Western Expansion, Manifest Destiny, and the Mexican-American War

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How did the horse change the way Plains Indians lived?  

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The impact of horses on the Plains Indians was rather dramatic. Horses were part of what is dubbed the Columbian Exchange--the goods, foods, animals, and diseases that were traded between the Old World and New World. The Spanish, who were experts at utilizing the horse, brought the animal to the...

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The impact of horses on the Plains Indians was rather dramatic. Horses were part of what is dubbed the Columbian Exchange--the goods, foods, animals, and diseases that were traded between the Old World and New World. The Spanish, who were experts at utilizing the horse, brought the animal to the New World. Knowing the advantage they held over the native people by holding a monopoly on the animal, the Spanish were very careful to keep track of their horses and prevent Indians from acquiring them.

The monopoly on horses came to an abrupt end in 1680, however, when the Pueblo Indians defeated the Spanish in New Mexico. The Pueblo were able to acquire horses for use. This dramatically altered American Indian culture, particularly on the Plains. The Indians, who relied on buffalo for survival, automatically became more efficient hunters of the bison on the plains. This increased their trade potential with Europe and the United States as they traded the fur for new items. The amount and variety of goods the Indians possessed increased.

The Indians also used the horse to reduce their own labor, particularly when moving from place to place. The Indians could put their possessions on the horse, or in a sled behind the horse, making migration much easier.

The horse was also utilized in warfare, and the tribes that could effectively wage battle on horseback were now more powerful then their enemies. This changed the balance of power on the plains and allowed some tribes to expand their territory, while others had to flee and lost land. Warfare, in general, was more common after the horse than before, which was ultimately one of the few negatives of the introduction of horses on the plains.

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