Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee

by Dee Brown

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1009

  • Topic #1

    Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee describes the diverse responses Indian tribes across the West made to the incursion of whites on their lands. Some tribes managed to maintain their freedom for many years, while some came under whites’ authority quite rapidly. We can generally categorize tribal reactions into two types: hostile, resistant, and engaging in violent struggle against the whites; or relatively pacific, quick to bargain, and reluctant to battle against the whites. Present a case arguing that one of these two types of reactions was the more successful in allowing a tribe to keep its freedom and independence as long as possible.

    Outline I.Thesis Statement: Those Indian tribes that responded to the incursion of whites on their lands with hostility and counter-aggression kept their freedom longer than those that struggled against the whites reluctantly, if at all.

    II. Freedom of tribes resistant to whites A. Sioux—Began attacking whites during Civil War; battled Army in Powder River country; won Red Cloud’s War; defeated Custer; not finally defeated until end of 1890. B. Apaches—In 1861, Cochise responds to U.S. threat with attack; Apaches evade attempts to put tribe on reservations; Cochise gets desired land for Chiricahua reservation in 1872; Geronimo and other Apaches repeatedly evade hostile whites, leave reservations; guerilla war begun in 1861 only ends in 1886. C. Cheyennes—Cheyennes successfully resist Army’s 1865 invasion of Powder River country; Northern Cheyennes win Red Cloud’s War in 1868; Cheyennes join with Sioux, other tribes to defeat Custer in 1876; rebellion at Fort Robinson in 1879; Cheyennes finally subdued in 1880. D. Navahos—Manuelito launches surprise attack on Fort Defiance in 1860; Navahos refuse to be sent to Bosque Redondo reservation; 1868 treaty wins tribe right to stay off Bosque Redondo and return to homeland.

    III. Quick subjugation of tribes offering feeble resistance to whites A. Poncas—Tribe ordered to leave territory in 1877; journeys to Quapaw reservation; Standing Bear’s legal efforts ineffectual; in 1879, tribe split in two, with most Poncas moved to Indian Territory. B. Nez Percés—Tribe signs 1863 treaty giving away most territory; 1877 order for Nez Percés to leave Wallowa Valley prompts tribe to attempt flight to Canada; tribe caught by Army in late September; Nez Percés sent to Fort Leavenworth, then Lapwai reservation, then Colville reservation. C. Modocs—Captain Jack agrees to treaty removing tribe to Klamath reservation; after skirmish in 1872, tribe retreats to Lava Beds; Captain Jack reluctantly agrees to kill Canby; betrayal of Captain Jack by Hooker Jim ensures tribe’s downfall in 1873; tribe sent first to Indian Territory, then to Oregon reservation. D. Utes—1868 treaty reduces size of tribes’ territory; in 1873 treaty, tribe sells off mineral-rich land and accepts salary for Ouray; in 1878, agent Meeker arrives and begins pushing for Utes to become agrarian tribe; in 1879, anti-Ute outcry arises; Meeker sends soldiers to subdue tribe; in 1880, nearly all Utes removed to reservation on marginal Utah land. E. Ghost Dance/Wounded Knee Massacre—Sioux adopt Ghost Dance faith in 1890 and cease resisting whites due to prophecy of Indians’ return; Sitting Bull killed in December; Minneconjou and Hunkpapa Sioux massacred at Wounded Knee at year’s end.

    IV. Conclusion: The Indian tribes that fought against the settlers and the United States government were able to retain their freedom and ways of life longer than the tribes who acquiesced to white demands, or cooperated with the U.S. government.

  • Topic #2

    Although the Indians fought their primary battles against the United States Army, their ultimate defeat was the result of both the actions of private whites acting on their own behalves, and the policies of the...

(This entire section contains 1009 words.)

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  • Army and U.S. government. Which of the two forces—settlers, miners, and other groups of private white citizens, or the Army and other government entities—were more responsible for the invasion of Indian land and the subjugation of Indian tribes?

    Outline I.Thesis Statement: Ordinary white citizens were more responsible for the Indians’ defeat than the U.S. government. Without the actions of those citizens, the Army would not have been prompted to make war against the Indians, and the government would not have put the tribes on reservations or made the treaties that pushed them off their land.

    II. Several tribes whose surrender to U.S. began with private white citizens leading invasions against Indians’ land and property. A. Santee Sioux—Over 150,000 whites settle on Santee land in 1850s; traders deny Santee food supplies. B. Cheyennes and Arapahos—Pike’s Peak gold rush brings thousands of miners to Colorado; settlers come by droves into Platte Valley land held by Southern Cheyennes and Arapahos. C. Apaches—Settlers, miners, freighters invade Apache land; dispute over alleged theft of cattle and boy begins conflict with U.S. D. Modocs—Settlers seize Modoc land in 1850s and 60s; settlers then push for treaty consigning Modocs to Klamath reservation. E. Kiowas and Sioux—White hunters kill off buffalo herds; settlement of Texas plains. F. Oglala Sioux—Miners come into Black Hills; outrage over Custer’s defeat prompts push to move Sioux out of Hills. G. Nez Percés—Settlers move into tribes’ Wallowa Valley; miners and stockmen steal tribes’ horses and cattle; tribe told to move to Lapwai reservation to open up Valley for settlement. H. Utes—Gold rush brings miners into Utes’ territory; Colorado citizens push for diminishment of Ute territory; growth of “The Utes Must Go!” slogan creates general clamor to move Utes out of Colorado.

    III. Anti-Indian initiatives supported or engendered by eastern popular sentiment. A. Public pressure on Donehogawa from William Welsh and others leads to his resignation from Commissioner post. B. In wake of Custer's defeat, push from “white men in the East” (p. 297) for western Indians to be punished sparks retribution against reservation Indians. C. Support for general doctrine of Manifest Destiny provides ideology to justify subjugation of western Indians.

    IV. Conclusion: Western citizens, including settlers, miners, and hunters, give impetus for Army to embark on anti-Indian expeditions and pressure government to remove tribes to reservations. Easterners provide necessary backing and justification for anti-Indian measures taken by U.S. government.


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