The Westward Expansion

Presented to you by Chloe Kabat


In this presentation, I am going to cover seven topics of the Westward Expansion. Those topics will be Native Americans, African Americans, women, miners, Mexican Americans, farmers, and cowhands. In these paragraphs, I will explain what impact they had on the Westward Expansion and why they came to the west.

Native Americans

Before the 1850's, Native American groups lived in the west. They were nomadic tribes, meaning they traveled from place to place after a while. The Natives relied on the buffalo for food, weapons, shelter, and even instruments. By the 1860's, the government was building railroads out west because of pioneers who had traveled west and reported places for farming and housing. Settlers came to the Great Plains to stake their claims and wanted the Natives out. The Natives fought for their land, but it seemed hopeless. The American government outnumbered the Natives badly. On some occasions, the Natives did win, like the Battle of Little Bighorn. It is also known for being "Custer's Last Stand". In June 1876, Custer lead 265 soldiers toward what they thought was a small Sioux camp. Only that was his big mistake. There at the assumed little camp was around 2,500 Sioux there waiting. Unfortunately the Natives lost about every other major battle against the American Army. Thousands of Natives were killed, while the rest were forced onto reservations. By the end of the 1880's, Native Americans lived on these small pieces of land.

Mexican Americans, Cowhands, and African Americans

After slaves were freed from the United States, a lot of them ended up going west. They worked as ranchers and cowhands. About 1 in 3 cowhands were either Mexican or African American. The first cowhands were known as Vaqueros. Vaqueros came into America after the war between Mexico and America. When America won, they got a big peice of Mexico's land. The people that lived there no longer lived in Mexico. They started to go west as well. Some people in the east came west because of the railroads and cattle industry in the 1860's. The cattle industry boomed when people found land good for farming. The cowhand job was easy. That is why so many people went to the west; to get money and to get it easily.

Miners and Farmers

People started going west in the late 1850's to early 1860's. When a man found a gold nugget in a river, worth quite a lot, the word got out quickly. People from the east and even from different parts of the world came hoping to get lucky and strike some fortune. Earlier miners used pans and water to find gold bits. This was called "panning". After some time, bigger companies started to come with big machines and explosives. Normal miners couldn't compete with that, and the food that was being provided was becoming too expensive. Some started to head back home, a few with gold and most with nothing. The gold was becoming less valuable, and some even died in the tunnels and caves they were mining in. For farmers, it was a little different. When people came out west with their family to start a farm and make a living, they had to start from scratch. They would build their house either out of wood that they found or most people built their houses into the hills with sod walls. It was very hard work getting everything set up before the cold weather came. Some farmers had animals like cows, pigs, and sometimes even horses. The men would work on the farms all day setting it up while the women cleaned, made meals, and took care of children. Sometimes, a mother would teach her children how to read and write.


Women played their part in the westward expansion. They could be farmers, cowhands, miners, and shopkeepers. When the mining industry came up, towns developed called "Boomtowns". They were called this because it may have started out as a few houses then became a busy town. Women opened up shops and cleaned clothing. When food was being sold by the mines where people worked, they would cook for them. In these Boomtowns though, there were people known as vigilantes or "con-men". Both men and women were these types of people who lived off of robbery. These people would terrorize growing Boomtowns and cow towns, stealing supplies and fighting townspeople. One famous outlaw was known as Belle Starr, or The Bandit Queen. She was infamous for stealing people's horses.