Westward Expansion

How it Affected the Native Americans

The Overriding of Human Life

In the battle of Little Bighorn all of General George Custer’s cavalry lost there lives and so did countless Native Americans. This is just one of the main battles between the Native Americans and the United States Government. However, this was one of the only battles where the Native Americans won. Throughout the 1870s- 1900s millions of Native Americans were slaughtered by the whites for the taking of their land. Throughout westward expansion the act of expanding the nation overrode the value of human life when the Native Americans land was taken from them and their culture was destroyed.


The first reason to show that Westward Expansion overrode the value of human life was when the Native Americans were forced to assimilate on Reservations. The white people of the government came to the Native Americans with a deal that they would provide them with food and shelter if they lived on the reservations, if they did not they would end up killing them. They took the Black Hills from them so that they could mine for gold and build railroad tracks. The conditions on the reservations were very bad. Since the Native Americans had never been exposed to white disease before, the Reservations were overcome with influenza, whooping cough, measles and many others. Even though the whites knew that many people were dying they still had a large lack of medical equipment and expertise. It seemed like no one had wanted to help them. Also at these reservations many Native Americans had been killed. At Standing Rock Reservation, all of the Native Americans had been killed, including well known Chief Sitting Bull. They did this for no other reason than that the rest of the people looked up to him and believed in him. The rest of the Native Americans were killed because on of them had fired and shot so the whites started shooting at them even though they were fleeting and ended up killing them all. The whites did not care that all of these people were killed and that before this many had died from disease, they didn’t value them as humans being able to live how they want, they only wanted to be able to take their land for their own profits.


Another way that Westward Expansion overrode the value of human life was life inside the Reservations. After forcing them to live in these places there culture was now being taken away from them. They were given a specific set of clothes that they were supposed to wear. They were not allowed to make clothes like they used to, or even wear clothes similar to that. Next, they were not allowed to hunt and gather for their own food. In some Reservations, like Standing Rock, there was a little coral where they could “hunt” for the meat in an enclosed area. Another big thing that they forced them to do was pick Christian names, attend school and church. In the Native American culture they didn’t have any of these things. They believed in a different type of religion that was very spiritual to them. A big example of how this shows the overriding of human life is with the Ghost Dance. A Native American living at Standing Rock Reservation was told from their God that if they performed a certain dance every night that the white people would go away and their ancestors would be returned to them. This means that they could all go back to living the way they were before the whites came and started taking their land. In effect to this, none of the whites liked it. They talked about killing them because of this and eventually killed all of the Native Americans at Standing Rock because of this and other reasons. The fact being that they were not allowed to be who they were and chose who they wanted to be shows that they did not care for their lives. They wanted to settle out west they needed their land, and by taking them on these reservations for “holding” they had no care on whether they were happy or not.


In today’s time Native Americans are still affected by what happened to them during this time. Nrcprogrmas.org says that life on Reservations in today’s time are comparable to third world countries (Living). This means that the conditions they are living in are not what we could call a home. This is shown through homelessness, lack of economic and job opportunity, and housing. Four to eight out of ten Native Americans in our country are unemployed (Living). Also, 28.2% of them are within poverty (Living). Going along with this around 90,000 of them are homeless (Living). All of these facts and statistics show that life on these Reservations are not the best. Even Native Americans that are not living on Reservations, still face many struggles like poverty and homelessness. If Native Americans were not forced into Reservations back in the 1800s, life for them could be much better better. They could have had an opportunity to prove themselves and live how they wanted. What happened to them still affects the population as a whole everyday.


Throughout Westward Expansion in the United States Native Americans were taken as less than human value. This was shown through the act of them being brought into Reservations and how the conditions on these Reservations destroyed their culture. Even in today’s Native Americans are still affected by what happened. Do you think that the Native Americans were treated fairly?

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How Westward Expansion Affected the Native Americans

How did Westward Expansion affect the Native Americans

Works Cited

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Byrd. “How did Westward Expansion affect the Native Americans.” Online Video Clip. Youtube. Youtube. 2 Sept 2014. Web 11 Mar 2016.


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“Living Conditions.” Nrcprograms.org. Native American Aid, 2010. Web. 14 Mar 2016. <http://www.nrcprograms.org/site/PageServer?pagename=naa_livingconditions>.


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