A Guide to the American West

By April Adams

Why you should head West?

If you're thinking about heading West, you can be sure its not a bad thing to do.

By heading West, you'll be able to get cheap (or even free!) land and a better way of life.

How could life be better in the West? Well, with life in the West you can expect a lot of freedom and there aren't as many rules to hold you back. There is religious freedom so everyone can worship as they like. If you are travelling there are even army units to protect you!

America - the land

The West side of America is west to the frontier, the Mississippi River is the frontier. In the west there are 5 areas: The Great Plains, The Rocky Mountains, Plateaux region, The Sierra Nevada and the Pacific coastlands. The settlers first crossed over the Appalachian Mountains to find fertile land in the valley of the Mississippi and decided to stay on the west because of good farming land.

The Great Plains

The Great Plains are beyond the Mississippi River. It is a hug grassland which is bare and there are hardly any trees, practically nobody lives there (but the Plains Indians) due to the harsh weather conditions in the winter i.e. blizzards and you can not farm on the land.

The Rocky Mountains and Plateaux region

Just after the Great Plains are the Rocky Mountains. If crossing the Rocky Mountains, be sure to watch out for creatures that may be around, such as: bears, beavers, mountain lions, bull elk, bobcats and marmots. Once you have reached the end of the Rocky Mountains you have arrived at the Plateaux region. In the Plateaux region you will find the famous Great Salt Lake. If you plan on visiting the Great Salt Lake, in particular Antelope Island, beware of the buffalo (bison) that may be around as they can charge at 40 mph!

Tribes

  • Hidasta
  • Mandan
  • Arikara
  • Nakota
  • Ponca
  • Lipan Apache
  • Sioux

The Plains Indians

As mentioned before, the Plains Indians live on the the Great Plains, the indian tribes that live on the Great Plains are nomads who follow/hunt the buffalo herds. The Sioux is the most powerful tribe on the Plains, within the Sioux there are lot's of sub-tribes such as the Brule and Oglala. The Plains Indians believe in many gods and 'The Great Spirit' or 'Waken Tanka'. The Great Spirit is the most powerful god and the Indians often have ceremonies such as ' The Sun Dance' and 'The Scalp Dance' to worship the Great Spirit and other gods. They believe that the gods showed themselves as animals, the sun, the moon, and the stars.

Family is very important to the Plains Indians, each member of the family plays an important role. For example the grandparents/parents are highly respected due to their wisdom which will be passed down through the generations. Life of the Plains Indians children is not bad, their parents treat them well and do not hurt them when punishing them.

Buffalo (bison)

The Buffalo travel in large herds across the Great Plains. Most of the Plains Indians tribes lives revolve around the buffalo. Buffalo are giant animals weighing around 1 tonne and stand over 1.5m tall. The tribes never kill more Buffalo than necessary, only what they need to survive on. No part of the Buffalo is wasted. The meat is used for food, the rawhide is used for all types of things such as: shields, bags, containers, ropes and horse harnesses, there is much more that the Buffalo is used for.

What do you need?

If you are going West, you should be prepared. Here is a list of stuff you should take if you are preparing to travel West:


  • Water
  • A variety of clothing
  • Food
  • Weapons
  • You will obviously have a cart or wagon of some type for transport
  • Medicine
Some people tend to think that tipis are horrible to live in, but the Plains Indians find them perfectly comfortable. As you are travelling to the West, you'll need to know where you are staying, most likely a house considering you are from the east. The Plains Indians love the way they live, and tend to think how we live is strange (though they will respect you live).

Certain people think bad things of the Indians, but they respect our way of living so people should try and respect theirs.