Indians Pushed to the Brink

Indians Pushed to the Brink 1800s

From the time of Europeans arriving in the New World and later the United States, the Native American Indian tribes were pushed to the brink. The process worsened with Manifest Destiny that urged white settlers to go West and find their place in America.

The push for Native American Indian’s land was in full force by the 1830s under President Andrew Jackson and again under President Martin Van Buren. The most epic forced movement of Native American Indians before 1850 was the Trail of Tears in 1838.

Indians Pushed to the Brink Facts

  • Several gold rushes in California, Montana, Colorado, and the Black Hills were instrumental in the destruction of Native American Indian tribes.
  • The Homestead Act of 1862 opened up western states to settlers. The settlers securing lands led to direct conflicts with tribes.
  • The Indian Wars lasted from 1850 until 1890. The wars included conflicts between most Native American Indian tribes and the U.S. Army.
  • President Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act in 1830. In 1838 Native American Indians were sent to the new Indian Territory in present-day Oklahoma. Over 3,500 Native American Indians died along the journey, which is known as the Trail of Tears.
  • Native American Indian tribes suffered a tremendous loss of land from 1850 until 1890. The Indian Appropriations Act in 1851 set aside reservations for Native American Indian tribes. Nomadic Native American Indian tribes were not allowed to leave their reservations in search of food or better living conditions.
  • The 1851 Fort Laramie Treaty opened up the Oregon Trail. The treaty allowed passage of settlers involved in western migration known as Manifest Destiny.
  • Many treaties signed between Native American Indian tribes and the U.S. government were later broken.
  • The Transcontinental Railroad was instrumental in the destruction of the American Bison known as the buffalo. The U.S. government paid hunters to kill the buffalo, which was a major food supply and spiritual aspect for Native American Indian tribes in the Great Plains.
  • The Carlisle Indian Industrial School stripped Native American Indian children of their culture. The school forced the children to learn English, become Christians, and assimilate the Native American Indian children to be American.

 Indian Removal and loss of land

As settlers moved West in 1850, the settlers encountered increasing hostility from Native American Indian tribes. For centuries the Native American Indians roamed the Great Plains in a nomadic fashion. They followed enormous herds of American Bison known as buffalo for food. They hunted animals, sowed some crops of corn, and lived off the land and nature. In 1851 the U.S. Congress passed the Indian Appropriations Act. The recent law created Indian Reservations where Native American Indians were to live and not leave the boundaries of the reservation.

The Native American Indian tribes also signed several treaties with the government, including the 1851 Fort Laramie Treaty. The treaty between the Plains Indians allowed passage of settlers along the Oregon Trail. Unfortunately for the Native American Indians, many of these treaties were not honored by the government in upcoming years.

With the approval of the 1862 Homestead Act, the Native American Indian tribes lost even more land to settlers moving West. The Transcontinental Railroad was another government action that punished the Native American Indian tribes. As the railroad crews moved westward, large numbers of buffalo were slaughtered. The slaughter helped to destroy a needed and spiritual food supply for Native American Indian tribes.  As more settlers migrated westward, tensions flared on many occasions.

Another factor in Native American Indians losing land was several gold rushes out in western states. The first was in California, beginning in 1848. In future years Colorado and Montana experienced gold rushes, and the most damaging to the Native American Indian tribes was perhaps the Black Hills gold rush in the Dakota Territory.

The last destructive factor in the loss of land for Native American Indian tribes was the 1887 Dawes Act. The law opened reservation land owned by Native American Indians to settlers. The land was allotted to settlers who were expected to help Americanize Native American Indians.

Indian Wars

Between 1850 and 1890 in the United States, there were many battles between Native American Indian tribes, settlers, and the U.S. Army. The period is referred to as the Indian Wars. During the Indian Wars, conflicts broke out between the U.S. Army and Native American Indian tribes.

Indian Wars broke out with the Apaches in the Southwest led by Cochise in early 1860. Eventually, the Apaches were forced onto a reservation, and many starved in the process. In Colorado, during 1864 along the Sand Creek, a peaceful group of Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians led by Black Kettle were attacked by Colorado Volunteers resulting in the Sand Creek Massacre. After gold was found in the Black Hills in 1876, a group of Lakota Sioux and Cheyenne warriors led by Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull demolished Lieutenant Colonel George Custer at Little Big Horn River.

Other battles included the Nez Perce tribe led by Chief Joseph in the Northwest, and Red Cloud’s War in Montana would end in the Great Sioux War of 1876-1877. Skirmishes between Native American Indian tribes basically ended in 1890 at Wounded Knee. At Wounded Knee in South Dakota, a group of Sioux Indians known as Ghost Dancers was massacred along with the women and children of the tribes.


One of the more damaging social experiments with Native American Indian tribes involved children. The first Carlisle Indian Industrial School was opened in Pennsylvania. The purpose of the school was to remove Native American Indian children and begin a process of assimilation or Americanization. The Carlisle Schools across the nation stripped the children of their original Indian culture. The children were taught to learn English and become Christian in order to fit the new model of being an American.


  1. What animal was a major source of food and spiritual beliefs of the Native American Indian tribes located on the Great Plains?


  1. Which treaty signed by Native American Indian tribes and the U.S. government opened up safe travel along the Oregon Trail?
    1851 Fort Laramie Treaty
  1. The period of Indian Wars from 1850 to 1890 concluded with what massacre?
    Wounded Knee

 Wounded Knee

  1. What was the name of the school formed to strip Native American Indian children of their culture and assimilate the children to be American?
    Carlisle Indian Industrial School
  1. Where was the original Indian Territory?
    Present-day Oklahoma