Clash of Native Americans & Whites

By: Chris Steil and Tyler Fitzgerald


In 19th Century America as the Americans had finished the Civil War, settlers wanted to move West in search for new land. As they moved West, they encountered Indians. Environmental conditions of the 19th Century Great Plains caused political and social repercussions for Native Americans and the modern settlers.


Indian Background

The Indians, according to DNA came to North America from Siberia through a land bridge called Behringia (1). According to Native American Legends, they came from the earth, water and stars (2). They were warriors and hunters who cultivated the land and used everything they had (3). They did not let things go to waste. The men would hunt and fight, while the women stayed back and took care of children and cleaned up the village. The Indians never lived in one place all the time, they were mostly living in an area for a short period of time, as they followed game herds.


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The Indians would wear war bonnets on top of there heads like in the picture above. They traveled on horseback when traveling long distance because it was easy and fast transportation.


Settler Background

The settlers first came over to the Americas in the early 1600's. They immigrated from England and other European countries. They created the town, Jamestown, in intention to create the Virginia English colony. At first it was very rough for them, as they encountered diseases and they had minimal food.


The First Clashes

The Clash of Native Americans and whites all started in the early 17th century with the creation of Jamestown. The settlers came to settle the land and to find gold for King James I (17). As they settled, they took over Native American's land. At first the Indians were scared. The Indians started taking action to this and they stole things from the settlers. Until finally coming up with peace (20).


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The Struggle to Stay Alive

The harsh conditions of the Great Plains meant that both the new settlers and the Native Americans had to struggle to survive, and they fought hard against anyone who threatened their way of life.

Whites did not understand the Native Americans' way of life. The whites distrusted them and feared the Indians (4). The Native Americans thought of the whites as devils who ruined the earth. Their differences in culture caused hatred between each other and eventually war (5). The whites did whatever was necessary to take over the land.

Shortage of food was a big struggle to stay alive. The whites hurt the Indians hunting grounds by mowing the grass on the land for cattle feeding. The Indians lost a lot of their land this way and couldn't produce as much food as they previously were. The whites killed a lot of the bison on the Native Americans land so there was not a plentiful amount of meat or bison anymore.

Because of the Dawes Act, the government forced the Native Americans to stay on the land and cultivate the land (6). The Indians could not leave or they would be killed.


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Bison Chart

As you can see, the Bison Population was enormous at the start of the 19th century. As time went on the population dropped. In the beginning of the 20th century the population was in endanger of extinction. The Bison were being killed off at a high rate because of poaching, sport hunting and mass slaughters (7). In 200 years, about 59,500,000 Bison were killed.



Bison were often killed in mass numbers. A popular but dangerous way to kill hundreds of bison at once was the Buffalo jump. In this video you will see an example of the bison jump: (8)

Watch- 2:00-3:00


Buffalo Jump from Into the West, Episode One

Differences Between Native Americans and Whites

Whites: (9)

  • Do everything looking for a profit
  • Value success
  • Leaders lie to their people
  • Incessant noise
  • Have criminals
  • Need laws by which to live

Native Americans: (10)

  • Do not need laws to live
  • No criminals
  • Leaders are very truthful and trustworthy
  • Silence was one of their greatest virtues
  • Value respect and honor
  • Do things to be helpful


War between the Whites and Native Americans

The war could be argued that it broke out simply because the white men wanted the Great Plains. First to cross, then for gold, then for cattle, and then for farming (11).

Many white men believed it was their manifest destiny to take over the Plains (12). They took the land that Native Americans believed belonged to everyone.

The U.S. Government broke its treaty promises.

Some Native Americans wanted war.


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Battles between Native Americans and Whites

Major Battles

1. Tippecanoe

2. Black Hawk

3. Little Bighorn (21)

4. Battle at Wounded Knee (16)

The battle of Tippecanoe took place in Tippecanoe, which is in Indiana, in 1811. The governor of Indiana, William Henry Harrison, led 1,000 troops up the Wabash River and then marched to a village on Tippecanoe Creek (13). Harrison's troops camped out near the village and tried to make peace with Chief Tecumseh. The next dawn, the Shawnee Indians attacked Harrison's troops. Both sides lost about the same amount of men, but Harrison's troops were able to destroy the Indian village and cause them to flee (14).

In 1832, Black Hawk, the chief of the Sac and Fox Indians, wanted to take lands in Illinois. He was not allowed to take land so he went into Illinois with 500 people met with General George Atkinson at the Rock River (Dixon, Illinois). Black Hawk was defeated and he and 150 soldiers were captured.

The Battle of Little Bighorn is arguably the most famous battle between Native Americans and Whites. It was also called "Custer's Last Stand." General George Crook knew the Indian leader, Crazy Horse, was in the area. Once he spotted him, it was too late, Crazy Horse had over 5,000 men(15). General George Custer and his 7th Cavalry attacked Crazy Horse but it was a failure, the Indians captured Custer and his men and killed them all.


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Timeline of Events during the 19th Century.



As the Settlers starting pouring into the country and they started expanding, they pushed Native Americans off of their own land. The Indians had had enough of the settlers, so they started using violence to try to preserve their land and their lives. They tried to fight back, such as the Battles of Little Bighorn, Tippecanoe, and Wounded Knee. Thousands of innocent Native Americans were killed in battles, like Wounded Knee. Unfortunately, this violence had failed. The Americans beat the Indians and the Indians were confined to small Indian Reservations throughout the country, and that is where 500,000 of the Indian people still live today(19). They were not allowed to stay on their holy grounds to revisit their ancestors. The clash between the Natives and the Whites had some impacts to modern day life. They showed us how to cultivate the land we farm today and they were the reason why thousands of people can provide food for themselves and their families today.