The Transformation of the Trans-Mississippi West

Categories: Susan B Anthony

I. Native Americans and the Trans-Mississippi West

The Plains Indians

Three major sub regions:

  • The northern Plains: Lakota, Flatheads, Blackfeet, Assiniboins, northern Cheyennes, Arapahos, and Crows
  • The Central region: Five Civilized Tribes, agricultural life, before horses
  • South: western Kansas, Colorado, eastern New Mexico, and Texas: the Comanches, Kiowas, southern Arapahos, and Kiowa Apaches

Extended family ties and tribal cooperation; families joined clans to help make decisions

Sioux bands focused on religious and harvest celebrations and was complex; life was a series of circles; self torture; sacrificing; -Indians dispersed across the landscape to minimize damage to the lands;

The Destruction of Nomadic Indian Life

  • declining bison, intruding miners, the Federal Gov’t introduced tribal reservations
  • expected to change to an agricultural way of life-force
  • the Pueblos, Crows, and Hidatsas peacefully accepted
  • the Dakota Sioux and Navajos opposed to no avail
  • faced U.S. army in a series of final battles
  • unfulfilled promises, misunderstandings, butchery, and brutality marked the conflice; Indians facing starvation near Sand Creek snuck away to hunt bison and steal livestock

Governor made proclamation to seek out and kill all hostile Indians on sight and activated a regiment of troops under Colonel John Chivington who massacred a peaceful band of Indians at Sand Creek

Results: Congress sent a peace commission to end fighting and set aside two large districts, one north of Nebraska, and the other south of Kansas, where tribes might convert to Christianity

  • threats of force from Federal Gov’t.

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  • the Medicine Lodge Treaty: pledged to live on land in present-day Oklahoma

Fort Laramie Treaty: agreed to move to reservations on the so-called Great Sioux Reserve in return for money and provisions

Indians rebelled with violence; Congress established a Board of Indian Commissioners to reform the reservation system-failed

c. Custer’s Last Stand, 1876

Chief Red Cloud’s Oglala band and Chief Spotted Tail’s Brulé and won the concession of staying on their traditional lands; non-treaty Sioux found a powerful leader in Sitting Bull

William Tecumseh Sherman sent George Custer into the Black Hills of South Dakota to find a location to keep an eye on renegade Indians (really to confirm rumors of gold in the Black Hills)

Custer mobilized troops to Little Bighorn River and recklessly advanced against a large company of Cheyenne and Sioux warriors led by Sitting Bull-his army was wiped out

Defeat made army more determined; Sitting Bull surrendered from lack of provisions and joined Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show

d. “Saving” the Indians

  • the Women’s National Indian Rights Association
  • the Dawes Severalty Act: reform Indians and the treatment of Indians as individuals and gave 160 acres of land for farming or 320 acres for grazing to the head of any family complying with the law
  • eventually became a boon to speculators who commonly obtained the Indians’ most arable tracts of land e. The Ghost Dance and the End of Indian Resistance on the Great Plains, 1890
  • Wovoka, a prophet, promised to restore the Sioux to their original dominance on the Great Plains if they performed the Ghost Dance
  • Ghost shirts decorated to ward off evil, moved in a circle until a trance-like state
  • military authorities grew alarmed, tried to arrest Sitting Bull-killed
  • Wounded Knee: 300 Indians slaughtered, the end of conflict

II. Settling the West

The First Transcontinental Railroad

  • the Pacific Railroad Act: authorized the construction of a new transcontinental link, provided grants of land to railroads making them the largest landholders in the West
  • The Central Pacific: Chinese workers because of low wages, non-drinkers, and furnished their own food and tents-nearly 12,000
  • Union Pacific meets Central Pacific at Promontory Point, Utah
  • Proved helpful in fighting the Indians

Settlers and the Railroad

  • railroads attracted settlers by glorifying the West as a new Garden of Eden, offered long-term loans and free transportation; advised young men to bring their wives and emigrate as families -unintended consequence: made land available to single women or “girl homesteaders”
  • also helped bring foreign-born migrants to the West, influenced agriculture urging new immigrants to specialize in cash crops

Homesteading on the Great Plains

Еhe Homestead Act: 160 acres of land to any individual who would pay a ten-dollar registration fee, live on the land for five years, and cultivate and improve it-attractive to European immigrants

Unintended: unscrupulous agents filed false claims for the choicest locations, and railroads and state gov’ts acquired huge landholdings-only 1 acre in 9 went to pioneers second problem: 160 acres not enough ample land in the arid west- the Timber Culture Act gave homesteaders an additional 160 acres if they planted trees on 40 acres, the Desert Land Act made 640 acres available at $1.25 on condition that the owner irrigate part of it within three years; also abused by speculators

Settlement hard: build a house, plow the fields, plant crops, drill a well, etc. especially difficult for women, took pride in their accomplishments

New Farms, New Markets

  • production boosted: steel plows, spring tooth harrows, improved grain binders, threshers, and windmills increased yield tenfold; also barbed wire
  • “dry farming” plowing deeply to stimulate the capillary action of the soils and harrowing lightly to raise a covering of dirt that would retain precious moisture after a rainfall; grasshopper infestations

Building a Society and Achieving Statehood

  • Churches and Sunday Schools; community cooperation, libraries, temperance clubs, and social associations, hotels, and opera houses
  • To become a state: establish the territory’s boundaries, authorizing an election to select delegates for a state constitutional convention, ratified constitution, approval by Congress
  • new state gov’ts supported women’s suffrage encouraged by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton-Wyoming the first

III. Exploiting the Western Landscape

The Mining Frontier

  • Henry Comstock discovers Comstock Load along Carson River; prospectors swarmed into the Rocky Mountains
  • “placer” gold, panned from streams, attracted young male population thirsting for wealth and reinforced the myth of mining country as a “poor man’s paradise” ; western mining camps became ethnic melting pots
  • extracting gold and silver required huge investments in workers and expensive equipment
  • boom-and-bust cycles; growth of settlement in Alaska-the discovery of gold in the Canadian Klondike brought thousands enabling Alaska to establish gov’t
  • the production of millions of ounces of gold and silver stimulated the economy, lured new foreign investors, and helped usher the U.S. into the mainstream of world economy
  • long-term costs: scarring of the land

Cowboys and the Cattle Frontier

  • cattle herding promoted as the new route to fame and fortune; the cowboy now glorified as a man of rough-hewn integrity and self-reliant strength
  • Joseph G. McCoy turned the cattle industry into a money-maker; raised steers cheaply in Texas and brought them north for shipment to eastern urban markets
  • organized the first Wild West show, where roping and riding exhibitions attracted exuberant crownds-35,000 steers sold in Abilene and double his second year; five dollar “kick backs”
  • many were blacks and Mexicans barred from any other trades;

Nat Love chief brander,, won roping and shooting contests, “Deadwood Dick”

  • close relationships between white and black cowboys were created; Charles Goodnight (white) and Bose Ikard (Black)
  • dime novels glorified the cowboy;

Deadwood Dick novels by Edward Wheeler

  • range wars and “cattle kings” thought that the open range existed for them alone to exploit against farmers; ranchers spread barbed wire fencing, small
  • scale shooting incidents

Bonanza Farms

  • wheat boom in the Dakota Territory started the nation’s first agribusiness, began during the Panic of 1873
  • Railroad bonds plummeted and speculators bought thousands of acres of fertile land on the Red River valley
  • factory like ten-thousand-acre farms each run by a hired manager and invested heavily in labor and equipment; the Cass-Cheney-Dalrymple farm
  • profits soon evaporated leaving Red River valley farmers destitute; collapsed because : overproduction, high investment costs, rain, international grain prices undercut earnings
  • large-scale farms most successful in California’s Central Valley: cherries, apricots, grapes, and oranges; California Citrus Growers’ Association, “Sunkist”, refrigerated rail cars

The Oklahoma Land Rush, 1889

  • Indian Territory that had been reserved for the Five Civilized Tribes since they sided with the Confederacy during the Civil War
  • 1889 Congress transferred nearly 2 million acres to the public domain and thousands of men, women, and children stampeded into the territory
  • demonstrated the continuing power of the frontier myth, which tied “free” land to the ideal of economic opportunity
  • occurred too late to plant a full crop and drought parched the land; poor land management would turn the area into the Dustbowl in the 1930s

IV. The West of Life and Legend

The American Adam and the Dime-Novel Hero

  • frontiersmen presented as simple, virtuous, innocent, and uncorrupted by social order
  • Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn rejects constraints of settled society; the West is a place of adventure, romance, or contemplation where one can escape from pressure
  • another myth: frontiersman as masculine ideal, the tough guy who fights for truth and honor
  • inspired “Buffalo Bill” Cody to start his Wild West shows; presented mock battles, reinforced image of the west where virtues always triumphed

Revitalizing the Frontier Legend

Three Eastern men spent time in the West, each affected; Roosevelt The Winning of the West: a stark physical and moral environment that stripped away all social artifice and tested each individual’s character; Own Wister’s The Virginian: the West produces honest, strong, and compassionate men, quick to help the weak and fight the wicket; the myth glossed over the darker side of frontier expansion

Indian warfare, racist discrimination, risks of commercial agriculture, and boom-and-bust mentality; obscured the complex links between the settlement of the frontier and the emergence of the U.S. as a major industrialized nation increasingly tied to a global economy. Without the railroad, the west would have developed much slower

Beginning a Conservation Movement

  • Major John Wesley Powell charted the Colorado River, Report on the Lands of the Arid Regions of the United States argued that settlers needed to change their pattern of settlement and readjust their expectations about the use of water in the dry terrain west of the hundredth meridian.
  • Washburn and adventurers visited Yellowstone River and petitioned Congress to protect it from settlement upon seeing its beauty; Congress created Yellowstone National Park
  • Man and Nature George Perkins March attacked the view that nature existed to be tamed and conquered, warned the public to change its ways-support from John Muir, a Scottish immigrant, who became the late nineteenth century’s most articulate publicist for wilderness protection.
  • contributed to the establishment of Yosemite National Park and the Sierra Club
Cite this page

The Transformation of the Trans-Mississippi West. (2016, Oct 18). Retrieved from

The Transformation of the Trans-Mississippi West

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