Effect on Native Americans
Native Americans Affected by Westward Expansion
Have you ever been punished unfairly for something? As the American civilization expanded west, the whites “punished” the Native Americans. Starting around the 1840s, the Native Americans were being pushed farther and farther west and out of their lands. They were the first people there, and were the first people to inhabit those lands. We aggressively drove them away, and with this came resistance. The government was not okay with this, and so the battle over the land became deadly. At this point in time, expanding the nation was more important then preserving human life.
Manifest Destiny was the start of westward expansion and the eradication of the Native American tradition and culture. Americans thought that it was their God given duty to expand the nation. However, Manifest Destiny ended somewhat quickly because of the more pressing issue of slavery. In the mid - 1850s, railroads, miners, cattle drivers, and farmers came to the Plains. Each of these groups had a negative impact on the Native Americans. The most significant impact they had on the Native Americans was driving away the buffalo. The Native Americans relied on the buffalo for everything, so they had to follow the retreating buffalo. In addition to driving them away, the Americans also killed a lot of the buffalo. They did not use them as resourcefully as the Native Americans did. They only used them to feed railroad crews, help keep the tracks clear, and as a sport, whereas the Native Americans used every part of the buffalo, down to the bones.
In the late 1860s, the government wanted the Black Hills to mine for gold, which were Sioux lands. In order to gain possession of these lands, the government came up with a plan to put the Sioux and other Native Americans in reservations. For the Sioux, there was a very thought out plan. Step 1 was to divide the Indian lands into six reservations. Next, they would divide each reservation and give 160 acres of land to each Native American family. Then, the remaining unused land would be sold to white settlers at a profit to the Indians. Last, the government would create railroads leading to the Black Hills so that they could mine for gold. The Sioux were not happy about this plan, but they were unable to stop it from happening. So the government put them all in reservations. In the reservations, the conditions were not very good. Illnesses were deadly, and people had no hope. Life in the reservations were meant to be somewhat similar to what the Native American’s lives were like before. One thing the government tried to recreate was hunting. They put a bull in a small fenced in area, and sent one person in on a horse to “hunt” the bull. It was nothing like hunting at all. There were other things that the government did want to change, and they did it very well. They wanted to change the entire Native American culture. On these reservations, Native Americans were forced to go to a white school and learn about American history, have a Christian name, and even become Christian. At Standing Rock reservation, a Sioux reservation, there was a very powerful chief named Sitting Bull. He acted out against the reservations and eventually, the head of the reservation decided to arrest him. However, they shot him and many bystanders instead. This was a major event. The Native Americans in the reservation were furious with the leaders and rebelled. At Wounded Knee Creek, officers came to take away all of the Native American’s weapons. Eventually, fighting broke out on both sides. The Native Americans tried to retreat, but the officers just kept shooting at them as they ran away. This is only one example of the bloody fighting that occurred between Native Americans and whites.
Native Americans are still impacted today from these horrible events. About 40% of Native Americans still live on reservations (Living). This is not very good because they do not have as many opportunities as they would if they did not live on reservations. One article states that the conditions on reservations are “comparable to third world” (Reservation). This means that they do not have all of the same luxuries that most Americans do. On reservations, there is a lack of jobs and economic opportunity. Another article declares that, “four to eight out of ten adults on reservations are unemployed” (Living). This makes it difficult to support their families. Many Native Americans do not even have a college degree. There is about a 13% difference between the amount of Native Americans that have a college degree, and the amount of Caucasians that have a college degree (Reservation). Because of this, most Native Americans on reservations live in poverty. Actually, a statistic shows that 38% to 63% are struggling with this crisis (Living). Many generations are forced to live together, and this leads to housing issues. A program that helps Native Americans on reservations states that, “there are 90,000 homeless or underhoused Indian families, and that 30% of Indian housing is overcrowded and less than 50% of it is connected to a public sewer” (Living). Of the very few homes, most of them are considered inadequate anyway. With these conditions so bad, Native Americans on reservations tend to have a shorter life expectancy then other Americans (Reservation). One reason for this is because only about 60% of their health needs are met (Living). The other 40% are unable to get the medical help that they need, and are therefore much more likely to die. Many Native Americans are also at a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, tuberculosis, and cancer (Living). So if the 40% that do not get the medical help that they need have say, cancer, there is no way that they are going to be able to recover from it. One article states, “36% of Natives with heart disease will die before age 65 compared to 15% of Caucasians”(Living). Overall, the needs of employment, shelter, and health have never been met adequately.
In the late 1800s, expanding the country was more important then preserving human life and culture. Americans basically destroyed the Native Americans culture and traditions. They have never really recovered. Native Americans are still being impacted today because they have less opportunities, and are exposed to more diseases that we have brought. Some have adjusted and are living in the rest of society, but many still live on reservations and try to preserve the old traditions that we took away from them.
Native Americans Changing Way of Life
Video: How did Westward Expansion Affect the Native Americans
“Living Conditions.” Partnership with Native Americans. Native American Aid, 2015. Web. 13 March 2016. <http://www.nrcprograms.org/site/PageServer?pagename=naa_livingconditions#top>.
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1885. “Sitting Bull in 1885.” Web. 15 March 2016. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sitting_Bull>.
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Dr. Byrd. “How did Westward Expansion Affect the Native Americans.” Online video clip. Youtube. Google. 2 September 2014. Web. 17 March 2016. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z3knJOD3uNw>.