sioux joined other Sioux farther west. In the 1860's, Red Cloud and other strong chiefs drove out whites who entered Sioux territory. In 1868, in the treaty of Fort Laramie, some of the Sioux agreed to live on a reservation in what is now South Dakota. But with the gold rush to the Black Hills of South Dakota in 1874, miners poured into the area disregarding Sioux rights. Skirmishes broke out, and the government ordered all Sioux onto the reservation. Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse refused to bring their people. Outraged by the attacks against the Sioux by the Army, Sitting Bull declared:"We are an island of Indians in a lake of whites. These soldiers want war. All right, we'll give it to them".

On June 17, 1876, a force of Sioux surprised Brigadier General George Crook's troops and defeated them in the Battle of the Rosebud in southeastern Montana. The Army then sent another force against the Sioux. On June 25, troops led by Lieutenant Colonel George A. Custer encountered several thousand Sioux and Cheyenne warriors on the Little Bighorn River. Not a single soldier in Custer's immediate command of about 210 men survived "Custer's last stand." The tribes then split into bands in order to escape more easily. The Army caught some, and others gave themselves up. A few, including Sitting Bull's band, fled to Canada.

A final Sioux uprising occurred in 1890. Major General Nelson A. Miles feared another war. He ordered the arrest of Sitting Bull, who had settled on the Standing Rock reservation in South Dakota. When Sitting Bull resisted arrest, Indian policemen killed him. Big Foot then assumed command of the last band of hostile Sioux. The Army trapped the Sioux on Wounded Knee Creek in December 1890 and destroyed them.

In Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico and Texas, other Plains tribes also fought against being placed on reservations. Hostile tribes including the Arapaho, the Comanche, the Cheyenne under Black Kettle and the Kiowa under Satanta. These tribes were provoked by such incidents as the Sand Creek massacre of 1864, when a large force of militia in Colorado ambushed a village of peaceful Arapaho and Cheyenne, and killed warriors, women and children alike.

EDITORIAL COMMENT: It's incidents like the murder of Sitting Bull and the Sand Creek massacre plus the stories of deliberately infecting Indians with small pox by giving them infected blankets in Colonial times and at times thereafter, and also the widespread killing of Buffalo for their skins, often by Army troops, which left the Plains Indians without food, that causes some to think it was Genocide at work. Indians were, after all savages, without souls and don't forget the only good Indian was a dead Indian.

The Ute tribe also rose against the whites at various times. In Utah, the Walker War of 1853 and the Black Hawk War of 1865-1867 caused many casualties among Mormon settlers. Extremely bitter feelings marked the Indian conflicts in California and the Pacific Northwest. During the 1850's, many California tribe members died from disease and warfare against miners and local militia. In the Pacific Northwest, the Whitman massacre in 1874 led to the Cayuse War of 1847- 1850. Few Cayuse survived this war. Whites also committed many atrocities in the Rogue River wars of the 1850's.

The Modoc of northern California and southern Oregon could barely survive on the poor reservation given them in 1864. In 1872, a group led by Captain Jack escaped to return to their old hunting grounds. With the Army in pursuit, they fled to Tule Lake in California. In 1873, at Tule Lake, a small band of about 60 poorly armed Modocs held out for about five months, until the Army forced them to surrender. The Army hanged Captain Jack and three of his men for murder in October 1873.

Chief Joseph and several other non-treaty Chiefs refused to go on a reservation that was one- tenth the size of their original hunting grounds. A fraudulent treaty, the "thief treaty" of 1863 illegally ceded six million acres of Nez Perce lands. After the non-treaty chiefs refused to go on the reservation in 1877, war broke out . Chief Joseph and about 750 people started an amazing journey after U.S. soldiers shot a Nez Perce negotiating team advancing under a white flag. They outwitted over 2,000 soldiers and 1,000 auxiliary soldiers of other tribes for almost four months across 1,500 miles of territory before surrendering just 40 miles from the Canadian border. The surrender terms Chief Joseph negotiated with General Miles were reversed by General Sherman so that after two years in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas instead of being returned to their homeland they were sent to Oklahoma for eight years, as prisoners of war. Native American History by Judith Nies [1996]

On to Homeland Security-Part 5
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An OEN Editor. Born-03/20/1934, BA Pol. Sci.-U of Washington-1956, MBA-Seattle U-1970, Boeing-Program Control-1957-1971, State of Oregon-Mental Health Division-Deputy Admistrator-1971-1979, llinois Association of Community MH (more...)
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