Greed and desire for land were the main reasons for conflict between the white population of America and the Native American Indians. They could not mutually agree, as they both wanted the best for themselves. The Native Americans didn’t trust the whites and the Whites didn’t trust the Native Americans. During this period the white population of America was growing very quickly as people both emigrated to the US and the birth rate went up. By the late 1870’s there were many more whites in the US than there were Native Americans.
They were running out of room on the East Coast of America. For example between 1830 and 1840 the population of Missouri grew from about 14,000 to 353,000. The US government believed in Manifest Destiny: this was to fill the whole continent with loyal white Americans. This would inevitably lead to conflict, as the Native Americans wouldn’t have anywhere to live. Indian religion was profoundly different to that of the whites, it involved a belief in the sacredness of the land. It also had religious rituals such as the sun dance.
Because of harsh conditions on the plains young children and old people could be left to die if they were slowing the whole tribe down because the whole tribe could die otherwise. This could lead to conflict because of racial misunderstanding. A council ruled the Indian tribes; the chief did not have total power over the actions of his tribe. This was a good system but the whites could not understand this. Between 1825 and 1840 the American Government created the permanent Indian frontier running along the 95th meridian.
But broke its promises within eleven years and whites started going across into Native American land, as they thought they had given the Native Americans far too much land, about half of America. In 1851 the American Government went back on this treaty and produced the Fort Laramie treaty in 1851. In this the Government promised to give the Indians $50,00 a year for 10 years if the Indians didn’t attack the travellers going through their land. The first Fort Laramie treaty of 1851 forced many tribes to share the same land. This was called the policy of concentration.
This was bad for the American Government as the tribes worked together. Gold was discovered in Montana in 1862. Gold miners flooded along the Bozeman trail that ran through Sioux country. This would lead to conflict as it disturbed the Indians’ peace. At Bluff Creek the US Government peace commission and the Indian Chiefs agreed to lay down their arms and give up Sand Creek in return for money and land in Oklahoma. . After 1864 General Sherman was put in charge of sorting out the Indian problem. Some of his fellow soldiers were very racist.
His deputy Sheridan said, “The only good Indians I ever saw were dead. ” General William Sherman faced many problems; papers in the East said he was to harsh but papers in the West said he was too soft. People wanted things. Tension started to rise and forts are built along the Bozeman trail. In 1864 Colonel Civington brutally murdered a Cheyenne tribe at Sand Creek, despite the fact that they were within a reservation. This would lead to conflict as if they weren’t safe in the reservations then they might as well go and hunt the buffalo.
This was followed by the Fort Lyon treaty in 1861. This agreed to give the Indians reservations along the Oregon Trail, stop attacking the whites and made the Indians abandon land given to them in the Fort Laramie treaty. In March 1867 the Government decided to bring an end to the policy of concentration and introduce a new policy of small reservations. The government decided to introduce this new policy because they didn’t want the Indians working together as this was a real danger to the whites and also the whites needed more land.
This was new as the tribes were split up into smaller groups and the Government gave them food. This was written because the Indians were killing people that went across their land. The second Fort Laramie treaty was made in 1868. In this the Indians agreed to move to Dakota and leave the whites alone, they also got their old hunting ground back.. Red Cloud felt pleased with the treaty as the whites gave up more than the Indians. Other tribes couldn’t live as they used to, as they had nowhere to hunt the buffalo, as their reservations were so small.
From 1869 President Grant brought in a new peace policy where the Indians would be given the chance to live like white people-go to school and to farm. His intentions were good, but the Indians resisted as, this was an attack on their culture and this was alien to their view of their relationship with the land. The Native Americans lifestyle was dependant on hunting the buffalo and required tribes to move across vast areas of land. The Indians never farmed. This would lead to conflict, as the tribes couldn’t get to the buffalo.
Generals Sheridan, Sherman and Custer had the role of insuring all the Indians went to the reservations and in the winter of 1868-1869 they lead a campaign to force them to do this. All of these treaties were supposed to last forever, all of these were broken within a few years and all of these except the last reduced the land that the Native Americans had. This added to the Native Americans lack of trust in the Whites. Both the whites and the Indians broke these agreements as the whites wanted more land, needed more land, wanted more gold and wanted to build a railroad.
The Indians broke the treaties as they wanted to keep hunting buffalo, their old lifestyle back the whites broke the treaties and they were unfair. After 1868 all Sioux tribes were forced into areas too small to support the Native American way of life. Many young men refused to stay within the reservations. This was breaking the law and they were hunted and killed. Tensions rose in Dakota from 1868-1876. In 1873 there was a depression, in 1874 gold was discovered in the Black Hills, which led to many white prospectors going on the Indians’ land.
This was sacred land promised to he Native Americans forever by the second Fort Laramie treaty. Custer had massacred a tribe of Cheyenne at the River Washita; again this was inside an Indian reservation. The Government offered $6 million to the Indians if they moved out of the Black Hills. The Sioux said no to this offer and the government warned that if they were not gone in 60 days they would be killed. Red Cloud, Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull had 60 days to prepare for war. Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse really believed they could defeat the whites for good.
They did defeat them at both the Rosebud River and the Little Bighorn. In May 1869 the first railroad was completed across America others would follow making emigration to the west and to the plains much easier. This would lead to conflict as the railroad was going across Indian land and made it easier for white people to live on the plains. During the 1860’s and 70’s both farmers and rancher began to move to the plains in large numbers. The government encouraged this as it was fulfilling manifest destiny.
Technical problems were solved during the 1870’s and 80’s. Now the plains were far more attractive to live on. This would lead to conflict, as the Indians would have nowhere to live. To conclude greed and desire for land, particularly on the part of the white Americans were the main reasons for conflict between whites and the Native Americans. By the late 1870 there were many more whites in America than Native Americans and the whites needed a lot of land, as they were mostly farmers.