The Indian Frontier of the American West tells a story of the different Indian tribes and whites from 1846 to 1890. This period of time is very famous in American history. It produced some of the most widely heard of names in the battles between Indians and whites. These names include Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce tribe, Sitting Bull of the Oglala Sioux, Cochise, Geronimo, and Mangas Coloradas, and John Ross of the Cherokee Nation. These names are still very respected among historians and are seen throughout history books used in schools across the nation.
These names were involved in many battles with whites in the middle of the nineteenth century. In this book, Robert Utley describes how many different Indian cultures survived between 1846 and 1890. Utley also spent some time in discussing how Americans felt about Indians. This book also talked about how the American government was run, and how they dealt with the different Indian cultures. This book had a couple of interesting stories in it also. The dozens of cultures depicted in this book really made it somewhat interesting to read.
One story that I truly liked in the book was that of Yellow Wolf. Yellow Wolf was an extremely strong and wise Cheyenne Indian. He was a man that was known for his leadership in battles with the Utes, Pawnees, Kiowas, and Comanches. Yellow Wolf also played an important role in helping William Bent, also known as "Little White Man", as to where to set up his trading post along the river. After Bent had set up his fort, Yellow Wolf traveled there in the summer. He watched as tens of thousands of white men move in and through the Indian country.
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This made him worry about the future of his people, something no other Cheyenne leader would even consider for years. In discussing his fears with an army officer he talks of how his people and the buffalo are disappearing. He also says that his people will become extinct unless they change and adopt the habits of white people. Yellow Wolf lived for eighteen years amongst the white man. In his final year of his life, Yellow Wolf watched his worst fears come true. Through all of this, he continued to believe that the only hope his people had was if they learned from the white man.
On November 29, 1864, a white man from General Stephen Watts Kearney"s army gunned down Yellow Wolf. He was 85 years old. Another part of the book that I truly enjoyed reading was the section on Grant"s Peace Policy. While Grant served as General in Chief of the United State Army a group of Quakers, know as the Friends, urged him to adopt a new peace policy. This policy was to be founded on Christianity and peace, rather than on force of arms. The policy also called for men of religious conviction to be appointed to agency posts.
Grant quickly embraced this idea and pretty soon Grant"s Peace Policy was adopted. Grant didn"t hold any strong convictions about Indians, but he did indicate that: "Those who do not accept this policy will find the new administration ready for a sharp and severe war policy. " Throughout the entire process, Grant remained as open minded as possible about the peace treaty. The policy wasn"t carefully crafted. It actually came together on its own, and as it took shape it began to have direction and definition.
One of the strongest forces guiding Grant was Colonel Ely S. Parker. He had betrayed his racial origins and become a fixture in both the white and Indian worlds. He served as chief of the Senecas and Grand Sachem of the Iroquois Confederacy, and as lawyer, engineer, and soldier for the United States. Prior to the election, Grant relied on Parker more than anyone else when it came to Indian matters. Parker made detailed plans of Indian management that Congress supported and he also served on various commissions and conducted numerous investigations.
Parker was so involved and was so respected that after Grant was elected he appointed Ely Commissioner of Indian Affairs. The wars that broke out in light of the peace policy really grabbed my attention. As with all peace treaties there usually will be some drawbacks. The point of the policy was to place all Indians on reservations, where they could be kept away from the settlements and travel routes and where they could be civilized. Indians, on the other hand, did not feel this way.
Almost every major battle was fought to force Indians back to their reservations, or to force them on to newly created ones. The combination of battles and diminishing support it once had made the Peace Policy all but forgotten. These wars became somewhat of a regular fixture. Whites wanted all Indians to live on reservations and learn to live like white people. Indians refused to adapt to these new rules so they fought for what they believed in. Overall, I found this book to be less than interesting.
My family tree dates back to the Cherokee Indian so I was interested in reading about what Indians actually went through. Robert Utley did a very good job with all of the various illustrations and maps. I especially was intrigued as to the many different pictures of Indians as well as the whites. In reading this book, I learned of yet another race that whites attempted to take over or confine to certain areas. Being a minority helps me keep an open mind to what went on in the past as well as what goes on in today"s society.
The struggle that Indians endured in the 1800"s symbolizes the struggle that some Indians still go through today. Although we do not live in a country where people are forced to live in certain areas, there are some American Indians that still live on reservations because they feel society will not accept them. I did not particularly care to read about all of the whites during that period of time, but I would not have gotten a full understanding unless they were included. I would recommend anyone wanting to learn a good deal about the struggle of the Indian people to read this book.
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