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Death of Indigenous People and Westward Expansion: Analytical Essay

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The U.S. drive west that spanned roughly over 30 years displayed how committed the settler, and the U.S Government was in regards to settling the frontier. The greatest tools that was exploited with winning congress following the war was railroad building expansion program. The railroad, in essence, is what this country needed at the time to help re establish unity among the populace. With Union Victory, the south was ruined and the railroads gave way to opportunities of colonization and unity. People who were affected by war, sought desperately to leave that life behind them and start a new life with their families on the frontier. The contract companies that were assigned in constructing railroads offered jobs to newly freed slaves as well as former confederate soldiers who desperately needed employment. While the railroad was being constructed, a new threat presented itself, indigenous tribes of the plains. Indians, did not look at the iron horse the same way everyone else did. They viewed the Iron horse as a threat to there way of life and a threat to their land which they lived on for centuries. The death and mass murder of the Indian and there way of life came at the hands of railway building supplemented by U.S Cavalry units. Who after failed negotiations with multiple different tribes gave way to what is known today as the Indian Wars the struggle for settlement on of the U.S. interior. U.S. did not care about the Natives nor did they care about how much life was lost due to the settlement action. Gold being discovered in California gave congress a need to build faster routes between west to east in essence creating a land bridge which would further consolidate U.S. power.(West,2014).

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The creation of the railroad would give unprecedented access to the U.S Government to move troops and supplies from east to west without having to board a ship in order to move men and material westward. As more railroad track was being laid on Indian lands, their ability to hunt bison, small game, and fish began to decline at a faster rate. The aggressive push west also brought with an increasing number of pilgrims and hunters, which hunted Bison to excessively, which was the main source of food. Settlers quickly discovered that buffalo hides represented a way to make needed money, and they could process them into leather (West, 2014). The establishment of reservations by the U.S gave negotiating leverage in which they could use in order to remove the tribes off their rightfully owned land so they can finish the expansion west. These reservations that where manufactured are nothing more than a precursor to concentration camps built by the Germans. The growth rate of U.S cities played a huge role in the destruction of critical ecosystems on native lands and way of life.

Major metropolitan cities did play a factor, but what's not discussed is the manner in which the U.S government applied violence towards them if they did not cooperate with them. The U.S Army issued orders to hunt down Sioux and Cheyenne to kill them regardless. This thought process gave way to mass-murdering an entire group of people, placed them on a course to be hunted down to extinction. The elderly, children, the sick, and women alike were also killed in the same fashion that the Indian warriors were killed. Indian Appropriation Act was signed into law in 1871 which gave the U.S. the ability to strip their rights away from which is unconstitutional. Following the passage, children were placed in schools forced to learn a culture they did not want. The force of education upon the American indian with the use of violence is morally wrong. However, this was so easily accomplished due the fact the way people viewed them as if they were uneducated savages deserved to be treated this way. With the Indian removed from their land presented an opportunity for people to settle those lands with minimal impact financially, and the U.S. government guaranteed protection against any further acts of aggression from the remaining Indian war parties that have not surrender to the U.S. Army. The Homestead Act of 1862, helped people known as homesteaders move west into territories an settle them accordingly (National Archives). Prior to 1865 most land beyond the Mississippi was settled by indigenous peoples. Death of the indigenous people spainded over thirty years to accomplish. All due to the railroad, and the dream of connecting a nation by land with the use of violence. The morality of the choices in regards to how the treatment of them was carried out with the settlement of the west brings with it the testament of horror on how the U.S. treated them and viewed no differently than another industrialized country. The many lessons that can be learned from the expansion westward is how an idea such as this can bring about the end of a group of people's cultures, lands and extermination of entire group people.


  1. Potter, Lee Ann, and Wynell Schamel. “The Homestead Act of 1862” The National Archives and Records Administration, National Archives and Records Administration, Oct 1997, Retrieved from: Pgs. 359-364.
  2. West, Elliot. (Jan, 2014) “The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History Advanced Placement United States History study guide. Education Reform in Antebellum America. Retrieved from: transcontinental-railroad.
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