Native American History
Many people refer to Native Americans by different names. Some of the names that people have referred to them by include American Indians, Indigenous, Original Americans and Indians. Native American history is based on the history of the peoples who lived within the continental United States and Alaska before the “white men” arrived and settled. Native American history tells us that there were a large number of different tribes – upwards of 500.
Native American history tells us that when the Europeans colonized the Native American population took a heavy blow due to disease, warfare and displacement. The Native Americans had never been exposed to diseases such as measles, chicken pox and smallpox and had no immunity to fight against them. Epidemics of diseases usually ran through the Indian population after whites traveled through their areas. No one will ever know exactly how many Native Americans died because of the white man’s diseases. However, many experts on Native American history guess that upwards of 80% may have died.
During the American Revolution many Native American tribes sided with the British and fought against the colonists who had declared their independence. Others were loyal to the colonists, while still others were divided. The Iroquois Confederacy split and had their own civil war because their peoples could not come to an agreement on which side they should support. This resulted in the Cherokees splitting away from the Chickamaugas. Native American history tells us that the American Revolution was brutal for the Indians and they suffered greatly.
After the United States victory many people treated the Native Americans like they were a conquered people simply because the land they lived on had been signed away by the British. However, what took place on paper was of little importance to the Native Americans. They still fought for their lands and were at odds with the settlers.
With the Westward expansion many Native Americans headed west. Some went on their own to put space between themselves and the settlers. Those that did not leave on their own were forced to leave by the Indian Removal Act that was passed in 1830. While the concept behind the Act was to encourage the Indians to move voluntary, those that did not agree to sign away their lands and head west were pressured to do so. The Trail of Tears is an example of a treaty that went awry. Not only was the treaty signed by a group of Cherokees that were not the elected leadership, but the treaty was brutally enforced which led to the death of thousands of Cherokee.
Soon conflicts developed out west and these are known as the Indian Wars. Many military engagements took place with resulted in loss of life on both sides. However, the Native Americans were truly outnumbered and it was only a matter of time before they were defeated. The whites had taken over their land, drove the bison population to low numbers and the Native Americans had no where to turn. In 1876 all remaining Native Americans were ordered to move into reservations.
Not too many people know a lot about the California Mission Indians. Learn about their culture and more.
Joseph Paige © 2006