The Conquest of the Far West The ap instructional strategies discussed below for Chapter 16 of American

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Chapter 16:

The Conquest of the Far West

The AP instructional strategies discussed below for Chapter 16 of American

History: A Survey focus especially, but not exclusively, on the following themes developed by the AP U.S. History Development Committee: American Diversity, American Identity, Culture, Demographic Changes, and Economic Transformations. This chapter, as well as the primary documents selected below, follow the content guidelines suggested for the fourteenth topic in the AP Topic Outline Development of the West in the Late Nineteenth Century.

Top-Ten Analytical Journal.

Defining the chapter terms in their journals will help students better understand:

  • The cultural characteristics of the varied populations of the region.

  • The settlement pattern of the American frontier and the significance of the frontier in American history.

  • The impact that the discovery of gold and silver had both on the West and on the nation as a whole.

  • The development of the cattle industry in the American Southwest after 1860.

  • The methods used by the federal government to reduce the threat of the Plains Indians and the Indians’ ultimate fate.

  • The reasons for the transition from subsistence farming to commercial farming, and the effect of the change on the West.

Each of the terms below contributes to a comprehensive understanding of the transformation of the Far West from a sparsely populated region of Indians and various early settlers of European and Asian background into a part of the nation's political, economic, and social structure. As your students define these terms, encourage them to demonstrate why each person, event, concept, or issue is important to a thorough understanding of this chapter.


Plains Indians


Southwestern Hispanic societies



Chinese Immigration Act of 1882

Homestead Act of 1862

Comstock Lode


The Cattle Kingdom

Chisholm Trail

Range wars

Rocky Mountain School

Wild West Shows

Cowboy culture

Frederick Jackson Turner’s Frontier Thesis

Concentration policy


Indian Wars

Sand Creek Massacre

Battle of Little Big Horn

Ghost Dance

Battle of Wounded Knee


Dawes Act


Boarding schools

Getting students started on their journals. Remind students that they must analyze and synthesize their understanding of these terms in two ways:

  • by creating “Top-Ten” lists of their own within their journals at the end of each chapter; and

  • by justifying in their journal why their terms are essential to an understanding of “The Conquest of the Far West.”

Journal entry example. Following is an example of how students might describe “Buffalo” and its importance to an overall understanding of “The Conquest of the Far West.”
Buffalo. The buffalo was the economic basis for the lives of the many Plains Indian tribes. Buffalo meat provided their primary food source; buffalo skin provided materials for housing, clothing, blankets, shoes, and utensils; dried buffalo manure provided fuel; buffalo bones provided arrow tips and knives; and buffalo tendons provided bowstrings. As English-speaking Americans moved west into the lands of the Plains Indians, they impacted the Buffalo herds, almost to the point of extinction. The demise of the herds was directly related to the demise of the Plains Indians.

Free-Response Questions.

  1. Discuss the ways in which the lives of the Plains Indians were affected by governmental actions and technological innovations in the second half of the 19th century. (Adapted from the 1999 AP U.S. History free-response question.)

Some things to look for in the student response.

  • Possible thesis statement: While the groundwork for gaining access to Indian lands was laid by both the Jefferson and Jackson administrations, it was not until the middle of the century that the government began enacting dramatic federal policies that opened the West to white expansion.

  • Lives of Plains Indians affected by technology. The ability of the railroad to bring whites into the traditional homelands of the Plains Indians greatly influenced the way they lived. Many railroad companies offered low, affordable rates to western settlers to encourage them to settle. Even worse were the gangs of professional buffalo hunters, as well as sportsmen, who took large shooting expeditions in which they killed buffalo from the trains.

  • Lives of Plains Indians affected by governmental actions. The reservation policy began in earnest in 1851 with the idea of “concentrating” tribes on their own reservations. Separate treaties, often illegitimately negotiated, divided the tribes from one another and made them easier to control. As white Americans continued to move west, it was clear that a new policy was needed. In 1867, the federal government decided to move all the Plains Indians into two large reservations  one in the Oklahoma Indian Territory and the other in the Dakotas. Not only were the reservations poorly administered, the Indians were tricked and cajoled into the new areas that had little resemblance to their tribal homelands. Reservations, however, did nothing to destroy the tribal structure of Indian culture, something that government officials felt was necessary if Indians were to be assimilated into white culture. To address this concern, Congress passed the Dawes Act in 1887 that provided for the gradual end of tribal ownership of land and the allotment of 160 acres to the head of a family, 80 acres to a single adult or orphan, and 40 acres to each dependent child. Additionally, the Bureau of Indian Affairs began to set up boarding schools where Indian children were forcibly taken from their families, educated by whites, forced to become Christians, and forbidden to use their tribal languages, practice their tribal rituals, and wear their traditional clothes. At the same time, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the U.S. Army encouraged the killing of buffalo, which, in turn, destroyed the economic and subsistence basis of the Plains Indians. The Army and territorial militia engaged in many federally sanctioned wars against the Plains Indians, one of the worst of which was the Battle of Wounded Knee.

  • Possible conclusion: By the end of the 19th century, the federal government adopted many legislative policies designed to eliminate Indian resistance to white settlement in the West. The end result gave many benefits to the whites, but none to the indigenous people of the region. Successful white settlement, then, occurred at the expense of the diverse Indian peoples of the West.

2. How did the federal government encourage the growth of a capitalist economy in the West?

Some things to look for in the student response.

  • Possible thesis statement: Eastern migrants to the West owed much of their success to federal assistance in the form of subsidies, military protection, and land grants.

  • Subsidies. Beginning in 1862, Congress began to provide vast subsidies to the railroads in the belief that they would stimulate the national economy. During the next decades, the federal government gave the railroads 130 million acres. State governments offered the railroads direct financial aid, favorable loans, and more than 50 million acres of land.

  • Military protection. The U.S. Army was often called to handle many Indian Wars so that the white settlers could live in peace without interference from Indians.

  • Land grants. The first large federal policy that stimulated western migration was the Homestead Act of 1862. It offered a free farm of 160 acres to any American who needed one. In return, the federal government expected that the new settlers would create new markets and commercial farming enterprises that would benefit the nation as a whole. The Timber Culture Act of 1873 increased homestead allotments to another 160 acres if the owner planted 40 acres of trees. The Desert Land Act of 1887 provided for the purchase of 640 acres of land at $1.25 per acre if part of the holdings was irrigated within three years. The Timber and Stone Act of 1878 authorized the sale of non-agricultural land at $2.50 per acre.

  • Possible conclusion: Without the assistance of federal, as well as state, governments, those settlers who moved west may not have survived. The federal government urged the immigration of over a million people through their generous land grants, offered the settlers some sense of military protection against Indians, and offered generous subsidies to the railroads that brought both people and commercial commodities to and from the West.

3. What was the allure of the West both for migrants from the eastern United States and the Chinese immigrants from China? How did the migrants and immigrants’ romantic notion of the West contrast with the realities of the West?

Some things to look for in the student response.

  • Possible thesis statement: By the middle of the 19th century, the West began to attract eastern farmers, ranchers, and miners who hoped to find limitless opportunity, wealth, and adventure on the frontier. Similarly, many Chinese immigrants were drawn to the West in the hopes of a better life.

  • Allure for eastern migrants. English-speaking Americans were drawn to the romantic notions of the West: opportunities to find wealth in farming or mining; chances for cattle raisers to graze their herds free of charge and unrestricted by private farms; the hope of living in a rugged and dramatic landscape; the promise of a free-spirited lifestyle away from the restraints of civilization. While thousands of migrants had moved to the West prior to the 1860s, millions arrived in the following decades.

  • Allure for Chinese immigrants. In the mid-19th century, the Chinese experienced a great deal of poverty in their homeland and many looked to the United States for new opportunities. Earlier migrants to California during the Gold Rush worked in the mines and achieved some success. In the 1860s, railroad agents went to China to recruit workers for the railroads. Over 12,000 Chinese were eventually employed.

  • Realities for the Chinese. They initially were welcomed, especially into California where by 1880 they constituted almost 10 percent of the population. But as they became successful in many businesses, many whites believed the Chinese were economic rivals and threats to their economic, social, and political security. This belief was strengthened by the fact that many Chinese workers were willing to work for lower wages that undercut union workers. This was especially the case in California, where as early as 1852 the legislature passed a foreign miners’ tax that excluded many Chinese  and Mexicans  from mining. Work on the railroads was difficult and dangerous, as well as short-lived. When the Transcontinental Railroad was completed, thousands of Chinese lost their jobs and many moved to the cities, especially in California, where they filled the lowest-paying jobs  servants, unskilled factory workers, and common laborers. Some opened successful laundries. Of the small number of Chinese women who came to America, many had been sold into prostitution and suffered miserable lives in the cities. By the late 1860s, a great deal of antiChinese sentiment arose, especially in western cities. Anti-coolie clubs worked to ban the employment of Chinese, organized boycotts of businesses that employed Chinese laborers, and sometimes violently attacked Chinese residents. In 1882, Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, banning Chinese immigration to the U.S. for ten yeas and prohibiting the Chinese already in the nation from becoming naturalized citizens. The law became permanent in 1902.

  • Realities for eastern migrants. Life for most was rough, wild, and fraught with dangers and hardships. On the other hand, due to labor shortages, white laborers earned more in the West than in any other region in the nation. Social mobility, however, was more difficult in the West. Those who did not own land were highly mobile and took jobs that had no long-term security. Weather was unstable and two draughts in the 1880s wiped out many ranches and individual investments. Less than half of the families who took advantage of the Homestead Act actually remained for the required five years; their lives had been too desolate, lonely, and economically challenging.

  • Possible conclusion: While many eastern migrants who were drawn to the West found opportunity, many others were so disappointed with the realities of the West that they returned to the East Coast. They had been lured by the romantic notion of the West that was more myth than reality. Likewise, many Chinese immigrants created viable communities in urban centers, but most were unable to sustain regular, well-paying work. They suffered greatly due to federal, state, and local laws that discriminated against them, and various vigilante tactics used against them.

Historians, Historical Detection, and DBQs.
The following DBQ and its supportive primary documents will help students gain a better understanding of how western expansion dramatically changed the lives of the diverse Indian people living in the Far West. Remind your students that when scoring the AP exams, the readers will expect to see a coherent essay that includes two required components: key pieces of evidence from all or most of the documents and a well-organized narrative drawing on knowledge from textbook readings and classroom discussion.

DBQ: The march of western expansion dramatically changed the lives of the diverse Indian people in the Far West. Drawing from your knowledge of federal Indian policy and the documents below, what were the federal responses to white encroachment? What were the responses of the Indian people?

  1. Excerpt from Letter from John Ross to President Abraham Lincoln, 1862. (Gilder Lehrman Institute Document GLC1233.02 at Permission granted.)

“...beg leave, very respectfully, to represent, 1st. That the relations which the Cherokee Nation sustains towards the United States have been defined by Treaties entered into between the Parties from time to time, and extending through a long series of years. 2nd. Those Treaties were Treaties of Friendship and Alliance. The Cherokee Nation as the weaker party placing itself under the Protection of the United States and no other Sovereign whatever, and the United States solemnly promising that Protection. 3rd. That the Cherokee Nation maintained in good faith her relations towards the United States up to a late period and subsequent to the occurrence of the war between the Government and the Southern States of the Union and the withdrawal of all protection whatever by the Government. 4th. That in consequences of...the overwhelming pressure brought to bear upon them the Cherokees were forced for the preservation of their Country and their existence to negotiate a Treaty with the "Confederate States" 5th. That no other alternative was left them surrounded by the Power & influences, that they were, and that they had no opportunity freely to express their views.... What the Cherokee People now desire is ample Military Protection for life and property; a recognition by the Govt. of the obligations of existing Treaties and a willingness and determination to carry out the policy indicated by your Excellency of enforcing the Laws and extending to those who are loyal all the protection in your power.”

  1. Excerpt from Letter from George Bonga, Ojibway Leader, 1863. (Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, Document GLC5121 at Permission granted.)

The Ind[ian] & his father before him have been used to the chase, altho hard work, he is proud of it & thinks to cultivate the soil is only the work of hirelings & squaws & most of the men are ashamed to work in that way. Many a good advice has been given to them, all to no purpose. Starvation will come to him first, before he will cut down trees & dig up roots . . . It would seem, that they can't perceive, that when their game is all killed off, which is disappearing very fast, they will then have to come down to the very lowest depth of degradation, if they are not exterminated, before that time reaches them....

The little I know of the whites leads me to think, that they will not allow their Ind[ian]s to roam in their midst much longer as well as all the Inds. who live near the white settlements, if the Ind[ian] could be induced to see his own good he would learn that the sooner he was removed from the whites, the better it would be for himself & for his children after him. Having lived the most of my life time with the Ind[ian]s, I easily perceive that the Ind[ian] of today is not the same kind of Ind[ian] that was 40 years ago, altho the same band. In those days we lived and mingled with them, as if we all belonged to one & the same family, our goods often out without lock & key, never fearing anything would go wrong. Far different is it now a days. There is that suspicion on either side, that when we hear of 10 or more Ind[ian]s gathered together, we feel anxious & ask each other, what that can mean, if it is not some bad design & on the Ind[ian] side, they have always some complaint to make. Some imaginary promise that the Gov[ernmen]t has not fulfilled, has led them to that belief, that the whites are combined to try & destroy them. It appears to us all, that there is something smoldering in the breast of the Ind[ian] that it will not take much to set it to a blaze. If that should ever take place, no one can foretell how far the flames will extend.....

  1. Excerpt from Speech of Kiowa Chief Satanta at the Medicine Lodge Council of 1867.

“All the land south of the Arkansas [River] belongs to the Kiowas and Comanches, and I do not want to give away any of it. I love the land and the buffalo and I will not part with any. . . . I have heard that you intend to settle us on a reservation near the [Wichita] mountains [in southwestern Oklahoma]. I do not want to settle there. I love to roam over the wide prairie, and when I do it, I feel free and happy, but when we settle down we grow pale and die. . . . A long time ago this land belonged to our fathers, but when I go up to the river, I see a camp of soldiers, and they are cutting my wood down, or killing my buffalo. I do not like that, and when I see it, my heart feels like bursting with sorrow.”

4. Excerpt fromTreaty of Fort Laramie,” 1868. (“Treaty with the Sioux-Brule, Oglala, Miniconjou, Yanktonai, Hunkpapa, Blackfeet, Cuthead, Two Kettle, San Arcs, and Santee-and Arapaho,” 4/29/1868; General Records of the United States Government; Record Group 11; National Archives.)
“ARTICLE I. From this day forward all war between the parties to this agreement shall forever cease. The government of the United States desires peace, and its honor is hereby pledged to keep it. The Indians desire peace, and they now pledge their honor to maintain it. . .
Article XI. In consideration of the advantages and benefits conferred by this treaty and the many pledges of friendship by the United States, the tribes who are parties to this agreement hereby stipulate that they will relinquish all right to occupy permanently the territory outside their reservations as herein defined, but yet reserve the right to hunt on any lands north of North Platte, and on the Republican Fork of the Smoky Hill river, so long as the buffalo may range thereon in such numbers as to justify the chase. And they, the said Indians, further expressly agree…They withdraw all pretence of opposition to the construction of the railroad now being built along the Platte river and westward to the Pacific ocean, and they will not in future object to the construction of railroads, wagon roads, mail stations, or other works of utility or necessity, which may be ordered or permitted by the laws of the United States. . .
ARTICLE XII. No treaty for the cession of any portion or part of the reservation herein described which may be held in common, shall be of any validity or force as against the said Indians unless executed and signed by at least three-fourths of all the adult male Indians occupying or interested in the same …
ARTICLE XVI. The United States hereby agrees and stipulates that the country north of the North Platte river and east of the summits of the Big Horn mountains shall be held and considered to be unceded. Indian territory, and also stipulates and agrees that no white person or persons shall be permitted to settle upon or occupy any portion of the same; or without the consent of the Indians, first had and obtained, to pass through the same…”
5. Excerpt fromIn-mut-too-yah-lat-lat” (Chief Joseph) Speech at Lincoln Hall in Washington D.C., 1879. (Published in North American Review, Vol. 128, Issue 269, pp. 412-434. Courtesy of Cornell University's Making of America.)
“My friends, I have been asked to show you my heart. I am glad to have a chance to do so. I want the white people to understand my people. Some of you think an Indian is like a wild animal. This is a great mistake. I will tell you all about our people, and then you can judge whether an Indian is a man or not….. there came a white officer, who invited all the Nez Perce to a treaty council. After the council was opened he made known his heart. He said there were a great many white people in the country, and many more would come; that he wanted the land marked out so that the Indians and white men could be separated… My father, who represented his band, refused to have anything to do with the council, because he wished to be a free man. He claimed that no man owned any part of the earth, and a man could not sell what he did not own. Mr. Spaulding took hold of my father's arm and said, ‘Come and sign the treaty’; My father pushed him away, and said: ‘Why do you ask me to sign away my country? It is your business to talk to us about spirit matters, and not to talk to us about parting with our land…I will not sign your paper,’ he said; ‘you go where you please, so do I; you are not a child, I am no child; I can think for myself. No man can think for me. I have no other home than this. I will not give it up to any man. My people would have no home. Take away your paper. I will not touch it with my hand’…
My father had become blind and feeble. He could no longer speak for his people. It was then that I took my father's place as chief. In this council I made my first speech to white men. I said to the agent who held the council: ‘I did not want to come to this council, but I came hoping that we could save blood. The white man has no right to come here and take our country. . . we will defend this land as long as a drop of Indian blood warms the hearts of our men.’ The agent said he had orders, from the Great White Chief at Washington, for us to go upon the Lapwai Reservation, and that if we obeyed he would help us in many ways. ‘You must move to the agency,’ he said. I answered him: ‘I will not.’… For a short time we lived quietly. But this could not last. White men had found gold in the mountains around the land of winding water. They stole a great many horses from us, and we could not get them back because we were Indians. The white men told lies for each other. They drove off a great many of our cattle. Some white men branded our young cattle so they could claim them. . . I labored hard to avoid trouble and bloodshed. We gave up some of our country to the white men, thinking that then we could have peace. We were mistaken. The white man would not let us alone. . . I only ask of the Government to be treated as all other men are treated. If I can not go to my own home, let me have a home in some country where my people will not die so fast. . .When I think of our condition my heart is heavy. I see men of my race treated as outlaws and driven from country to country, or shot down like animals.I know that my race must change. We can not hold our own with the white men as we are. We only ask an even chance to live as other men live. We ask to be recognized as men. We ask that the same law shall work alike on all men. . .Let me be a free man . . and I will obey every law, or submit to the penalty. Whenever the white man treats the Indian as they treat each other, then we will have no more wars. We shall all be alike - brothers of one father and one mother, with one sky above us and one country around us, and one government for all.”
6. Excerpt from “Dawes Act,” 1887. (“An Act to provide for the allotment of lands in severalty to Indians on Reservations,” 49th Congress, Session II, 6 December 1887.)
“Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That in all cases where any tribe or band of Indians has been, or shall hereafter be, located upon any reservation created for their use, either by treaty stipulation or by virtue of an act of Congress or executive order setting apart the same for their use, the President of the United States be, and he hereby is, authorized, whenever in his opinion any reservation or any part thereof of such Indians is advantageous for agricultural and grazing purposes, to cause said reservation, or any part thereof, to be surveyed, or resurveyed if necessary, and to allot the lands in said reservation in severalty to any Indian located thereon…
Sec. 5. That upon the approval of the allotments provided for in this act by the Secretary of the Interior, he shall cause patents to issue therefor in the name of the allottees, which patents shall be of the legal effect, and declare that the United States does and will hold the land thus allotted, for the period of twenty-five years, in trust for the sole use and benefit of the Indian to whom such allotment shall have been made, or, in case of his decease, of his heirs according to the laws of the State or Territory where such land is located, and that at the expiration of said period the United States will convey the same by patent to said Indian, or his heirs as aforesaid, in fee, discharged of said trust and free of all charge or incumbrance whatsoever… And provided further, That at any time after lands have been allotted to all the Indians of any tribe as herein provided, or sooner if in the opinion of the President it shall be for the best interests of said tribe, it shall be lawful for the Secretary of the Interior to negotiate with such Indian tribe for the purchase and release by said tribe, in conformity with the treaty or statute under which such reservation is held, of such portions of its reservation not allotted as such tribe shall, from time to time, consent to sell, on such terms and conditions as shall be considered just and equitable between the United States and said tribe of Indians, which purchase shall not be complete until ratified by Congress, and the form and manner of executing such release prescribed by Congress:
7. Excerpt from William T. Hornady, Superintendent of the National Zoological Park, The Extermination of the American Bison, 1889. (Library of Congress, American Memory Website at )
“The primary cause of the buffalo's extermination, and the one which embraced all others, was the descent of civilization, with all its elements of destructiveness, upon the whole of the country inhabited by that animal. From the Great Slave Lake to the Rio Grande the home of the buffalo was everywhere overrun by the man with a gun; and, as has ever been the case, the wild creatures were gradually swept away… The secondary causes of the extermination of the buffalo may be catalogued as follows: (1) Man's reckless greed, his wanton destructiveness, and improvidence in not husbanding such resources as come to him from the hand of nature ready made. (2) The total and utterly inexcusable absence of protective measures and agencies on the part of the National Government and of the Western States and Territories. (3) The fatal preference on the part of hunters generally, both white and red, for the robe and flesh of the cow over that furnished by the bull, (4) The phenomenal stupidity of the animals themselves, and their indifference to man. (5) The perfection of modern breech-loading rifles and other sporting fire-arms in general. . . .
The buffalo supplied the Indian with food, clothing, shelter, bedding, saddles, ropes, shields, and innumerable smaller articles of use and ornament. In the United States a paternal government takes the place of the buffalo in supplying all these wants of the red man, and it costs several millions of dollars annually to accomplish the task. . . .

Possible evidence:

  • White response to the effects of western expansion on the Indian people. Three types of responses are evident in the documents: a federal treaty (Fort Laramie Treaty) defining reservation land; a Congressional Act (Dawes Act) allotting former reservation land; and a letter from a federal employee that is concerned with the demise of both the buffalo and the Plains Indians. All three use paternalistic language indicating that the federal government is the ultimate power. The Treaty of Fort Laramie provides better benefits for white Americans than for the Indian Nations. The whites get a huge tract of, while the Indians are restricted to reservations and forced to “relinquish all right to occupy permanently the territory outside their reservations…but yet reserve the right to hunt on any lands…so long as the buffalo may range thereon in such numbers as to justify the chase.” They also must “expressly agree” that they “will not in the future object to the construction for railroad, wagon road, mail stations, or other works of utility or necessity, which may be ordered or permitted by the laws of the United States.” Thus, even though the federal government promises that cession of any land cannot be executed without permission of “at least three-fourths of all adult male Indians,” land can be taken for “works of utility or necessity.” The Dawes Act explains the manner in which allotment will be carried out, as well as the fact that it will be held “in trust” for each “Indian for whom such an allotment shall have been made” for 25 years. Paternalism and skepticism is clear when compared with the requirements in the Homestead Act of a 5year trust period. Further, the Act stipulates that the U.S. government can purchase any non-allotted lands. In this way, the government is assured that if Indians do not accept their allotment, that those lands would be severed from Indian control and bought by the U.S. The Hornady piece  which is critical of these federal actions and angry over the failure of the government to protect both the buffalo and the Indians  laments the “total and utterly inexcusable absence of protective measures and agencies on the part of the National Government and of the Western States and Territories.” He questions a governmental policy that destroys the Indians’ sustenance and then spends “several millions of dollars” to take care of “the red man.”

  • Indian response to white encroachment. All four of the documents refer to negotiations and/or agreements with the “white man,”  agreements that were broken on many occasions. All have similar hopes  that the government will honor their treaties and treat them with respect. At least one of the letters asks for federal protection in the face of continuing problems with the whites. In the Ross letter to President Lincoln, we clearly hear a plea for protection as the Cherokee Nation is caught between the two major forces of the Civil War that are not just moving onto their land, but vying for their involvement in the war  the Confederate States, which used “overwhelming pressure” to force them to join their cause, and the Union. He pledges respect and friendship toward the Union, refers to past treaties, and recognizes the semi-sovereign status of the Cherokee Nation  “The Cherokee Nation as the weaker party placing itself under the protection of the United States…” He begs the treaty obligations will be honored and that the Union Army will protect his people from the Confederate Army. The other letters ask for nothing, and instead object to federal policies establishing reservations, promoting assimilation, and destroying their land, buffalo, and forests. In George Bonga’s letter, we hear objection to federal Indian policy that forces Indian men to work the land and fear that they will be “exterminated.” He explains that in the Ojibway culture, “to cultivate the soil is only the work of hirelings & squaws & most of the men are ashamed to work in that way.” He laments the rapid disappearance of the buffalo, and is fearful that the whites “will not allow their Indians to roam in their midst much longer.” He recognizes that the lives of Indians have changed dramatically from 40 years earlier and warns, “something is smoldering in the breast of the Indian.” Kiowa Chief Satanta expressed all of these feelings at the Medicine Lodge Council of 1867. He vows that he will not “part with any” land or the buffalo by being herded onto a reservation. Settling down would make his people “grow pale and die.” Chief Joseph describes his efforts, and the efforts of his father, to hold onto the Nez Perce land. Both refused to relinquish their land and felt that the white man had “no right to come here and take our country.” But all his efforts were to no avail. When he gave his speech, he had lost his land and now asked the government “to be treated as all other men are treated…that the same law shall work alike on all men.” If he could be free, he promised to “obey every law, or submit to the penalty.”

Creative Extensions.
1. Before reading Chapter 16, have the students observe all the photographs, paintings, and maps that visually describe the West. Then, begin a class discussion about what these images tell them about the West. Why do they think that John Gast’s American Progress is one of the most famous paintings of the era? Why have some people called this painting an excellent example of American propaganda? Do they think that the textbook’s visual representation of the West offers an idealistic or realistic picture of the West? What other images might they have included in this chapter?

  1. After reading Chapter 16, give the students an assignment in which they find and read one short story or “tall tale” about the West. After reading the story, have them write a two-page paper discussing what it tells them about the emerging American character  both good and bad. On the day the assignment is due, begin a class discussion about what your students collectively found about the American character. Ask them if these characteristics are consistent with what they knew about Americans before the end of the 19th Century? Do they think these are characteristics of Americans in the 21st century?

3. Stage a classroom debate on any one of the following:

Resolved: The West was a land of refuge and opportunity for the Chinese and Hispanics.

Resolved: The Transcontinental Railroad was a positive contribution to the growth of the West.

Resolved: The demise of the Plains Indians was a result of good intentions.

Resolved: Indian reservations protected Native Americans.

Resolved: The Chinese Exclusion Act was unconstitutional.

Resolved: Custer got what he deserved.
4. Conduct a film “teach in.” Begin by giving a homework assignment in which students watch a Hollywood western of their choice. Then, have them write a two-page paper in which they compare and contrast the Hollywood version with the facts presented in their textbook. On the day the assignment is due, have students participate in a “teach in.” Randomly divide students into several groups of six students each. In each group, each student will “teach” their film to their classmates  telling them what was romanticized and realistic about the movie, explaining what they learned about the West, and discussing why they would or would not recommend the movie to their classmates. At the end, have each group select one person to present his or her movie to class on the next day. Ask the 5 or 6 students selected to bring a brief clip from the movie to add to their class presentation the following day.
5. Have the students conduct research about the lives of any of the following and write a week-long diary from the perspective of the character they select: a commercial farmer, a white miner, a Chinese immigrant, a woman living in a western community, a Texan cattle driver, a sheep rancher, a cattle rancher, a vigilante, a Plains Indian, a californio, a cowboy, a Plains Indian, and a subsistence farmer. On the day the assignment is due, divide the students into several groups of five students each  making sure that five different characters are represented in each group. Have the students share highlights from their diaries and discuss what they collectively tell them about life in the West.
6. Ask students to learn more about the building of the Transcontinental Railroad and the way in which it affected the West. Have them begin by examining two sources in Chapter 16: the photograph “The Transcontinental Railroad” (p. 483), and the painting “Held Up By Buffalo” (p. 454). Then, have them read the May 12, 1869 editorial in the Atlanta Constitution available in the Online Learning Center, Chapter 16. (Click on “Primary Resources” and scroll down to “Atlanta Constitution.”) Next, have them access the “Land Advertisement” poster from 1872 in the PSI, Document 237. Finally, have them access two online sources available through the Library of Congress, American Memory Website: “Building the Transcontinental Railroad” at railroad/trans.html and “What California Railroads Have Done” at railroad/phillips.html. Once they have examined all the sources, begin the following discussion: What do these sources tell you about the consequences of building the Transcontinental Railroad? What do they reveal about the psychological importance of the railroad to the American sense of nationhood? How do they demonstrate that the railroad would lead to the end of the frontier?
7. Show the mini-documentary, "The Curtis Legacy: Documentary or Myth?” available in the PSI, Document 247. If you do not have computer access in your room, take students to the computer lab and have them watch it there. Then, ask the following: What are the key points of the documentary? How do the photographs support these points? How do these images reveal white America's misunderstandings about Native Americans? How do Curtis' consciously constructed images endanger our objective understanding of Native American history? How could Curtis' work be used to explore stereotypes long-held by white America?

  1. Select portions of the Chinese Exclusion Act (See PSI Document 252) to read aloud to the students while they follow along on the overhead projector. Then, begin a discussion on the following: Is the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 constitutional? Does the Constitution envision this role of the federal government in domestic affairs of the United States? How does the government justify this extraordinary intervention against this group of immigrants? Why did people fear Chinese immigration? What groups of immigrants do people fear in contemporary America? Why?

  1. Divide the class into three groups  miners, ranchers, and farmers. Have each person in each group respond to a letter from a young relative from Philadelphia who writes that he or she is tired of the crowded city and wants to join them out West. In their responding letter, students will describe the opportunities, challenges, and conditions of life in their specific region; the precise location of their settlement, living quarters, surrounding countryside, and climate; and the social conditions as well as his or her prospects for marriage and family life. Then, write another letter describing the same things to either a Mexican, American Indian, Chinese, or African-American correspondent. On the day the assignment is due, have students meet in their groups to discuss how their letters were similar and dissimilar. Overall, what do their letters tell them about life in the West?

  1. Invite students to watch any of the following three movies  each of which have varied interpretations of American Indians  at home either with their family or with a group of friends from class: They Died With Their Boots On; Little Big Man; Son of the Morning Star.

  • What does this production tell you about the ways that the American cinema portrays American Indians in the 19th century?

  • Do you think this film was a realistic portrayal of an historical event? Why or why not? Be specific.

  • In your opinion, is this movie of any real use to understanding this period in American history? Be specific about how and why  or why not?

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