Westward Expansion-Native Americans

By: Kiley O'Leary

How Westward expansion Overrode the Value of Human Life

Throughout history the cost of enlarging the nation has overridden the value of human life. Westward Expansion of the United States of America started around the mid 1840’s. This overrode the value of human life in many ways. During this time the Native Americans were driven out of their land. Immigrants and the Donner Party were also affected by Westward expansion, but the Native Americans were affected greatly by it. Many Americans felt that their nation was becoming overpopulated and felt the need to expand the nation. They turned westward for more land, they all wanted this land for many different purposes. Many settlers didn’t think about what the land ahead of them held, the people, animals, or geography.

The Americans wanted to settle westward for many different reasons. People who lived in the north wanted to move west for a lot of free land maybe to farm on, to mine and make it big or, to start a new life in a new place. People who lived in the south not only wanted to move west for the same reasons as the north. They also they wanted to move to make more slave states to avoid physical labor before the start of the civil war. Although they wanted to move for all different reasons they all wanted to get to the west and they did not care what they might take away from others. The Native Americans were living in the west and didn’t want to join with the whites culture or allow them to take over their land.

Native Americans felt that they lived on land that was sacred and that their god gave to them. They did not want to share this land with whites. They also did not want to to be forced into a different way of living. They never lived in homes and they normally just followed the buffalo so they could have food. If the whites expanded into their land they would be forced into civilization and settling in one place. They wanted to keep their culture alive. On the other hand the whites tried to get them to agree to leave their land and live like they did, they thought this might be a better life for them. The Native Americans refused to do this so the whites finally forced the Indians into reservations by promising them food and supplies. They had not kept their promises with the Indians and if they did, the food was never of very high quality and they rarely got any supplies. They also killed the Native Americans if they refused to go into the reservations.

The whites wanted to quickly expand the nation and they really didn’t care that the Native Americans had their own land that they weren’t willing to just give up. They also felt that the Indians should live like them and then they would have better lives. They would do this by first putting them in reservations and teaching them to live in houses and do the things whites did. Once the Indians were in reservations they were given the opportunity to sell their land to the government but most of them refused. The government then took that land and sold it to settlers. The whites now felt they could kill the buffalo and build fences without having to worry about the indians getting angry, they did not want the new transcontinental train to hit any buffalo or have buffalo roaming on other people's land.The whites did not care how the Native Americans turned out or if they had good lives or survived. They only cared that they were able to make it to the west and, start new lives, make it big in the mining industry, or get lots of free land.

Native Americans are still affected for this today. Some of the Native Americans still live in reservations. The people who live in these reservations have a lot of trouble finding jobs because there are not enough of them. Many of the houses in these reservations are overcrowded with people and normally house multiple generations at a time. Many of these houses are only 2 bedrooms and do not have proper plumbing, kitchen appliances, heat, and air conditioning. The Native Americans and the government can’t agree to who really were the original race to live in the United States. They have trouble deciding if the Native Americans were there first and set up the land or if our government claimed the land legally making it theirs to do what they wish with it. They also never got their culture back. Once they were taken into the reservations they were not allowed to live how they had before and no one respected their culture.


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Westward Expansion: Crash Course US History #24