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Week Twelve: Indian Wars and Indian Policies

This week the focus is on the Indian Wars taking place in the Northwest during this period. Historians of this region prior to contact have shown that this area was not a stranger to violence – inter-tribal conflict had been taking place long before whites arrived; however, the consequences of the white/Indian wars were of a much greater order of magnitude.

Professor Fritz rightly argues in his lecture (~ 43 minutes) – that for students of this period, the wars are just one aspect of our inquiry, whereas for the people who inhabited the region during this time, it was an issue that was central to their experience and their survival. His lecture also provides a global look at the efforts towards assimilation that were launched by the federal government– many of the effects of which would be felt much later.

Gustavus Sohon drawing of Steptoe battle, May 1858 Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division

The Maps page for this week presents two maps of the region which were produced for military purposes (one a wide-angle view, and another a close focus on the Missouri and Yellowstone rivers). We’ve also included a map of the Nez Perce National Historic Trail that provides a visual narrative of their flight from military enforcement of the reservation system. The websites highlighted next to this map will provide you with additional information on the Nez Perce Trail.

Tribal Perspectives includes accounts of the Indian wars (~11 minutes) as told by members of the Coeur d’Alene, Nez Perce, Sioux, and Blackfeet tribes. Their versions of events are not those typically found in our history textbooks.

The People section this week includes a list (by no means complete) of prominent individuals during this period, and several speeches that they produced in response to the Indian Wars and Indian Policies. We hope you will find inventive ways to put these to use in your classrooms.

Finally, the Research page presents the text of two letters written by military officers describing their involvement in US military/Indian conflicts. These are just two letters, out of hundreds of such primary documents, which illustrate the military’s lack of coordination and forethought.

There is a great deal of information for this week – all of it meant to show, in some way, what historian Jill Lepore has argued, “…that wounds and words – the injuries and their interpretation – cannot be separated, that acts of war generate acts of narration, and that both types of acts are often joined in a common purpose: defining the geographical, political, cultural, and sometimes racial and national boundaries between peoples.”

Library of Congress


Lecture Maps People Research Unit 1 Unit 2 Unit 4 Unit 5