The Red River War

The Red River War

Old West Tales by Mustang

American Plains Indian (Wikipedia)

Long before the arrival of Anglo-American settlers, the people of the Great Plains had evolved into a nomadic form of existence.  Their pace of movement generally mirrored that of their primary food source, and because humans cannot exist without water, they never placed themselves too far from sources of water.  Beginning in the early 1800s, white settlers began to establish settlements in areas that were previously the exclusive domain of indigenous peoples.  They transformed the land into fields suitable for agriculture, hunted for meat, and set down roads connecting the various settlements.  These circumstances set into motion a series of attacks and counter-attacks between human beings who looked upon one another in the same way: they were the enemy, they were dangerous, and they were untrustworthy.  There could be no greater demonstration of a clash of cultures than interactions between westward-bound European-Americans and the American Indian.

Prior to the American Civil War, the United States Army was only sporadically involved in keeping the peace between these natural enemies.  Due to the size of the Army at that time, it could only man outlying fortifications in small numbers.  Many of these forward-deployed soldiers were infantry.  No matter how proficient these men were, they stood no chance at all in a major battle against the mounted Indian warrior.  Western military expeditions were few in their frequency and small in their size.  This meant that in terms of defense from Indian attack, for the most part, white settlements were on their own.  During the Civil War, the regular army almost completely withdrew from western territories and settlers formed volunteer militias to confront hostile Indians.

It wasn’t until after the Civil War that the U. S. Army began to reassert its control along the frontier.  In 1867, the US government brokered an agreement with Indian leaders to establish two reservations in the so-called Indian territories (Oklahoma): one reservation for the Comanche and Kiowa, another for the Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho. The agreement, the Medicine Lodge Treaty (signed near Medicine Lodge, Kansas), provided that the US government would offer Indians housing, agricultural training, food, and other supplies.  In return, the Indians agreed to stop raiding white settlements.  Dozens of chiefs endorsed the treaty and a number of tribes moved onto the reservations.  There were two problems with the treaty, however.  First, several bands of Indians headed by influential war chiefs refused to attend the meeting at Medicine Lodge.  Second, the treaty was never ratified by the US Senate.

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Permission to re-publish granted by Mustang of Fix Bayonets!
Mustang has other great reads over at his two blogs – Thoughts from Afar 
with Old West Tales and Fix Bayonets. Feel free to visit, bookmark and subscribe.

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