Westward Expansion

By: Seth Rupp

Expansion prioritized over Human life

Through the years of 1876 and 1890, millions of Native Americans died and were moved to reservations. The Native Americans were moved on to reservations and lived in harsh conditions. Sickness devastated the Native Americans in reservations, because they were not adapted to the many diseases given by the whites. The Native Americans lived in harsh conditions on these reservations, and their culture was destroyed. All this was done in the pursuit of westward expansion. This shows that Westward expansion was prioritized over human life.

Many Native Americans were forced to assimilate into the white’s culture. They were forced to choose Christian names, and wear traditional clothing of the era. This was bad for the Native Americans because it was destroying their culture and traditions. One thing some Indians did was the Ghost Dance. This was a dance that was performed along with religious rituals. The ones performing it believed that it would make the whites disappear and the buffalo come back, alongside their ancestors and way of life. This was done to try and get the Native Americans out of the way. The Indians also had gold on their land. The Black Hills are sacred to the Native Americans, but the gold was on that land. This was another reason the Indians were being “asked” to move. This shows that the government was willing to do anything, regardless of harm done to the Indians, in order to expand to the west.

Reservations were a large part of the government plan to move the Native Americans off of The Black Hills. The Black Hills contained gold, and the railroad was supposed to go directly through them. The Reservations were on poor quality farming land, and the Native Americans were not allowed to hunt or harvest for food. They were also exposed to many new diseases. This included Influenza, Whooping Cough, and Measles. Because this was the first time they were exposed to the sicknesses, they were deadly. Countless Indians died on reservations from disease. There was also a lack of medical equipment to treat illness and injury. This lead to many deaths. The lives of Native Americans were not important to the government, and moving them onto this reservations was okay, as long as their land was seized.

The Native American population is still affected today. There are about three hundred Indian reservations across the United States and not all tribes have one. (Indian) These reservations are much larger and on better quality land. The current day reservations do not deal such harsh damage to the culture of the Native Americans, as they are no longer forced to assimilate. Though improved from reservations of the past they are still “comparable to Third World” (Living). Though the life expectancy of people on reservations has risen, it is still about five years behind that of the average American. Infants are also 60% more likely to die on reservations than outside of one in the U.S. These facts are a testament to the poorer conditions on the Native American reservations. (Living) The only reason Native Americans are on reservations today is because they were forced onto them in the 1800’s in the pursuit of westward expansion.

The Indians faced horrible and unjust treatment throughout history, especially in the 1800s. They were moved into reservations with poor living conditions. They were forced to assimilate into white culture, and sickness was a huge problem at the reservations. The diseases were new to the Indians, so it affected them severely. Even today, Native Americans face inequality and poor treatment. A large amount of Native Americans They had their land taken from them and their culture destroyed, and that can never be fully repaired.

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Westward Expansion: Crash Course US History #24

Works Cited

“Living Condition” ncrprograms.com. Partnership with Native Americans, 2015. Web. 15 Mar. 2016.


1907 “Sioux Camp” tdl.org. Web. 15 Mar. 2016


Barry, David. “Indian Chief Sitting Bull” N.d. Photograph. Wikipedia.org. Web. 16 Mar. 2016.


N.d. “Ghost Dancer” Photograph. Tdl.org. Web. 16 Mar. 2016


Green, John. “Westward Expansion: Crash Course US History #24” Online video clip. Youtube.

Youtube. 8 Aug. 2013. Web. 16 Mar. 2016.

N.d. “Westward Expansion” <http://www.history.com/topics/westward-expansion> 17 Mar. 2016.

Gast, John. 1872. “American Progress”. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki//media/File> 17 Mar. 2016.

N.d. “Westward Expansion Map” <http://www.sonofthesouth.net/texas/westward-expansion.htm>

17 Mar. 2016.