Was Christopher Columbus really the first person to step on the ground we know today as America? Well, the expansive territory we know today was first inhabited by the Native Americans and others such as Columbus explored the land throughout the 16th and 17th century, Native Americans started to respond. Their were many stages, but it grew from cooperation, to indigation, and eventually to revolt. They sided with the French during the French and Indian War (also known as the 7 Years War) due to their dislike of the British and were removed from their homes by Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Act many years later. Andrew Jackson, the president of the United States at the time, signed the Removal Act into law on May 28, 1830. The Indians strongly resisted the Americans every time and the relationship between them was very peculiar and changed over the course of time.In this essay, I will be explaining the major events and relationships that occured between the Native Americans and outsiders from the 16th century to the 19th century.
Ever since the first English colonists arrived in Jamestown, Virginia in 1607, the relationship between them and the Indians was already unstable. Before these Englishmen showed up, the Native Americans had thrived on the land for decades and the main conflict between these two parties was the control over the lands. Multiple series of battles took place between the two in the 1600s, but one of the most devastating attacks took place on March 22, 1622. The Powhatan Indians initiated an attack on Virginia where the bloodbath was so large it ended up being known as the Jamestown massacre. The English used this as a reason to strike back against the Native Americans and take their lands. Around 340 American settlers died that day. The Native Americans attacked because English colonists who settled in Jamestown first wanted to take care of the need of native corn to keep peace with Native Americans who had hundreds of surrounding villages. A second major war in the 1600s was the Pequot Massacre where English Captain John Mason with the help of allies (Puritan and Mohegan forces) attacked Pequot village. Up to 500 women, men and children were either burned alive or massacred by the English force. This event occurred when 13 english colonists and traders were killed by the Pequot Tribe. The war came to an end when a third attack ending in a massacre on the Pequot occurred and the remaining Indians were either sold into slavery or escaped to New England to join other tribes. The hatred and conflict between the Englishmen and Native Americans spiraled out of control and the relationship was nowhere near stable in the 1600th century.
One of the last major battles fought between the United States and the Native Americans was the Battle of Timbers. This battle was the key to opening Northwestern territory in 1794. It was the final battle between the United States and the Western Confederacy which included the Indians and their alliance with the British. The main reason for this battle was that the Western Confederacy was beating the United States alarming the one and only George Washington. Washington ended up asking a fellow war veteran Anthony Wade to prepare a new army that they would take to battle. Having more than plenty of time to prepare his army the Americans than wanted to possess the lands that laid North of the Ohio River which they won from the British. In the Battle of Timbers, the war was short since the Indians were drastically outnumbered. The British of course who in the beginning supplied the Indians with what they needed ended up closing the gates and provided no shelter for the fleeing Indians. The British were not authorized to start a war with the Americans. The relationship between the Indians and the Americans has not improved since the 16 century as they continue to kill each other at the price of more control over more land. With the British, the Indians did receive aid from them but eventually got shut out by them when things went south.
On May 28, 1830 former president of the United States, Andrew Jackson, signed the Indian Removal Act. This act would allow the government to divide the lands west of the Mississippi to be given to Indian tribes to make up for their missing land. This act removed the Native Americans away from their lands since America needed more for themselves due to expansion. America thought of these Native Americans as an uncivilized group and wanted to clear them out. It is clear at this point that the Americans do not see the Indians as equal and would not let them have the equal rights they deserve. Only a couple years later the Trail of Tears occurred. Many Americans who lived out on the near Indian territory greatly resented them. They saw Indians as a non human species who only occupied the lands that they wanted for themselves and what they believed they earned the right for. The Cherokee were driven west and forced to sign treaties which drove them away. This event shows how extremely cruel the U.S. Government was to the Native Americans since unfair rights was handed out to the Indians while America got their land to exploit the natural resources. Indians were forced to walk over 1,200 miles away from their home, and throughout this journey, many died from harsh conditions and weather. Several thousand Cherokees also died as a result of the laws put up by the federal authorities. After this suffering and the horrible journey that the Indians called “The Trail of Tears”, the Americans promised that their new lands would forever be untouched. Although as time went on this ceased to be false while the line of territory decreased. In 1907, Oklahoma became a state on the Indian land causing it to cease to exist.
Another conflict between the Indians and Americans rose called the Wounded Knee Massacre. A large massacre occurred in 1890s leaving 150 Native Americans dead in what was the last major conflict between Americans and Indians. It consisted of the federal troops and the Sioux. The U.S. committed this act due to the government being worried about the influence rising around ghost dancing. This Ghost dancing consisted of spiritual movement and it “taught that Indians had been defeated and confined to reservations because they had angered the gods by abandoning their traditional customs”. They thought by practicing this and rejecting the whites way, a new world would be created by god and all non believers including Indians would vanish out of existence. On December 29th, the American cavalry surrounded a bunch of ghost dancers at a lake demanding that they drop their weapons and surrender. After a mishap, a big fight broke out at that lake. Around 150 Indians died, many including women and children as well as 25 men of Americans cavalry. This conflict was referred to as a battle but if you think about it, it is considered a tragedy and massacre more than a battle. This event however, did stop the Indians from influencing ghost dance movement and it was the last battle between the Plain Indians and Americans. Although no one knows who fired the first shot in this battle it is clear the Americans and Indians relationship does not improve in the late 18th century.
Around 1924, the first great step towards a better relationship between Native Americans and Americans occurred. The Indian Citizenship Act was signed into law allowing all Indians to become citizens. Although it was limited to Native Americans who were war veterans or women who received citizenship, America eventually did take a step in the right direction by giving it to all of them. Even though their citizenship was strongly governed by the state law it was better than the battles and bloodshed that occurred before. This paper has only concluded the horrible relationship Americans had with Indians throughout the centuries. No real improvements were made between the two until after the 1920s. Indians always sided against them and never really helped in either way, as did the Americans. Major improvements were made once the two started working together and this is how it should be.