September 23rd, 2012
1. How did the culture of the Plains Indians, specifically the Lakota Sioux, change in the late 19th century?
Americans had been traveling westward in small numbers until the late 1840’s when gold was discovered throughout the region. Afterwards, Americans passed through the plains regions in heavy numbers seeking fortunes and gold presenting significant problems for the Sioux. They decimated the land and water ecosystems, drove away the bison herds and messed up their migrations patterns, and introduced more disease. Already the Sioux’s numbers and culture began taking a hit. By the late 19th century Americans were building large railroad systems connecting the East with the West and even more Americans were drawn to the plains regions thanks to the Homestead Act of 1862. The tribal system of the Sioux was progressively torn apart thanks to their land being taken over by white settlers. The government, particularly President Grant, purposed and passed many treaties of peace, but wasn’t able to properly enforce them causing American military personnel and citizens to become openly hostile. These peace policies’ required Plains Indians to live in small reservations, receive a ration of food and supplies from the U.S. government, and adapt American ideals. The small reservations were built on land with soil that could not be harvested and were constantly being invaded by the surrounding white population, and corruption within the U.S. government allowed many White settlers to eventually take over reservation land, further confining the Plains Indians to a smaller and smaller territory. Continued battles caused the Plains Indian’s numbers to dwindle severely and their culture to all but vanish. The tribal system was broken down requiring the Indians to submit to the U.S. views of individualistic representation and not tribal governments. The government passed a series of...