FRQ: Explain the ultimate defeat of the Plains Indians by whites. Select at least three major reasons for the decline of the Plains culture; then tell which you think was the most important and why.
From the time that the Spanish reached the New World in 1492, European powers, and later on American, consistently tried to quash the native people, one way or another. Throughout the 1800s, and especially during the Gilded Age, the federal government’s attempts to confine the Native Americans to certain areas were largely ineffective. This was the case because the Plains Indians, along with other tribes, rejected the idea of formal authority and defined territory. This caused friction between the Natives and the government, leading to what would later on be known as the Plains Wars. Ultimately, the Plains Indians were defeated, due to the federal government’s willingness to deploy military force, the settlement of Indian lands by homesteaders and railroads, and especially the destruction of the buffalo upon which the Indian way of life depended.
With the influx of miners into traditional tribal lands during the Gold Rush, many came and took land wherever they pleased. In order to avoid conflict, the federal government and five tribes signed the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868, which gave certain exclusive land rights to the tribes, such as ownership of the Black Hills. However, with trespassing by gold prospectors onto the Black Hills, the Indians retaliated and attacked, leading to the seize of the Black Hills in 1877. This marked the beginning of the Plains Wars. The federal government’s willingness to deploy unrelenting military force was one of the causes leading to the defeat of the Plains Indians. Hostile encounters with the U.S. armed forces often ended in great loss for the Indians, steadily decreasing their populations, and reducing the numbers of warriors they had. The tribes’ populations had declined so much that they were consistently outnumbered, and...
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