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Pioneers - Indian displacement

Historical pictures of the earliest colonial settlements such as Plymouth show colonists interacting with Native Americans, often initially through trade or forging treaties through personal diplomacy. Images of the Indian maiden Pocahontas saving the life of John Smith have forged an American legend. No matter how warm the Indians' friendly greetings were, eventually conflict between Native Americans and Europeans ensued. Historical pictures show Virginia colonists and Native Americans fought each other, and in New England King Philip's War was followed by nearly total destruction of the Native Americans involved in the Pequot War. About the same time, Dutch soldiers massacred native villagers during Kieft's War in New Netherland. In all these contests, Native American warriors' bravery and skill were no match for the European colonists who had guns and fortifications.

A more widespread conflict was the French and Indian War which involved not only Native Americans and colonists, but standing armies of the opposing European powers, France and England. French soldiers and their native allies used the guerrilla tactic of surprise attack against the more traditional British army, for example, ambushing the British advance under General Edward Braddock against Fort Duquesne in Pennsylvania in 1755, shown in historical pictures. Despite many successful battles, Native Americans continued to lose ground after the British assaulted Quebec in the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, depriving many native tribes of their greatest colonial ally, French Canada.

As North American settlers moved inland, natives in the Old Northwest Territory and the Appalachian Mountains were pushed out. Historical pictures show the growth of settlements and farms in these territories resulted in Indian attacks on settlers and retaliatory destruction of Native American villages by white soldiers and militia. One such clash was Pontiac's War, involving the Ottawa and their allies; another was the Black Hawk War in the upper Mississippi Valley frontier. Not only were Native Americans losing battles to white settlers, but also the forest habitats they depended on were being destroyed as settlers cleared land to build frontier homes and farms. A similar scenario was occurring in the South, where log cabins were spreading across Kentucky and Tennessee due to the Wilderness Road through Cumberland Gap. Indian conflicts were inevitable, including the Natchez Rebellion in the early 1700s.

Indian displacement became formalized Indian removal by the early 1800s, when the Cherokees and other Indian groups were sent to Oklahoma on a journey called the Trail of Tears. Historical pictures show the Seminole Wars in Florida reduced the population of Seminoles to a small number of people living in scattered villages deep in the Everglades. The great Native American cultures of the lower Mississippi Valley had already been lost to disease and disruption that followed the early explorers of the Gulf Coast region, notably Hernando DeSoto.

In historical pictures of the Indian Wars on the western frontier, General George A. Custer and the US Cavalry played a prominent role in battles with the Plains Indians and other western tribes, particularly the Sioux Wars. Other major western skirmishes and conflicts included Chief Joseph's War of the Nez Perces, the Apache Wars, and the Long Walk of the Navajo to the Bosque Redondo. All these struggles resulted in essentially the same outcome, removal of most Native Americans to Indian reservations. Some Indian heroes of this period are Sitting Bull, Red Cloud, Chief Joseph, and Geronimo, shown in historical portraits.

A few groups, notably the various groups of the Pueblo Indians as well as the Navajo, were granted their traditional homelands. However, many more Native Americans lost their sacred places, such as the Black Hills of South Dakota. Their way of life changed, too, because the buffalo and other game animals were no longer available to hunt, and many reservations forced a new, sedentary way of life upon formerly nomadic Indians. In Canada the Riel Rebellion arose in 1885 from similar issues in Saskatchewan, including white settlement and loss of the bison herds.


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