Chapter 18
Conquest and Survival
The Trans-Mississippi West
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Part One:
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Chapter Focus Questions
What was the impact of U.S. western expansion on Indian
In what ways was the post-Civil War West an “internal
empire,” and how did its development depend on the
emergence of new technologies and new industries?
How can the history of the American West be told as the
creation of new communities and the displacement of old
How did agribusiness differ from forms of family farming?
What place did the West hold in the national imagination?
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Part Two:
American Communities:
The Oklahoma Land Rush
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American Communities: The
Oklahoma Land Rush
Map: Oklahoma Territory
Thousands gathered for the Oklahoma land rush.
Land promised to Indians who had been forcibly
relocated in the 1830s was first opened to white
settlement in 1889.
In a little over two months settlers filed 6,000
homestead claims.
The land rush symbolized the movement toward white
settlement and the reconstruction of the West.
This transformation came at the expense of Indian
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MAP 18.1 Oklahoma Territory Land openings to settlers came at different times,
making new land available through various means.
SOURCE: From Historical Atlas of Oklahoma, 3rd edition, by John W. Morris, Charles R. Goins, and Edwin C. McReynolds. Copyright © 1965,
1976, 1986 by the University of Oklahoma Press, Norman. Reprinted by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.
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Part Three:
Indian Peoples under
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On the Eve of Conquest
Indians had occupied the plains for more than 20,000
years, developing diverse ways of adapting themselves
to the environment.
The Europeans brought disease and the need for Indians
to adapt to European ways.
The surviving tribes adapted to the changing conditions.
The Plains Indians learned to ride horses and shoot guns.
Some tribes learned English and converted to Christianity.
Legally, tribes were supposed to be regarded as
autonomous nations residing within American
Treaties were negotiated but force was often used instead.
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Reservations and the Slaughter of
the Buffalo
Map: Major Indian Battles and Indian Reservations, 18601900
The federal government had pressured Indian tribes to
migrate West into a permanent Indian Territory.
Whites’ desire for western land led the federal government to
pressure western Indians to move to reservations.
The tribes that moved to reservations found federal
policies were inadequate for their needs.
Nomadic tribes found their freedom curtailed and their
buffalo destroyed both by the railroad and white hunting.
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MAP 18.2 Major
Indian Battles and
1860–1900 As
commercial routes
and white
populations passed
through and
occupied Indian
lands, warfare
inevitably erupted.
The displacement of
Indians to
reservations opened
access by farmers,
ranchers, and
investors to natural
resources and to
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The Indian Wars
A treaty granted the Black Hills to the Sioux.
The discovery of gold brought prospectors to the
The Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapaho aligned to
protect the Black Hills, wiping out Custer’s
regiment before being defeated by the army.
One of the bloodiest conflicts was the Red
River War of 1874–1875.
Under the leadership of Geronimo, the
Apaches gained a reputation as intrepid
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The Oglala Sioux spiritual leader, Chief Red Cloud in an 1868 photograph. Here he is
seen with (l. to r.) Red Dog, Little Wound, interpreter John Bridgeman (standing), (Red
Cloud), American Horse, and Red Shirt. He ventured to Washington with this delegation to
discuss with President Ulysses S. Grant the various provisions of the peace treaty, just
signed, to end the violent conflict over the Bozeman Trail.
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The Nez Perce
Tribes like the Nez Perce, who tried to
cooperate with whites, were betrayed.
Promised Oregon, the Nez Perce were sent to
a disease-ridden land in Kansas.
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Kiowa Preparing for a War Expedition, ca. 1887. This sketch on paper was made by an
Indian artist, Silverhorn, who had himself taken part in the final revolt of the Kiowas in
1874. He later became a medicine man, and then served as a private in the U.S. Cavalry
at Fort Sill, Oklahoma Territory.
SOURCE: Silverhorn (Native American), “Kiowa Preparing for a War Expedition.” From Sketchbook , 1887. Graphite ink and crayon on paper.
Collection of the McNay Art Museum, Gift of Mrs. Terrell Bartlett.
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Part Four:
The Internal Empire
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The Internal Empire
Map: Railroad Routes, Cattle Trails, Gold
and Silver Rushes, 1860–1900
Settlers found themselves subjects of an
“internal empire” controlled from the East.
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MAP 18.3 Railroad
Routes, Cattle
Trails, Gold and
Silver Rushes,
1860–1900 By the
end of the
nineteenth century,
the vast region of
the West was
crosscut by
hundreds of lines of
transportation and
communication. The
trade in precious
metals and in cattle
helped build a
population almost
constantly on the
move, following the
rushes for gold or
the herds of cattle.
SOURCE: Encyclopedia of
American Social History.
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Mining Towns
Mining fostered western expansion.
Gold discoveries brought thousands of
fortune seekers.
Most fortunes went to corporations that
bought out the smaller claims.
Although some mine communities
eventually became permanent settlements,
most were short-lived boomtowns.
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William Henry Jackson
(1843-1942) was the first
person to photograph
the Yellowstone region in
the Wyoming Territory.
Documenting the Grand
Tetons, including the
magnificent waterfalls
and geysers, his images
caught the public’s
attention and likewise
helped to convince
Congress to create
Yellowstone National
Park in 1872. Jackson
then joined up with the
U.S. Geological Survey
to photograph various
sites in the Rocky
Mountains. Here he
captures, “John, the
Cook” baking slapjacks
in a mining camp in
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Mining Towns
The western labor movement emerged in this
rough and often violent climate.
Unions refused membership to Chinese,
Mexican, and Indian workers.
Unions were unable to stop owners from
closing down mines when the ore ran out,
leaving empty towns and environmental blight.
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Mormon Settlements
Map: Mormon Cultural Diffusion, ca. 1883
Mormons migrated to the Great Basin in Utah
beginning in 1846.
They shared land and water as they built agricultural
The federal government assumed control of the Utah
Mormon society soon resembled the individualist East
the original settlers had sought to escape.
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MAP 18.4 Mormon Cultural Diffusion,
ca. 1883 Mormon settlements
permeated many sparsely populated
sections of Idaho, Nevada, Arizona,
Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico.
Built with church backing and the strong
commitment of community members,
they survived and even prospered in
adverse climates.
SOURCE: Mormon Cultural Diffusion, ca. 1883, Donald W. Meinig,
“The Geography of the American West, 1847-1964” from The Annals
of the Association of American Geographers 55, no. 2, June 1965.
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Mexican Borderland Communities
The Southwest saw a series of clashes between
Anglos and Mexicanos over control of the land.
Some Mexicano elites continued to maintain
wealth and power.
The majority of Mexicans found themselves
trapped in poverty and turned to migratory work
or moved to urban areas to work for wages.
Mexicanos maintained key elements of their
traditional culture.
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Mexican Americans
in San Antonio
continued to
conduct their
traditional market
bazaar well after the
incorporation of this
region into the
United States.
Forced off the land
and excluded from
the better-paying
jobs in the emerging
regional economy,
many Mexicanos,
and especially
women, sought to
sell the products of
their own handiwork
for cash or for
bartered food and
SOURCE: Thomas Allen, Market
Plaza, 1878 –1879. Oil on
canvas, 26 x 39 ½. Witte
Museum, San Antonio, Texas.
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Part Five:
The Open Range
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The Open Range
The destruction of buffalo opened the path
for the western cattle industry.
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The Long Drives
Cowboys rounded up herds for $30 a month (at
best) and lived under harsh circumstances,
stimulating efforts to unionize.
Workday lasted from sunup to sundown with night
shifts to watch the cattle.
There was no protection from the elements.
Poor diet often led to disease.
The drive could be as far as 1,500 miles.
One-fifth to one-third of cowboys were Indian,
Mexican, or African American.
Few women worked on the open range.
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Seeing History The
Legendary Cowboy: Nat Love,
Deadwood Dick
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The Sporting Life
Prostitution served as the largest source of
income outside the home for women.
There were few jobs for women and many
resorted to prostitution simply to pay the bills.
Their life was quite harsh and seldom paid
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Community and Conflict
Personal violence was commonplace in the cattle towns
and mining camps.
Horse theft and cattle rustling rose rapidly during the
peak years of the cattle drives.
During the 1870s, range wars turned violent when
farmers, sheep ranchers, and cattle ranchers battled
over the same land.
By the mid-1880s the cattle business went bust.
Overstocking led to herds depleting sparse grasslands.
Bad weather from 1885 to 1887 killed 90 percent of
western cattle, and prices plummeted.
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As early as 1879, the
local newspaper
described Leadville,
Colorado, as a town
that never sleeps: “The
dancing houses and
liquoring shops are
never shut….The
streets are full of
drunken carousers
taking the town.” This
photograph of a typical
saloon was taken
shortly before the silver
mining town reached its
peak, with a population
topping 60,000 in 1893.
That year, the repeal of
the Sherman Silver Act
forced thousands of
out-of-work miners to
search for jobs
elsewhere in the West.
SOURCE: Photography Collection,
Denver Public Library.
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Part Six
Farming Communities on
the Plains
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The Homestead Act
160 acres were given to any settler who lived
on the land for at least 5 years and improved
Homesteaders had their greatest success in the
central and upper Midwest where the soil was
rich and the weather was relatively moderate.
This act sparked the largest migration in U.S.
history but only 10 percent of all farmers got
their start under its terms (most farmers
bought their land outright) and nearly half the
homesteaders lost their claim.
• Farmers were willing to pay hefty prices.
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Populating the Plains
Railroads held great power in developing and
settling the West.
Railroads delivered crops and cattle to eastern markets and
brought back goods.
Railroads put communities “on the map.”
Railroads in the West preceded settlement.
Professional promoters were sent to Europe and
throughout the United States to recruit settlers.
Immigrants formed tight-knit communities.
Many groups retained their native languages and customs.
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In 1887, Lizzie Chrisman filed the first homestead claim on Lieban Creek in Custer
County, Nebraska. Joined by her three sisters, she is shown here standing in front
of her sod cabin. “Soddies,” as these small houses were called, were constructed of
stacked layers of cut prairie turf, which were eventually fortified by a thick network of
roots. The roofs, often supported by timber, were usually covered with more sod,
straw, and small branches.
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Work, Dawn to Dusk
Farm families survived and prospered through hard
Men’s work tended to be seasonal.
Women’s activities were usually more routine.
Children worked running errands and completing chores
by about age nine.
Community was an important part of life.
People depended on neighbors for help in times of need
and for a break from the hard work and harsh climate.
The barter system developed due to lack of cash.
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Part Seven:
The World’s Breadbasket
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New Production Technologies
Preparing western lands for cultivation was a
difficult process because of the tough sod.
New technologies greatly increased the
amount of land that could be farmed.
Through federal aid, land-grant colleges, and
other sources of scientific research, farmers
developed new techniques for cultivation.
Table: Hand v. Machine Labor on the Farm,
ca. 1880
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Producing for the Global Market
Most farmers produced primarily for the cash market
and adapted their crops.
Wheat farmers, in particular, prospered.
Startup costs for a farm could keep a family in debt
for decades.
The large capitalized farmer had the advantage over the
small one.
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This “thirty-three horse team harvester” was photographed at the turn of the century in
Walla Walla, Washington. Binding the grain into sheaves before it could hit the ground,
the “harvester” cut, threshed, and sacked wheat in one single motion.
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California Agribusiness
California led the way toward large-scale
commercial farming that defined agribusiness.
By the turn of the century California had become
the showcase for heavily capitalized farm factories
employing large numbers of tenant and migrant
Fruit and vegetable growers manipulated consumer
tastes to create new markets for their products.
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This painting by the British-born artist Thomas Hill (1829–1908) depicts workers
tending strawberry fields in the great agricultural valley of Northern California.
Chinese field hands, such as the two men shown here, supplied not only cheap labor
but also invaluable knowledge of specialized fruit and vegetable crops.
SOURCE: Thomas Hill, Irrigating at Strawberry Farm, Santa Clara, 1888. Courtesy of the Bancroft Library, University of California,
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The Toll on the Environment
Map: The Establishment of National Parks and
Farmers destroyed existing plant and animal species
and introduced new ones.
Replacing buffalo with cattle and sheep, introduced
animals that ate grasses down to the roots and
created the possibilities of huge dust storms.
Commercial agriculture took a heavy toll on
existing water supplies.
The federal government created the Forest Service
to safeguard watersheds.
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MAP 18.5 The Establishment of National Parks and Forests The setting aside of land
for national parks saved large districts of the West from early commercial development
and industrial degradation, setting a precedent for the later establishment of additional
parks in economically marginal, but scenic, territory. The West, home to the vast majority
of park space, became a principal site of tourism by the end of the nineteenth century.
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Part Eight:
The Western Landscape
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Nature’s Majesty
Writers described in great detail the wonder of
nature’s majesty in the West.
The federal government created national parks in
1872, naming Yellowstone the first.
Landscape painters from the Rocky Mountain
School piqued the public’s interest in the West.
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Albert Bierstadt became one of the first artists to capture on enormous canvases the
vastness and rugged terrain of western mountains and wilderness. Many other artists
joined Bierstadt to form the Rocky Mountain School. In time, the camera largely replaced
the paintbrush, and most Americans formed an image of these majestic peaks from
postcards and magazine illustrations.
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The Legendary Wild West
More popular presentations emphasized the
West as a source of “vigorous manhood.”
Thousands of “dime novels” appeared that
portrayed the region in romantic, heroic
Wild West show promoters like “Buffalo
Bill” Cody brought the legendary West to
millions of people around the world.
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Born Phoebe Ann Moses in 1860,
Annie Oakley was a star attraction in
Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show.
Dubbed “Little Sure Shot” by Chief
Sitting Bull, Oakley traveled with
Cody’s show for seventeen years.
This poster from 1901 advertises her
sharp-shooting talents.
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“American Primitive”
The West continued to captivate American imagination.
The public sought depictions of bold cowboys and exotic
Charles Schreyvogel, Charles Russell, and Frederic
Remington helped to shape Americans’ perception of the
Scholars like Lewis Henry Morgan and Alice Cunningham
Fletcher studied Indians and began to develop a scientific
understanding of their lives.
The Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts incorporated a large dose of
tribal lore into their character-building programs.
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Part Nine:
The Transformation
of Indian Societies
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Reform Policy and Politics
Reformers like Helen Hunt Jackson advocated policies
designed to promote Indian assimilation and eradicate
distinct tribal customs.
The Dawes Severalty Act of 1887 was a disaster for
most Indians and undermined tribal sovereignty.
Individuals were granted land if they chose to sever from their
Indian religions and sacred ceremonies were banned along
with the telling of Indian myths.
“Indian schools” forbade Indian clothing styles, language, and
even hair fashions.
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The Ghost Dance
A Paiute prophet, Wovoka, had a vision that
a divine judgment was coming and led the
Sioux to practice the Ghost Dance.
White authorities grew fearful and demanded an
end to the practice.
An incident led whites to gun down 200
people at Wounded Knee.
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The celebrated artist Frederic Remington (1861–1909) produced this sketch of Oglala
Sioux at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Published in the popular
magazine Harper’s Weekly, Remington’s depiction of the ghost dance of 1890 showed
dancers in vividly patterned robes and shirts, some decorated with stars symbolizing
the coming of a new age for the Indians.
SOURCE: Oglala Sioux performing the Ghost Dance at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, South Dakota. Illustration by Frederic
Remington, 1890. The Granger Collection.
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Endurance and Rejuvenation
Those tribes that survived best were those living on
land unwanted by whites.
A majority of tribes dwindled to the brink of
extinction; some even disappeared.
The Navajo, Hopi, and northwestern tribes
managed to adapt to the new situation or were
sufficiently isolated to survive.
The traditional way of life for most was gone.
It was several generations before a resurgence of
Indian sovereignty occurred.
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Part Ten:
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Cortes & Montezuma, 1519