Western Frontier

By Alexa Rolfe

When throughout history has the cost of enlarging a nation overridden the value of human life?

In history many countries and nations have used the thought of gaining more land to outweigh the needs of other humans. Around the mid 1840’s westward expansion of the United States started. The nation wanted to gain land and grow towns fast. There were a few things preventing them from doing this though. Bad terrain, insects destroying crops, and also the fact that there were already natives living there. People did not think about them to much, believing that they would be fine with these new waves of people coming and taking land from them that they saw as sacred. They were treated in a way that made them seem to be more like animals in the eyes of the new settlers then other human beings. During this time violence began to spread as the fight for land began.

As people began to move from the shores of the east towards the west, they put no thought to the idea that maybe the natives that already had homes in that land would care that they were taking it from them. The white settlers in the North hoped for new land, to expand and grow the country, and to have better land for farming. The white settlers in the South wanted this too, but they also had hopes that if they moved West before the Civil War they could keep their slaves. They all knew that this would be a great step for the new country. That it was almost like their God given right to take this land. Sparking the use of the term “Manifest Destiny”.

As they began to ride out in wagons, in search of new land for the country, they found a new animal that roamed free across the new land that settlers wanted. This animal was the buffalo. So the settlers began to build fences, to prohibiting these animals that the Native Americans valued so much from taking too much land so that they could build railroads and feed the people working on the railroads. The Native Americans relied on buffalo as a source of food, clothing, and other supplies, no part of it went to waste. So when the white settlers came and began killing thousands of buffalo to use only for their meat and more land, the Native Americans saw these new white men as being wasteful and disrespectful of their culture. This was the beginning of the first feelings of aggression towards the white men.

Now the white settlers had built railroads to gain land, so more settlers headed west, they built towns along the railroads pushing the Native Americans out of their own sacred land. The Native Americans were confined to small pieces of land for their tribe, along with that they were still fighting with other tribes for land. The American Government wanted every piece of land they did not have yet that was in the west. That includes the land that the Native Americans had. To do this, they began by dividing the Native American into reservations, where their culture was taken from them. They could not hunt, they could not wear their own clothing, and they were even forced to take a christian name and have an American education. Some of the reservations were very poor, and there was little food. The Government offered to leave them a portion of land if they sold it to them from the start. The Native Americans refused to take this offer, they wanted to keep their land. This lead the government to take the land from them and sell it to other white settlers. Now, they had to take care of the Native Americans. The Government thought the best way to take care of the Indians was assimilation. Meaning the white population “absorbed” the Native Americans. Many were sent to schools and forced to abandon their culture.

When America decided to move west and gain land, they did not think about others that may already reside there. When faced with the problem though, they pushed the Native Americans out of their home land. Creating violence among them. During this time white settlers disregarded the needs, culture, and feelings of the Native Americans. They were not treated like other white people in the country, they were seen as not having rational thoughts, why would they not want to shorten their long Indian name for a good christian one? The Native Americans were treated with disrespect, and their lives and culture were taken for granted.

Today the Native Americans are still being impacted. The conditions of the reservations that many Indians still live on has been compared to living in a third world country (Living 1). There are very few jobs on these reservations (Living 1) the Indians were forced into. As little as 4 out of 10 adults on the reservations have jobs (Living 1). Some have to leave their family and the reservation to find other work to support their family (Living 1). Due to the low wages and low amount in jobs, generations of families live together (Living 1). As many as three generations will live together in houses with poor conditions, something that is not uncommon in reservations (Living 1). Around 40% of housing on Indian reservations is seen as being inadequate for people to live in (Living 1). All of these problems the Native Americans are facing is due to when the American government forced them out of their land and into reservations. This has forced them to deal with awful living conditions, and little money for necessities, some have even had to leave their family to support them somewhere else with another job outside of the reservation. The suffering the American government made the Native Americans face has not ended, they are still impacted today.

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Western Frontier-Crash Course Video

Westward Expansion: Crash Course US History #24


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