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Destruction of the Plains Native Americans After the Civil War

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Before the Civil War, Americans wished to migrate south but there was one thing in the way, the Native Americans. Treated without any care or justice, President Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act of 1830, inciting the Trail of Tears. The Trail of Tears moved the southern tribes west of the Mississippi and killed almost a third of their people. Later in the 19th century, after the Civil War, Americans once again decided to expand again, but this time westward. Now in the way were the nomadic tribes of the Plains Native Americans and the dislocated southern tribes. Expansion into the "last frontier" decimated Native Americans and their culture. The nomadic tribes survived the grasslands by following and hunting the buffalo herds, which they also worshiped. The Plains Native Americans were once a great cultured group of tribes but in the years after the Civil War their numbers dwindled greatly due to government land grants, the slaughter of the buffalo, war, disease and the Dawes-Severalty Act.

Expansion westward first started when the government wanted American people to move to and develop that area. The Homestead Act gave away 160 acres of land to anyone who could live on it for 7 years. With the invention of barbed wire by Joseph Glidden, the farmers would often close off their land disrupting the nomadic life style of the Native Americans. They would roam freely following the buffalo but now they couldn't do that because of the American farmers. This would often lead to fights between the tribes and the homesteaders who usually had an advantage over them. The homesteads not only put limits on their lifestyles but it also caused violence and death.

Like the Homesteads, transatlantic railroads were also government supported. The government wanted the railroads to expand hoping it would also encourage people to move westward. It would give a few acres of land on either side of the tracks for the railroad company's use. The railroads not only encouraged movement westward but the destruction of the buffalo. They made it easier for white travelers to kill the bison and then ship them off to factories in the cities. There was a desire for buffalo hides and meat, and the railroads helped facilitate this. The nomadic Native Americans followed the buffalo herds and survived off them. They used every part of the buffalo not letting any of it go to waste, using its parts for food, tools shelter. The buffalo, also known as bison, was a huge part of their culture and survival. It was often regarded as a spiritual and religious symbol. The white travelers who came to plains had no respect for the huge creatures and often killed them for fun and money. With their new technology and rifles, they were able to take down many buffalos easily. Soon the buffalo became overhunted and near extinct. Without any buffalo the nomadic tribes had almost nothing to survive off of. Their lifestyle and only way to live had been destroyed and with it many Native Americans starved and died.

The tragic and awful Battle of Wounded Knee occurred on December 29, 1890 because of the slaughter of the buffalo and increased tensions between the settlers and the Native Americans. On a reservation in southwestern South Dakota, a group of Sioux was



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