Going West

As the east coast swelled in population, the western United States was seen as a new opportunity. Little regard was taken for the people that already lived there, which dislocated millions of Native Americans. With Andrew Jackson’s trail of tears in the 1838 and 1839 as possibly the most famous and one of the most tragic, where 4,000 out of 15,000 people died during a forced removal and march off of their lands to Oklahoma.

After the U.S.- Mexican war, when the United States gained much of the Western United States as we know it today, people of the time felt that moving tribes from the east to west “This had to be done to save these poor Indian people. They don’t fit in the East, so we have to move them out beyond the frontier where they can do their Indian thing unmolested. This is the only possible way to save them.” The attitudes speak highly of the ignorance of the time and an attitude of disposal. For instance, the Cherokee nation had a higher literacy rate than the white Southern United States. Many Native people were trilingual as a result of trading, and phenomenal entrepreneurs. Their forced move west would bring many civilized practices to the American West from the east, which began to change the cultures found there. Well before white settlers established permanency.

As the 19th century marched on more and more white settlers began to transform the areas with trade, forts, new territories and eventually states. Government entities rose, gold rushes boomed and busted, and the native population would be pushed further and further out of areas many had called home for centuries. Pressure from railroad companies and a desire for vast tracks of land for ranching and homesteading often drove the taking of these lands through broken treaties. In the plains this also meant the drive to completely destroy the American Bison population, a vital food and resource for plains tribes. This was largely driven by the railroading companies in an attempt to also starve out the tribes and remove them from being in their way. By the 1870s less that 1000 bison survived. hunters-shooting-at-a-herd-of-bison-everett

Through all of this white settlers saw opportunity to have a new and better life in the American west. There was far more land for less money and in some areas, like Oklahoma in 1889 they were giving it away for free! These new tracks of land meant an ability to farm, or ranch which could be very lucrative, and make a living far better than in the Eastern United States. For many new settlers from Europe they also had a chance to find land that reminded them of home, to help ease the discomfort of diaspora that followed them to the United States. Gold and silver rushes could mean even less work for a faster fortune, and people of desperation and hard lives looked west to finally have a life they dreamed of. The railroads also meant jobs as it became that east and west coast would soon be linked through railroad expansion and that meant hand laying each piece of steel and wood to make tracks. This also meant men to do it and jobs.  Others found callings in military service and being posted at forts throughout the west, it meant clothes, shelter and steady meals.

sources:

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part4/4h1567.html

http://www.pbs.org/kera/usmexicanwar/prelude/md_native_american_displacement.h

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