That was the Wild West part 4

(Published in GralsWelt 30/2003)

Train of tears

After the War of Independence - see Part 3 of this series - the USA was an undisputed, sovereign power that could think of the internal expansion of its country. The war costs, however, had been high, the states indebted - and the government tended to get the missing money where it was easiest to get: by selling Indian land.

Voices speaking for the Indians and their rights were the exception; they were mainly to be found in the east. At the border, in the west, one heard almost exclusively anti-Indian slogans; by local politicians, often adopted out of conviction. As the population in the western areas increased, their influence also increased in Washington, and ultimately there was no longer a majority in any congress that wanted to recognize Indian rights.

The “red people” were deported to reservations, were assigned barren land that was unusable for the whites, were lied to, deceived, decimated, and destroyed. The nascent American empire was based on pure racism, which for most free, proud prairie Indians ended in a "train of tears".

The mountainmen
The from Lewis and Clarke explored paths were not only followed by other explorers like Zebulon M. Pikewho advanced to the Rio Grande in 1806/07, and Stephen H. Longwho crossed the "Great American Desert" (the Great Plains) to the Rocky Mountains in 1820, but traders, trappers, adventurers who went down in history as the legendary "Mountainmen" (men of the mountains). These mostly traveled in small groups, often following the rivers, to the rocky mountains and further on, to hunt fur animals.
Beaver trapping became of particular importance. From around 1830 on, beaver felt hats were fashionable, and up to 100,000 beavers were caught each year, by mountainmen and Indians alike. The “big rendezvous” is legendary, when several thousand Indians and white fur hunters have met once a year since 1825 to exchange the booty from the previous season for rifles, powder, lead, schnapps and other items and to celebrate lively parties . The traders made enormous profits, and some of them were able to retire after a few years. This system lasted until 1840. Then the fashion changed; Instead of beaver hats, hats made of Chinese silk were now in demand, and the total extermination of the beaver was just about averted.
The mountainmen had to turn to another occupation. During their hunting expeditions they had entered unexplored areas, discovered the wonders of the geysers of Yellow Stone (today's national park) (John Colter, 1807), and found passes over the mountains. Now they became army scouts, heads of expeditions or covered wagon drivers. Some became famous and rich, but most remained poor. In their day they were despised illiterates and vagabonds who had to make a living as "free hunters"; Songs of praise for her adventurous life were only composed later. Many Americans are still secretly filled with the hunger for undeveloped expanses and the longing for an independent existence, as the mountainmen were allowed to live.

(1) Bartlett, Richard A./Goetzmann, William H. "Exploring the American West", National Park Service, Washington, 1982.
(2) Cooke, Alistair: “History of America,” Pawlak, Herrsching, 1975.
(3) Stammel, HJ: "Indianer", Bertelsmann, Gütersloh, 1977.
(4) Utley, Robert M .: "Indian, Soldier and Settler," Jefferson National Expansion Historic Association, St. Louis, 1979.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), author of the Declaration of Independence and third President of the United States, dreamed of an empire that would stretch from the Atlantic to the Pacific. He had a great success in 1803 with the purchase of Louisiana for 15 million dollars, which more than doubled the territory of the USA, and the way to the Far West, to the Great Plains, the Rocky Mountains and further opened to the Pacific.

Little was known about these areas, however. It is true that decades ago the French “Coureur de Bois” (rangers) had advanced far to the west, hunted fur animals and traded with Indians; But nobody in the USA wanted to believe the stories of these vagabonds. It seemed time to explore the unknown. And so Jefferson sent out an expedition that cannot go unmentioned in any American story.

Lewis and Clarke

The from Meriwether Lewis (1774-1809) and William Clarke (1770-1838) led, 43-person reconnaissance voyage lasted two years, from 1803 to 1805. It went from St. Louis up the Missouri, over the Rocky Mountains, to the Pacific and back. It brought the first reliable customers from the Great Plains, the Rocky Mountains and the way to what would later become Oregon on the Pacific.

Lewis and Clarke had no major problems with the Indians, not least because of the help of the Sacajawea from the Shoshone tribe, who was married to a French-Canadian who also accompanied the expedition. In addition, the Indians of the Great Plains had got to know other whites than the forest Indians: hunters, trappers, traders who exchanged European goods for fur; a trade that is interesting for both sides.

The adventurers traveling alone or in small groups were dependent on good contacts with the Indians and behaved accordingly. That came under the expedition Lewis and Clarke benefit. An important result of this expedition, which was soon to be confirmed by other explorers, was the impression that the Great Plains were uninhabitable. So the government came to the conclusion that one only had to drive the Indians over Mississippi and Missouri and leave them the unsuitable for whites landscapes as far as the Rockies in order to solve the Indian problem.

European explorers in the west
Various researchers from Europe traveled to the west of America in the first half of the 19th century and collected valuable documents on the declining culture of the Indians:
Duke Paul Wilhelm of Württemberg (1797-1860).
Following the example of Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859), traveled Duke Paul between 1822 and 1860 five times the American West. He was also an explorer in South America and Egypt.
Balduin Möllhausen (1825-1905).
The painter Balduin Möllhausen accompanied Duke Paul 1851/53 on an adventurous trip west. Then you can Möllhausen Joined an official expedition as a topographer in 1853/54. From these trips he brings back numerous sketches and watercolors from the life of the Indians.
After returning to Germany in 1861, he became the author of “ethnographic social novels”, which depict life in the West, and thus one of the pioneers of popular Indian literature.
Maximilian Prince zu Wied (1782-1867).
Even Prince zu Wied was a naturalist who toured Brazil and North America. There are reports on Indian culture from his trip to the American West in 1832/34.
The Swiss painter accompanied him Karl Bodmer (1809-1893), whose panels are beautiful documents of Indian life, which was already doomed at that time.
Sir William Drummond (1795-1871), Stewart of Murthly Castle.
The Scottish baron traveled under the name "Captain Stewart" between 1833 and 1843 several times, sometimes like a mountainman, on daring paths to the west. He followed the Oregon Trail to the Pacific, got to know famous mountain men, admired the geysers of the Yellow Stone, and proved to be an attentive observer as the development of the west was advancing at breathtaking speed. From 1836 on, he processed his experiences in novellas. (Biography:
In 1837 he was accompanied by a young painter from Baltimore, Alfred Jacob Miller (1810-1874), who made numerous sketches that were ahead of their time in their romantic freshness.
Few travelers saw more of the bustling life in the west than William Drummond, and next to Karl Bodmer and George Catlin (1796-1872) nobody captured it in pictures as well as Miller.
(1) Bartlett, Richard A. / Goetzmann, William H .: "Exploring the American West", US Department of the Interior, Washington, 1982.
(2) Catlin, George: "The Indians of North America", Kiepenheuer, Leipzig, 1979.
(3) Goetzmann, William H. / Goetzmann, William N .: "The West of the Imagination", WW Norton, New York, 1986.
(4) Hansen, Walter: "Prince Wied's Journey to the Indians", Prisma, Gütersloh, 1977.
(5) Möllhausen, Balduin: "Stories from the Wild West", DTV, Munich, 1995.
(6) Paul Wilhelm, Duke of Württemberg: "First trip to northern America in the years 1822 to 1824", JG Cotta, Stuttgart, 1835.
(7) Paul Wilhelm von Württemberg: "Travels and forays into Mexico and North America 1849-1856", Thienemann, Stuttgart, 1986.

Indians in the reservations!

The War for Canada of 1812-14 had brought about border agreements between Canada and the United States. Attempts by the English to determine an area for the Indians during the peace negotiations failed right from the start, as the American diplomats refused to even speak about it. (4, p. 763).

For most Americans, the Indian problem was largely resolved: the Indians had to be deported to reservations, preferably on the Great Plains, i.e. in regions useless for the whites. Human rights, even civil rights, were not granted to them. In 1830 it became under president Andrew Jackson (1767-1845) passed the Indian Removal Act, which forced all indigenous peoples to settle west of the Mississippi. (6, p. 23).

It didn't matter how willing the Indians were to adapt. In the 14/2000 issue of GrailWelt we reported on Sequoya (cf. “Brief, terse, curious” page 404 “A little-known genius”) and the successful efforts of the “five civilized tribes” to adopt the way of life of the whites. They were driven from their cultivated land anyway. Your "train of tears" to Oklahoma went down in western history as one of the darkest chapters of American racism.

The Cherokees fought in court. They appealed to the Supreme Court and got their case awarded. But president Andrew Jackson, an old Indian fighter nicknamed "Old Hickory", called this decision "simply absurd" and had all thirty thousand Cherokese expelled from the army.

Typical of the American tactics towards the Indians is the way in which the semioles are used. These resisted resettlement in the foreign, distant desert areas and led, under their ingenious chief Osceola, a bitter guerrilla war in the swamps of Florida. One after the other four army generals failed at them with high losses.

As well as the fifth, general Thomas Sidney Jesup, troops suffering from fever but had no success, he invited the leading semiolists to peace talks. They trusted in the word of an American officer - and were thrown in chains under the white parliamentary flag (1837). Osceola died in prison a year later.

Scorched Earth War

This approach went too far even for the American public. Jesup was replaced. But even his successors were only successful when they waged a systematic scorched earth war that forced many semioles to surrender. These were brought to Oklahoma. When the army broke off the costly fighting in 1841, a small remnant of the Indians hid in the swamps - proud of never having made peace with the United States. There have been no more problems with them since then.

In this way all the tribes that had their home east of Mississippi and Missouri were gradually exterminated, decimated, and forced into reservations.

The tribes, which - yielding to the pressure of the whites - avoided of their own accord on the Great Plains, clashed there with other Indian tribes. Chippewa, who had received firearms from the French in the 17th century, drove the Sioux (Dakota) west of Wisconsin. In search of land, they met the Arikara on the Missouri, from whom they received horses. The northern, the Teton-Sioux, became the well-known equestrian people who in turn oppressed the Shoshone; the southern Sioux remained arable farmers. Even before they began to relocate the Indians, the whites started a chain reaction that changed the lives of almost all tribes and became the cause of many wars between Indians. 

Continued "That was the wild west" part 6.

(1) Bartlett, Richard / Goetzmann, William H .: "Exploring the American West", National Park Service, Washington 1982.
(2) Cooke, Alistair: “History of America,” Pawlak, Herrsching, 1975.
(3) Dillon, Richard, H .: "Indian Wars", Lechner, Limassol (Cyprus),
(4) Eckert, Allan W .: "Gateway to Empire", Bantam, New York 1984.
(5) Stammel, HJ: "Indianer", Bertelsmann, Gütersloh, 1977
(6) Zimmermann, Larry J .: "Indianer", Droemer-Knaur, Munich, 1996.