How might the people, animals, or objects depicted in this painting have responded to the essential question: How justifiable was U. S expansion in the 1800s? 

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rrteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This painting is a clear visual expression of the ideology behind westward expansion in general. From the right (the east) we see frontier land converted into small family farms, railroads and stagecoaches bringing people and (it is implied) civilization into the west, and other figures moving into what is portrayed as wilderness to be brought under the control of white Americans. From the left, we see Native peoples fleeing before the advancing white settlers and buffalo, bears and other wildlife driven from their native habitats. Basically, what this assignment is calling for is for you to figure out how westward settlement and expansion affected various groups of people, and how they might have viewed it and responded to it. For the Native Americans in the painting, westward expansion was a disaster, one which saw them driven from their lands, confined to reservations, and for a time at least, stripped of their culture. For small farmers like the settlement on the right, as well as those moving west, it was a chance to achieve economic independence, what they would have called "competency." For the railroad and stagecoach companies, expansion brought incredible wealth, and the railroads in particular made expansion possible in the first place. Settlers and corporations also exploited the natural resources of the West, a fact which the fate of the buffalo, nearly exterminated by the end of the nineteenth century, clearly underscores. So in completing this assignment, keep these various perspectives in mind.