Native Americans

Lars Major

Consequences of Expanding a Nation

How would you feel if someone came into your life and demanded that you give up everything you had, including your freedom? Have you ever been forced to abandon your beliefs, culture, and lifestyle and assimilate into a different way of life? Many countries throughout the history of the world have had the goal to expand their nation, even if that meant harming others. One example of this is when the United States’ government was expanding west and taking the land of the Native Americans living there. Many tribes, including the Sioux tribe, were caught in the middle of this conflict. The government had the idea that they would take the land from the Native Americans and assimilate them into our culture. Unfortunately, due to the Native Americans’ defiance to give up their land and beliefs, a lot of fighting arose, and many lives were lost.


The biggest contributor to the Native Americans on the Great Plains were the buffalo. Not only were the buffalo a key food source to the Native Americans, but their hide, bones, and other body parts were used within Native American tribes as well. These buffalo herds were so key to the success of the Native Americans that the tribes would travel great distances to find buffalo. However, once the Civil War ended, the Native Americans encountered a tough situation. American hunters were traveling to Plains and killing off buffalo in massive amounts. They would kill these buffalo to feed railroad crews that were constructing the Transcontinental Railroad, to clear the way for trains to come through, and for various other reasons. This mass slaughter of the buffalo brought down the buffalo amounts in the Plains from 30 million in 1865 to just 85 in 1889. This was a major blow to the Native Americans and their lifestyle, for they no longer had the key to their survival.


In addition, the whites were forcefully taking the land that the Native Americans had lived on for many, many years. One piece of land that the whites were really focusing on were the Black Hills, mostly because it was rich with gold. At one point, General Custer of the Union army led his men onto a Sioux camp and attacked it in an attempt to capture the land in and around the Black Hills. All of his men were killed, along with many Sioux members. This type of battle was fairly common at the time, however, when fighting did not solve anything, armies met with tribes to discuss the government’s plan to move the Native Americans onto reservations. When the leaders of the tribes refused to just give up their land, battles broke out where the Native Americans were severely overpowered in terms of equipment. The leaders of the tribes surrendered to the whites when they saw that they could not win the battle, thus were put onto the reservations. At the reservations, the government offered the Sioux and other Native Americans money in exchange for their land, but they did not want the money. All the Native Americans wanted was their land and their freedom to live however they pleased. Eventually, tensions became so high between the whites and the Native Americans that major battles broke out where a lot of Native Americans and soldiers died, all due to the defiance of the Native Americans not to give up their land and beliefs. One such battle was the Battle at Wounded Knee between the Sioux Native Americans and the soldiers on the reservation.


Throughout the years since the Battle at Wounded Knee, conditions for the Sioux Native Americans, and many other Dakota tribes, have declined even more. Many of the Sioux are now living in poverty, with little freedom as to what they do with their life (“Indians”). A lot of the Sioux are unemployed and are so poor that they can barely support their families (“Indians”). Along with the poverty levels among the Sioux, many Sioux children are being taken away from their families to assimilate into white culture. As for other Native Americans living in the United States, they are facing similar situations. Many of them are in poverty without jobs and even most of the Native Americans with jobs are still earning poverty-level wages (“Living”). In terms of housing, many Native Americans are living in inadequate homes (“Living”). One legislator spoke about this issue saying, “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”). The health standards for Native Americans in the United States is also below par. Many Native Americans face harsh health risk, as there are epidemics of “diabetes, heart disease, tuberculosis, and cancer” (“Living”). There are also many Native Americans suffering from suicide (“Living”) Although there are health organizations for the Native Americans, many of them do not meet all of the needs of their patients (“Living”). The life expectancy for Native Americans is almost five years shorter than that of other Americans (“Living”).


In summary, there have been many instances throughout history where the expansion of a nation overrides the value of human life. One such instance is the debacle that occurred between the Native Americans living on the Great Plains and the United States government. In this case, many lives were lost basically over land. Although there are many other examples of times where human life has fallen victim to the expansion of a nation, this is one iconic example, especially in American history.

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