by Gerald Boerner


“Go west, young man.”
— Horace Greeley

“They made us many promises, more than I can remember, but they kept one; they promised to take our land, and they did.”
— Mahpiua Luta "Red Cloud," Oglala Lakota

“We need Hawaii just as much and a good deal more than we did California. It is Manifest Destiny.”
— William McKinley

“It is America’s right to stretch from sea to shining sea. Not only do we have a responsibility to our citizens to gain valuable natural resources we also have a responsibility to civilize this beautiful land.”
— Author Unknown (but may have been Thomas Jefferson)

“The Great Spirit raised both the white man and the Indian. I think he raised the Indian first. He raised me in this land, it belongs to me. The white man was raised over the great waters, and his land is over there. Since they crossed the sea, I have given them room. There are now white people all about me. I have but a small spot of land left. The Great Spirit told me to keep it.”
— Mahpiua Luta "Red Cloud," Oglala Lakota

“We did not ask you white men to come here. The Great Spirit gave us this country as a home. You had yours. We did not interfere with you. The Great Spirit gave us plenty of land to live on, and buffalo, deer, antelope and other game. But you have come here, you are taking my land from me, you are killing off our game, so it is hard for us to live.

Now, you tell us to work for a living, but the Great Spirit did not make us to work, but to live by hunting. You white men can work if you want to. We do not interfere with you, and again you say why do you not become civilized? We do not want your civilization! We would live as our fathers did, and their fathers before them.”
— Chief “Crazy Horse,” Oglala Lakota

“I am tired of fighting, our chiefs are all killed, the old men are all dead, the little children are freezing to death. I want to have time to look for my children see how many of them I can find, maybe I shall find them amoung the dead. Hear me my chiefs, I am tired, my heart is sick and sad from where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever.”
— Heinmot Tooyalaket "Chief Joseph," Nez Perce

“I did not know then how much was ended. When I look back now from this high hill of my old age, I can still see the butchered women and children lying heapen and scattered all along the crooked gulch as plain as when I saw them with eyes still young. And I can see that something else died there in the bloody mud, and was buried in the blizzard. A peoples dream died there. It was a beautiful dream….the nations hoop is broken and scattered. There is no center any longer, and the sacred tree is dead.”
— “Black Elk,” Lakota

“All we wanted was peace and to be let alone! Soldiers came….in the winter….and destroyed our villages. Then Long Hair, (Custer) came….They said we massacred him, but he would have done the same to us. Our first impulse was to escape….but we were so hemmed in we had to fight. After that I lived in peace, but the government would not let me alone. I was not allowed to remain quiet. I was tired of fighting…. They tried to confine me….and a soldier ran his bayonet into me. I have spoken.”
— Tashanka Witko "Chief Crazy Horse," Oglala Lakota


Veterans Day: Remembering the American Indian Wars

Cavalry_and_Indians Indian Wars is the name used in the United States to describe a series of conflicts between the colonial or federal government and the native people of North America.

The earliest English settlers in what would become the United States often enjoyed peaceful relations with nearby tribes. However, as early as the Pequot War of 1637, the colonists were taking sides in military rivalries between native nations in order to assure colonial security and open further land for settlement. The wars, which ranged from the seventeenth-century (King Philip’s War, King William’s War, and Queen Anne’s War at the opening of the eighteenth century) to the Wounded Knee massacre and "closing" of the American frontier in 1890, generally resulted in the opening of Native American lands to further colonization, the conquest of Native Americans and their assimilation, or forced relocation to Indian reservations.

Modern scholars take different positions in the ongoing genocide debate. Various statistics have been developed concerning the devastations of these wars on both the settler and Native peoples. The most reliable figures are derived from collated records of strictly military engagements such as by Gregory Michno which reveal 21,586 dead, wounded, and captured civilians and soldiers for the period of 1850–90 alone. Other figures are derived from extrapolations of rather cursory and unrelated government accounts such as that by Russell Thornton who calculated that some 45,000 Indians and 19,000 whites were killed. This later rough estimate includes women and children on both sides, since noncombatants were often killed in frontier massacres.

Tecumseh02 What is not disputed is that the savagery from both sides was such as to be noted in newspapers, historical archives, diplomatic reports and the United States Declaration of Independence. ("…[He] has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.")

The Indian Wars comprised a series of smaller wars. Native Americans, diverse peoples with their own distinct tribal histories, were no more a single people than the Europeans. Living in societies organized in a variety of ways, Native Americans usually made decisions about war and peace at local level, though they sometimes fought as part of formal alliances, such as the Iroquois Confederation, or in temporary confederacies inspired by leaders such as Tecumseh.

East of the Mississippi

Andrew_jackson_head These are wars fought primarily by the newly established United States against the Native Americans until shortly before the Mexican-American War.

  • American Revolution (1775–1783)
  • Chickamauga Wars (1776–1794)
  • Northwest Indian War (1785–1795)
  • Nickajack Expedition (1794)
  • Sabine Expedition (1806)
  • War of 1812 (1811–1815), including:
    • Tecumseh’s War (1811–1813)
    • Creek War (1813–1814)
    • Peoria War (1813)
  • First Seminole War (1817–1818)
  • Winnebago War (1827)
  • Black Hawk War (1832)
  • Pawnee Indian Territory Campaign (1834)
  • Creek Alabama Uprising (1835–1837)
  • Florida-Georgia Border War (1836)
  • Second Seminole War (1835–1842)
  • Missouri-Iowa Border War (1836)
  • Southwestern Frontier (Sabine) disturbances (no fighting) (1836–1837)
  • Osage Indian War (1837)

Indian Wars
West of the Mississippi

Gen Custer The series of conflicts in the western United States between Native Americans, American settlers, and the United States Army are generally known as the Indian Wars. Many of the most well-known of these conflicts occurred during and after the Civil War until the closing of the frontier in about 1890, but in regions of the West that were settled before the Civil war such as Texas, Utah, Oregon, and New Mexico there were significant conflicts which predate the Civil War.

  • Texas-Indian Wars (1836–1875), including:
    • Great Raid of 1840 (1840)
    • Antelope Hills Expedition (1858)
    • Battle of Pease River (1860)
    • Red River War (1874–1875)
  • Apache Wars (1851-1886)
  • Puget Sound War (1855–1856)
  • Dakota War of 1862 (1862)
  • Colorado War (1863–1865)
  • Red Cloud’s War (1866–1868)
  • Comanche Campaign (1868–1874)
  • Great Sioux War of 1876-77
  • Nez Perce War (1877)
  • Pine Ridge Campaign (1890)
  • Battle of Bear Valley (1918)

In American history books, the Indian Wars have often been treated as a relatively minor part of the military history of the United States. Only in the last few decades of the 20th century did a significant number of historians begin to include the American Indian point of view in their writings about the wars, emphasizing the impact of the wars on native peoples and their cultures.

Tatanka_Lyotake A well-known and influential book in popular history was Dee Brown’s Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (1970). In academic history, Francis Jennings’s The Invasion of America: Indians, Colonialism, and the Cant of Conquest (New York: Norton, 1975) was notable for its reversal of the traditional portrayal of Indian-European relations. A recent and important release from the perspective of both Indians and the soldiers is Jerome A. Greene’s Indian War Veterans: Memories of Army Life and Campaigns in the West, 1864–1898 (New York, 2007).

Some historians now emphasize that to see the Indian wars as a racial war between Indians and White Americans simplifies the complex historical reality of the struggle. Indians and whites often fought alongside each other; Indians often fought against Indians. For example, although the Battle of Horseshoe Bend is often described as an "American victory" over the Creek Indians, the victors were a combined force of Cherokees, Creeks, and Tennessee militia led by Andrew Jackson. From a broad perspective, the Indian wars were about the conquest of Native American peoples by the United States; up close it was rarely quite as simple as that.

In his book American Holocaust, David Stannard argues that the destruction of the aboriginal peoples of the Americas, in a "string of genocide campaigns" by Europeans and their descendants, was the most massive act of genocide in the history of the world. The genocide debate is ongoing, with scholars on either side.

[Editorial Note: The conflict was centered on the concept of land ownership. This put the native Indian nations (first nations) and the new immigrants at odds with each other. Most of these Indian nations viewed themselves as guardians of the land and its animal resources, not owners of it. This is in direct conflict with the notion of the European settlers who viewed land ownership as individual rights, not joint stewardship. In addition, the new American nation developed a concept of ‘Manifest Destiny’ which viewed all the lands in North America as the birthright of this American nation. The following section gives a brief view overview of this concept. GLB]

Manifest Destiny

American_progress Manifest Destiny is a term that was used in the 19th century to designate the belief that the United States was destined, even divinely ordained, to expand across the North American continent, from the Atlantic seaboard to the Pacific Ocean. Sometimes Manifest Destiny was interpreted so broadly as to include the eventual absorption of all North America: Canada, Mexico, Cuba and Central America. Advocates of Manifest Destiny believed that expansion was not only ethical but that it was readily apparent ("manifest") and inexorable ("destiny"). Although initially used as a catch phrase to inspire the United States’ expansion across the North American continent, the 19th century phrase eventually became a standard historical term.

The term, which first appeared in print in 1839, was used in 1845 by a New York journalist, John L. O’Sullivan, to call for the annexation of Texas. Thereafter, it was used to encourage American settlement of European colonial and Indian lands in the Great Plains and the west. It was revived in the 1890s, this time with Republican supporters, as a theoretical justification for U.S. expansion outside of North America. The term fell out of usage by U.S. policy makers early in the 20th century, but some commentators believe that aspects of Manifest Destiny, particularly the belief in an American "mission" to promote and defend democracy throughout the world, continues to have an influence on American political ideology.

Context and interpretations


American westward expansion is idealized in Emanuel Leutze‘s famous painting Westward the Course of Empire Takes its Way (1861). The title was a phrase often quoted in the era of Manifest Destiny, expressing a widely held belief that civilization had steadily moved westward throughout history.

Manifest Destiny was always a general notion rather than a specific policy. The term combined a belief in expansionism with other popular ideas of the era, including American exceptionalism, Romantic nationalism, and a belief in the natural superiority of what was then called the "Anglo-Saxon race". While many writers focus primarily upon American expansionism when discussing Manifest Destiny, others see in the term a broader expression of a belief in America’s "mission" in the world, which has meant different things to different people over the years. This variety of possible meanings was summed up by Ernest Lee Tuveson, who wrote:

A vast complex of ideas, policies, and actions is comprehended under the phrase ‘Manifest Destiny’. They are not, as we should expect, all compatible, nor do they come from any one source.

The concept of the Manifest Destiny has acquired a variety of meanings over the years, and its inherent ambiguity has been part of its power. In the generic political sense, however, it was usually used to refer to the idea that the American government was "destined" to establish uninterrupted political authority across the entire North American continent, from one ocean to the other.

John_O'Sullivan John L. O’Sullivan, sketched in 1874,
was an influential columnist as a
young man, but is now generally remembered only for his use of
the phrase "Manifest Destiny" to
advocate the annexation of
Texas and Oregon.

Journalist John L. O’Sullivan, an influential advocate for the Democratic Party, wrote an article in 1839 which, while not using the term "Manifest Destiny", did predict a "divine destiny" for the United States based upon values such as equality, rights of conscience, and personal enfranchisement– "to establish on earth the moral dignity and salvation of man". This destiny was not explicitly territorial, but O’Sullivan predicted that the United States would be one of a "Union of many Republics" sharing those values.

Six years later O’Sullivan wrote another essay which first used the phrase Manifest Destiny. In 1845, he published a piece entitled Annexation in the Democratic Review, in which he urged the United States to annex the Republic of Texas, not only because Texas desired this, but because it was "our manifest destiny to overspread the continent allotted by Providence for the free development of our yearly multiplying millions". Amid much controversy, Texas was annexed shortly thereafter, but O’Sullivan’s first usage of the phrase "Manifest Destiny" attracted little attention.

O’Sullivan’s second use of the phrase became extremely influential. On December 27, 1845 in his newspaper the New York Morning News, O’Sullivan addressed the ongoing boundary dispute with Great Britain in the Oregon Country. O’Sullivan argued that the United States had the right to claim "the whole of Oregon":

And that claim is by the right of our manifest destiny to overspread and to possess the whole of the continent which Providence has given us for the development of the great experiment of liberty and federated self-government entrusted to us.

That is, O’Sullivan believed that Providence had given the United States a mission to spread republican democracy ("the great experiment of liberty") throughout North America. Because Britain would not use Oregon for the purposes of spreading democracy, thought O’Sullivan, British claims to the territory should be overruled. O’Sullivan believed that Manifest Destiny was a moral ideal (a "higher law") that superseded other considerations.

Historian William E. Weeks has noted that three key themes were usually touched upon by advocates of Manifest Destiny:

  1. the virtue of the American people and their institutions;
  2. the mission to spread these institutions, thereby redeeming and remaking the world in the image of the U.S.; and
  3. the destiny under God to accomplish this work.


Background and biographical information is from Wikipedia articles on:

The American Indian Wars that can be found at…

Manifest Destiny that can be found at…