Native American Wars on the Western Frontier, 1866-1890


Among other factors that compounded the tensions within the Native American tribes at this time were that they were being forced to relo- cate to unfamiliar lands where other Native Americans tribes had historically lived. The sudden change from hunting to farming imposed on them by the federal government was also a hardship. Buffalo hunting, which had been a mainstay of Native American life on the Great Plains, was virtually eradicated by whites that hunted the buffalo nearly to extinction. Railroad com-

The discovery of gold and other valuable resources in the western territories drew many people into the Native American lands.

panies hired professional hunters to kill large numbers of buffalo to pro- vide meat for work crews, and sometimes railroad passengers shot the animals simply for sport. The Native American chiefs who signed those treaties during the so-called “frontier wars” era often did not fully under- stand all the treaty terms. Native Americans also were unaware that it took a long time for the U.S. government to ratify a treaty. They thought that promised pay- ments and supplies under a treaty were being delayed on purpose. Settlers and those who traveled through the Native American territo- ries in the West often did not know or care much about federal policies toward Native Americans. They did not believe the Native Americans had rights to the land. Difficulties with Treaties During the 1830s and 1840s, American settlers traveled west through the Great Plains and other Indian territories on the Oregon Trail and other routes. Journalists sometimes reported about cruel native tribes mas-

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