There were cultural differences that led to conflicts between the whites and Native Americans on the Great Plains. What are some specific examples of conflicts? Could the conflicts have been avoided?

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mkoren | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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There were many reasons why the Native Americans and whites fought many battles on the Great Plains. 

One of these reasons dealt with how different the two cultures were. Native American culture was very different than white culture.  One example of this is how the Native Americans communicated.  When Native Americans were asked a question, they often would pause for a period of time before answering.  They wanted to be sure they didn’t answer too quickly and without thinking through the response to the question.  White people often took this pause or delay as a sign that the Native Americans were unintelligent or disrespectful.  In white culture, an answer is expected immediately with a minimal pause.  

Another cultural difference was how silence was viewed.  Silence was highly regarded by the Native Americans.  It was a sign of respect and a sign of thoughtfulness.  In white culture, silence was often equated with not being smart or knowledgeable. 

A third difference is how visitors were welcomed.  In Native American culture, the words “come in” were never used. A visitor was always welcome. In white culture, a visitor would be greeted with the words “come in” before entering a home. As a result of these differences, each side viewed the other in a negative way.  This ultimately was a factor that led to growing distrust between the groups and armed conflict over land.  If both sides would have been able to understand the cultural differences that existed, it may have reduced the chances of conflict.  However, if the whites were intent on taking land no matter what the circumstances were (a position many people support), then conflict would have been inevitable no matter what.  Cultural differences certainly played a role in the conflict whites had with the Native Americans.

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