Westward Expansion Final Project

By Cody York

How Westward Expansion Affected The Native Americans

During the 1800s, many Americans moved west seeking a new life. The population was growing and the government began to encourage that they move west. A lot of Americans had a dream of dominating all of North America, so they began to migrate. All of them were in it for themselves, with the promise of land and fortune intriguing them. The movement took away the land and rights of the people who were already here. These were the Native Americans, and the whites did not care about their lives whatsoever.

The Sioux Indians of the plains were used to moving around, following the food source. Their main source was the buffalo, an animal of which the whites were hunting excessively for meat and leather. In 1865, 30 million buffalo inhabited the grasslands. By 1889, only 85 buffalo existed. This struck a devastating blow to the Native Americans. Another blow occurred when the government tried to assimilate them into white culture. The government planned to give each head of the families 160 acres of land for cultivating crops and other needs, and asked them to sell all of the leftover land of the Black Hills to them for 50 cents an acre. The Native Americans refused the offer, believing that the land was sacred. The other problem is that it would destroy one of their great cultural beliefs. This was that nobody owned the land, but rather it was for everybody and anybody.

The next thing that the government did was to move the Native Americans (or trick them into moving) to reservations, or land that was set aside for them. They promised them food and supplies if they moved there, which was a promise they either did not follow through with or did with poor quality items. This limited their cultural practices because they were used to moving with their food source instead of being restricted to one area. With that restriction, the government could seize their land without them interfering with the seizure. They did not care what happened to them as long as the nation grew. On these reservations, they performed the ritual called “Ghost Dance”, which they thought would keep the whites away from them and return them to their original life. The whites began to fear this dance, so it was banned on reservations. This further weakened their culture, which pushed them ever further toward assimilation.

Native Americans are in fact still impacted today. Statistics from the 2000 census state that the median wage for both genders of Natives are below average (“Challenges” 1). The poverty rate is also up from other races in the country (“Challenges” 1). The Natives that still live on reservation are described as living “‘comparable to Third World’” (“Living” 1). This means that their conditions are harsh. Also, four to eight adults out of ten do not have a job (“Living” 1). This contributes to the high poverty rate on reservations. Many of them leave to work a traditional job (“Living” 1). This further assimilates them into white culture, much like what happened during expansion.

Overall, Native Americans faced many problems when the United States began to expand. This is one example of how people cared more about enlarging the nation than human life. As long as the country’s size and wealth increased, they did not care about helping certain groups of people, but instead relocated them or left them to fend for themselves. The effects of their consequences are written in history. The nation did expand, and the Native Americans still suffer on reservations today.

Native American Culture

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How did Westward Expansion affect the Native Americans

Works Cited