American Indians came from over 500 tribes across the Americas. Many of these tribes had lived there for many thousands of years before white settlers arrived. They had rich cultures that had adapted to the land from one end to another.
Read more detail on the new American Indians page or check a brief outline below.
At one time accounts of battles were called massacres if Indians won but portrayed as a gallant and heroic battles, fought hard against heavy odds and blood thirsty savages if white settlers or the army won.
During the days of The Old West Stories the Indians had no written language of their own and almost no opportunity to present their side of events. When they did it was through interpreters and it now appears that more often than not, those interpreters had an agenda of their own or reported to others with an agenda that did not want the Indians portrayed favourably.
More than 800 treaties signed with American Indian groups during the era of Old West Stories but it is likely that not even one of them was kept according to the terms it contained.
Chief Red Cloud is recorded as saying:-
“They made us many promises, more than I can remember, but they kept only one; they promised to take our land;
and they did.”
Some of the history of American Indians includes:-
1805 – The Lewis and Clarke expedition often relied on the generosity of Indian tribes (Shashone & Nez perce) for their survival.
1836 – May 19 – 300 Kiowa and Comanche Indians attacked a civilian fort on the Navasota River in East Texas. Several women and children were taken captive including 9 year old Cynthia Anne Parker.
1840 – Four years later Cynthia Parker was seen by traders but she appeared to have no memory of her childhood and saw herself then as a Comanche woman.
1836 – November 29 – The Reverend Henry H Spalding (1803 – 1874) and his family established their mission to the Nez Perce Indians in Lapwai near present day Lewiston, Idaho. Spalding was successful in his mission to the Nez Perce and baptised several tribal leaders.
In 1838 and 1839, as part of Andrew Jackson’s Indian removal policy, the Cherokee nation was forced to give up its lands east of the Mississippi River and to migrate to an area in present-day Oklahoma. The Cherokee people called this journey the “Trail of Tears”.
1838 – 1839 – Winter – After Andrew Jackson was elected President the U.S. Government embarked on a policy of Indian Removal and began forcing Indians from their land and sending them far away from white settlements. The Army forced 16, 000 Cherokee Indians from Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee to move to Tahlequah, Oklahoma.
1851 – Trouble increased dramatically and the Government decided it had to do something. Several Chiefs who tried to represent over 5, 000 Indians across the Central and Northern Plains signed a treaty allowing settlers using the Platte River routes on the Oregon and Santa Fe trails to pass freely. A truce held for several years
1858 – Ten years after the California Gold Rush, Gold nuggets were found at Pikes Peak in Colorado quite near modern-day Colorado Springs. This provided one more thing that was considered more important than the Indians living in the area. 100,000 gold hungry miners moved in over a three year period.
1859 – 50, 000 Gold Prospectors had already moved into the area and conflict with the Cheyenne and Arapaho had escalated. As these people saw the settlers and miners eating into their traditional hunting grounds they became increasingly hostile (who wouldn’t).
1860 – January 17 – The lands of the Apache were arid and inhospitable. The Apache had little of value but still the settlers wanted it. Apache warriors hit a small ranch owned by John Ward in Arizona on the Sonita River and captured a young boy named Mickey Free.
1860 – December – A detachment of Texas Rangers being led by Captain Sul Ross came upon a Comanche encampment on the Pease River. Captain Ross saw a yellow-haired, white skinned woman among the Indians he captured. He realised it was Cynthia Parker (Prairie Flower to her Comanche family). Her son Quanah remained with the Comanche.
1862 – July 14 – Cochise and Mangas Colorados had gathered 700 Apache warriors together and planned to ambush an Army column at Apache Pass. He failed in his ambush when the volunteers responded with a Howitzer Cannon.
1862 – August 17 – Four young Santee Sioux men were returning from a Minnesota River hunting trip. The four Santee youths came across a white family farmhouse and these men killed five white settlers. Cheif Little Crow knew his tribe would suffer reprisals and the very next morning Santee Braves attacked the Indian Agency. Within one week over 800 white settlers had been killed.
1862 – September 2 – General Henry Sibling was sent with over 1, 600 soldiers under his command. This began the process that led to 307 Indians being hanged in the largest ass hanging in US history.
1862 – 1863 – Winter – After the hangings General Sibley apparently had learned a lesson about trials. He rounded up 1, 700 Sioux men, women and children and they were imprisoned in Fort Snelling.
1863 – Gold was discovered near Virginia City, Montana.
1863 – January – Sometime during January Mangos Coloradas met military leaders at Fort McLane in Southwest New Mexico. Mangas arrived under a flag of truce to meet with Brigadier General Joseph West. West ordered armed soldiers to take Mangas into custody. That night Mangas was tortured, shot and killed.
1863 – Trouble was caused for the Nez Perce because of the gold that had been discovered and the split in their tribe after Reverend Henry Spalding had introduced Christianity.
1864 – After the treaty of 1859 tensions with the Cheyenne, Arapaho and Sioux on the Northern and Central plains continued to grow. Colonel John Chivington, a Methodist Preacher was the Military Commander for the District of Colorado needed to get the Cheyenne out of Colorado. Chivington told the Governor of Colorado, John Evans, that the Cheyenne had stolen 175 cattle from a ranch on the Colorado Smoky Hill Trail.
1864 – November 24 – When the Cheyenne people were completely unarmed and totally defenseless Colonel Chivington gathered together 700 troops and travelled to Sand Creek. At dawn on this day Chivington surrounded the camp with soldiers equipped with cannon. It is recorded that Black Kettle ran up his American Flag and a white flag of truce. He was standing by his teepee when Chivington ordered the troops to open fire.
Captain Silace Soule refused to take part in the killing and was court marshalled. He testified:-
“It looked too hard for me to see little children on their knees begging for their lives having their brains beaten out like dogs.”
1865 – January 1 – Indian Chiefs determined they should attack Julesburg, Colorado. Julesbsurg is located on the South Platte River near the Northeast border with Nebraska.
1865 – January 7 – A combined force of Cheyenne, Arapaho and Sioux Indians attacked Camp Rankin.
1866 – In June of this year the Government arranged a peace council at Fort Laramie. While the meeting was still in progress and treaty negotiations were not yet complete, Colonel Henry Carrington arrived a column of soldiers and supplies that was over 3 kilometres long. Red Cloud was at that meeting. He stormed out saying he would fight now.
1863 – June 22 – Colonel Carrington left Fort Laramie with a column of soldiers heading North on the Bozeman Trail. By the time Carrington had begun building Fort Phil Carney Red Cloud had amassed over 2, 000 warriors.
1866 – December 21 – Red Cloud had a military tactic he favoured where he would use a few warriors to lure soldiers into an ambush. His young sub Chief Crazy Horse lured Fetterman and his men over Lodge Trail Ridge were 2, 000 warriors waited in ambush.
The Government prepared a new treaty. Red Cloud refused to sign until the forts had been burned and the soldiers had left. Due to Red Cloud’s masterful leadership, the Government was left with no choice. Red Cloud had won.
1868 – April 29 – Red Cloud’s war was won and his treaty was signed on this day.
1868 – November 27 – Chief Black Kettle is acknowledged as a peacemaker who accepted treaties to protect his people. He survived the massacre at Sand Creek in 1864 but he and his wife were among those killed in the Battle of Washita River when his group was attacked by the Army under the command of George Custer.
1872 – Fall – Following several skirmishes Cochise and his warriors were slowly forced in the Dragoon Mountains.
1875 – Quanah Parker, the great Comanche War Chief and son of Cynthia Anne Parker, came down from the Llano Estacado and surrendered.
1876 – January 31 – The Sioux had been given until this day to return to their reservations by virtue of an executive order signed by President Grant declaring the Black Hills and Powder River Country did not belong to the Sioux.
1876 – February – When the deadline given to the Sioux had come and gone the Army made preparations for war. General Sheridan planned a campaign for the Summer to clear the entire area of Indians.
1876 – June 13 – General Crook was spotted by Cheyenne scouts approaching the camp. The Indians prepared to make the first move.
1876 – June 17 – Crook was marching with a command of 1, 300 men. Crazy Horse led and attack with an estimated 1, 500 Cheyenne and Sioux warriors. The fighting lasted all day.
1876 – June 21 – After much celebration the Indians moved to the North to a river called the Greasy Grass. Their leaders now had 7, 000 Indians camped there.
1876 – June 25 – The Battle of the Little Bighorn is often referred to as Custer’s Last Stand.
1877 – June – Nez Perce warriors came across General Howard’s soldiers in White Bird canyon in Idaho. One officer and 33 troops were killed.
1877 – August 9 – Colonel John Gibbon caught up with Chief Joseph with 400 soldiers from Montana. He made a surprise attack and 90 Nez Perce were killed.
1877 – September 30 – Colonel Nelson Miles had 400 soldiers under his command at fort Keogh. They travelled North to cut the Nez Perce off before they could reach Canada. Just forty miles from the border in the Bear Paw Mountains the second cavalry attacked.
1877 – October 5 – After 6 days of siege Chief Joseph, realising he could not win and make it to Canada, surrendered to Colonel Miles.
1889 – January 1 – As 1889 commenced people living in Indian Reservations everywhere were despondent. The Government funded rations of beef and basic foods had been reduced.
1889 – December 15 – At dawn 43 agents surrounded Sitting Bull’s cabin and Police Lieutenant Henry Bullhead entered his residence, woke the old man and arrested him. He was murdered that night.
1889 – December 28 – The Army found and captured the fleeing group in South Dakota. The Indians were forced to camp on the banks of a creek over night because it was late in the day when they had been captured. That creek was named Wounded Knee.
1889 – December 29 – General Forsyth had his men surrounded the camp and forced all adult men and boys to sit down in front of their tents. Forsyth ordered rapid fire canons to be turned on the Indians. Women and children ran in terror. Soldiers ran them down and were using the women and children for nothing more than target practice, according to some reports after the event.
1890 – January 4 – The dead at Wounded Knee had been left where they fell and a blizzard preserved the bodies. A burial detail was sent and the Indians were buried in a common grave. Some estimates counted the dead at over 300.
1890 – January 15 – After Wounded Knee survivors fled into the South Dakota badlands.
1904 – September 21 - Chief Joseph died, never having been allowed to go home after his surrender in 1877.
1905 – March 4 – Quanah Parker, the great Comanche War Chief and son of Cynthia Anne Parker had by now become politically influential. He rode in Teddy Roosevelt’s inaugural parade (as did Geronimo).