History

Why did the federal government pursue a policy of military confrontation and forced assimilation when dealing with Native Americans?

One of the key reasons as to the adoption of military policy and forced assimilation was Indian reservation land. The Dawes Act of 1887 which informed part of the same policy was enacted to divide Indian reservation land to Native Americans individually and the remaining portion from such division was to be sold to non-natives who comprised mostly the white Americans (Keene, Cornell & O’Donnell, 2009). As such, the Act was predicated on aiding white Americans to acquire land owned by Indians to further promote capitalism. The acceptance of the division of these lands was subjected to citizenship for the Indians and when the process stalled the Supreme Court through the case of Lone Wolf v Hitchcock (1903) where no consent from Indians was required in the sale of their land. Forced assimilation was also aimed at making the Native American’s civilized. Part of Dawes Act requirement for Indians attaining citizenship was the adoption of civilized habits.

The desire to expand the Federal government territory westward equally prompted the use of military policy against Native Americans who were ready to defend their lands. Subsequent gold discovery in 1849 in the west caused the increasing influx of European immigrants who required protection from the Natives viewed as extremely hostile (Keene, Cornell & O’Donnell, 2009). In specific instances, white settlers were massacred through attacks from American Indians although the hostilities ceased after the signing of the Treaty of Fort Laramie. However, the Federal government violated the same treaty due to mineral opportunities and dishonored boundary guidelines. As a result, the natives fought back the influx and violation of boundary lines which led to numerous battles. The United States Federal government responded through military suppression which eventually forced the natives to reservations.

Why did so many Euro-Americans settle in the trans-Mississippi West? Where/what is the Trans-Mississippi West?

The trans-Mississippi West is land west of the Mississippi River. Many Euro-Americans decided to settle in this area. Most reasons for settling was economic. The West was viewed as a place with plentiful opportunity. There was plenty of arable land which many Americans used for farming. The U.S. encouraged settling in the west to create farms by creating the Homestead Act. According to Visions of America, the Homestead Act “provided 160 acres of free land to any settler willing to live on it and improve it for five years.”(Keene,15.1.1), This large amount of free land gave Americans an incentive to settle and farm in the West. Other people decided to settle in the West to mine for precious metals. The West is a very large portion of land. Movement of people and goods takes a very long time. This encouraged the growth of the railroad systems. The railroads sped up transportation and allowed producers to sell their goods on a national, not local market. The railroads also provided economic opportunity. The railroads were first built by constructors. The constructors were usually Chinese or Irish Immigrants. After construction, the railroads needed workers. Conductors to work the trains, Engineers to maintain the trains, and traffic control to ensure no crashes occurred. Finally, some Americans went west to escape religious persecution. According to Visions of America, “One distinct subgroup of native-born white migrants were the Mormons.”(Keene,15.1.4) The Mormons settled west to escape persecution of their practice of polygamy.