Who were the bad men in the United States of America at the nineteenth century?
Everybody knows the American civil war, when Northern part of America was fighting the South between the year of 1861 and 1865, but not so many have a think, as T. J. Stiles declares, about the “second civil war that took place in the Old West in the nineteenth century”(XVII), where U.S. army fought and razed not only the warriors of the Indians tribes, but also their whhole populations, their way of living, did barrier them into reservations and made them dependent on the American government charity. Even though Indians were brutal at times and might have given Americans reasons to resist them, the American government should be held responsible for starting the “civil war”.
First, white people were destroying the culture of Indians. Whites wanted to start Indians to live the way they live. As Stiles demonstrates, “white man in particular was inflexible in demanding that thhe Native Americans adopt white ways” (42). Particularly the American government wanted them to start farming instead of hunting and getting as much food and resources for clothes as they needed, to see Indians incorporated into white’s society and overproduction culture. <
Secondly, Americans were taking away the land from the Indians. First of all, Americans were moving into Indians land despite Indians resistance, because Indian land was rich of good soil and resources, such as gold, oil, coil, wood, which were worth to risking their lives. In fact, according to the Nez Perce, originally their territory exceeded 13, 204, 000 acres. Now their reservation territory does not exceed 800, 000 acres.
Stiles confirms, that in 1850, Congress accepted the Oregon Donation Law, which conceded the right to new settlers to occupy any lands in Indian land, not considering who live there (41). Moreover, American government was misleading Indians when signing treaties with them. Inmuttooyahjatlat, also known as Chief Josef, who was the chief of the Wallamwathin band of Chhutepalu ( the Nez Perce as French people once named them), said: “My farther left the country. Some of the chiefs of the other bands of the Nez Perces signed the treaty, and then Governor Stevens gave them presents of blankets. My farther cautioned his people to take no presents, for “after a while”, he said, “they will claim that you have accepted pay for your country” (Stiles 44).
Indeed, American government was deceitful with Indians. In 1833 the Nez Perces signed the tr
is demonstrated by the action taken after the American invasion into the Nez Perce country. In 1861, the American government allowed 12, 000 white settlers to build a town in the middle of the Nez Perce reservation. Furthermore, many Indians resisted to the American government ‘offer’ and the treaty was signed by Indians, selected by the American government and who did not have authority to represent the Nez Perce as a nation. In fact, as the Nez Perce say, “Lower Nez Perce Chieftains and peoples did not know of any such treaty as that of 1863” (149). This demonstrates that United States in the middle of nineteenth century treated Indians not only in uncivilized way, but illegally as well. Later United States recognized that fact; as the Su
Additionally, the American Government lied to Indians when signing the treaties with them and did not keep its promises. The American Government promised to the Nez Perce to built schools, houses, mills, and donate money every year immediately after signing the treaty in 1863, but even though the mill was built, it was not given to Indians; any of schools were built (The Nez Perces155). Vincent Colyer reported that he “could see only two houses built for, or occupied by Indians” ( the Nez Perce, 155); in 1863 more money was given to private contractors, who were fencing the Nez Perce reservation, than to the tribe itself.
On the other hand, the Indians considered at first that, as Stiles confirms, ‘there was room enough for all to live in piece, and they [Indians] were learning many things from the white men that seemed to be go
On the contrary, it might seem that the American Government had some good intentions toward Indians. First, it saw, that Indians had no chances to avoid contacts and the spread of white people and so to lose their culture. Secondly, it thought that the European way of living was superior to the Indian way of living and wanted to help Indians. As governor Stevens said, “We [the American government] want your people to learn to read and write, your men and boys to be farmers or millwrights or mechanics, or
to be of some profession as a lawyer or doctor. We want your wives and daughters to learn to spin and to weave and to make clothes.” ( the Nez Perce 93); “we want you by and by to live in houses and we shall furnish you.” (94). But the fact is that the American government did not keep most of their promises to Indians as illustrated above. Moreover, the American government considered Indians an unwanted burden. When more new Americans settlers came into the Wallowa Valley (the Nez Perce reservation) in 1875, as the Nez Perce state, “each group felt that it had a right to be there and that the other did not” (183); and armed conflict arouse between Indians and whites. In 1877 March the truce was set by Americans and the Nez Perces, but on June 1877 American federal soldiers attacked one the Nez Perce village and killed innocent men, women and children, which, as the Nez Perce inform, were “noncombatants in war”. To make the matter worse, “to this day the United States has denied any responsibility or knowledge of this act” (187).
In conclusion, a lot of people do not agree, that Americans could be named as bad men of the United States of America at the end of the nineteenth century, because not all Americans were killing Indians, not all were elected to govern the country and trapped Indians into reservations, not all were so greedy and selfish and some of them even respected and tried to help the Indians. However, all Americans elected the government which oppressed the Indians; therefore every American is responsible for the Indian tragedy.
Jane E Gay. “With the Nez Perces”. University of Nebraska Press. 1987
The Nez Perces. “Noon Nee-Me-Poo (We, the Nez Perces). 1973
T.J. Stiles. “Warriors and Pioneers”. The Berkley Publishing Group. New York. 1996.