Online College Courses for Credit

US History4You 6.1: Westward Expansion (NOTES)

US History4You 6.1: Westward Expansion (NOTES)

Author: Bryce Schoenherr

In this History4You tutorial, we will cover the movement to the West.

See More
Fast, Free College Credit

Developing Effective Teams

Let's Ride
*No strings attached. This college course is 100% free and is worth 1 semester credit.

29 Sophia partners guarantee credit transfer.

312 Institutions have accepted or given pre-approval for credit transfer.

* The American Council on Education's College Credit Recommendation Service (ACE Credit®) has evaluated and recommended college credit for 27 of Sophia’s online courses. Many different colleges and universities consider ACE CREDIT recommendations in determining the applicability to their course and degree programs.


The Indian Wars

Concept to Know-Native Culture

   Most American natives became nomadic(travelling groups) by the mid-1700s after being introduced to the horse and the gun by "the white men".  An absolutely major part of Indian life was the buffalo.  It provided meat(for jerky and pemmican) and hides(for teepees, clothes, blankets, etc.).  Tribes would often fight over hunting land in order to gain access to this source of life.

   Family was an incredibly important aspect of their life too.  Men were hunters and warriors and women became butchers, cooks, and just about everything else.  Elders joined the counsel and decided on what choices the tribe would make.  Men and women could also became shamans who saw through to the spirit world.  Children learned through oral stories, games, example, and more.

Concept to Know-Disagreements Begin 

   Settlers went west, considering it "unsettled" and wanted to own land.  Natives believed that although you were given land to live on, you didn't own it.  It was sort of lent to you by the gods to take care of it.  Settlers wanted to take Indian's land because they thought that if you didn't improve on the land(farm, build a house, etc.), you could be pushed out to make room for people who would improve it.

   Once upon a time in 1858 Colorado, some guy finds gold.  Tens of thousands of people swarm hoping to get it rich.  Land became filled with mining camps and filthy towns with run-down houses.  Although mostly men came, people of many races and cultures followed.  Also, settlers would kill buffalo for sport.  They would ride trains and fire as they passed by, letting the buffalo rot away.

Concept to Know-Government "Helps"

   In 1834, the government designated the Great Plains as the Indians' new home(after moving them a lot already).  They issued tribal boundaries in 1850s, further forcing them to adopt to the idea of land ownership.

   In the effort to move Indian tribes, one tribe refused at the Sand Creek winter camp.  About 700 soldiers were brought in and killed 500 to 600 Native Americans, about 2/3 of them being women and children.  There are some quotes on Wikipedia you might or might not want to look at.

   Settlers began blazing trails, one of them being the Bozeman Trail.  It ran through hunting grounds and Natives weren't happy.  Red Cloud asked Congress and Crazy Horse attacked Americans.  Congress offered the Treaty of Fort Laramie, in which the trail would close if Sioux moved to a reservation.  Sitting Bull refused to sign it, but most others did.

   In 1868, the Red River War started with Kiowa, Comanche, and other tribes raiding settlements for 6 years.  U.S. troops crushed resistance in 1874-1875.  The government still didn't care about angering the Indians.

   George A. Custer reported gold in the Black Hills in 1874.  And guess what?  People ran to find it.  In 1876,  Sitting Bull had a vision of a war at a sun dance.  Sure enough,  Custer later attacked.  Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, and Gall crushed all the troops.  Sadly, Custer's Last Stand was one of the only victories they would have.  Later that year, the Sioux were defeated and some sought refuge in Canada.  Sitting Bull surrendered in 1881 because his people were starving.

Concept to Know-Assimilation

   Helen Hunt Jackson published  "A Century of Dishonor" in 1881 exposing the problems Natives faced.  Things didn't change much though.  The Dawes Act, issued in 1887, was made to try to assimilate, or "Americanize", natives and join white culture.  They broke up reservations more to give individuals their own land(forcing the idea of land ownership).  Any land left over was given to settlers(decreasing Indians land even more).  American Indians ended up with 1/3 of their original land and none of the millions of dollars they were promised.

   Native Americans started dancing the Ghost Dance believing that if they danced it, the white men would leave and they would gain back their land.  Troops tried to stop it believing it was a war dance.  Sitting Bull was killed when police tried to arrest him in December of 1890 and later, about 350 Sioux were taken to Wounded Knee Creek.

   While staying at Wounded Knee Creek, a gunshot went off.  Troops opened fire and 300 unarmed Indians were killed.  The Battle of Wounded Knee basically ended the Indian Wars and the Sioux dreamt of regaining their old life from then on.


  • Native Culture
  • Differences between Settlers and Natives
  • Massacres
  • Assimilation

Cowboys and Vaqueros

Concept to Know-Cowboys are needed

   Many American cattle drivers were influenced by the Mexican vaqueros to become what we think of today with their "fancy" hats and gun slinging abilities.  Before railroads came through, cowboys weren't in demand.  The need for meat skyrocketed after the Civil War.  In order to fill orders people created shipping yards where trails and railroads met.  Cowboys would travel(for about 3 months) to shipping yards where they would pay to have their cattle shipped to the market.  One major trail some might travel was the Chisolm Trail.  It ran from San Antonio to Kansas (or vice versa).

   In 1866-1885 there were 55,000 cowboys on the plains.  25% were African Americans and 12% were Mexican(13,750 African Americans and 6,600 Mexicans for those who didn't bring out your calculator).  The life of a cowboy wasn't always fun.  They worked 10-14 hours a day or more during a storm or if they were on the trail.  They did become expert riders, ropers, and lookouts(people or animals may try to attack cattle).  They sat in the saddle from dawn to dusk and slept on the ground.  They would also have to bathe in rivers.

Concept to Know-Life of a Cowboy

  The life of a cowboy wasn't always fun.  They worked 10-14 hours a day or more during a storm or if they were on the trail.  They did become expert riders, ropers, and lookouts(people or animals may try to attack cattle).  They sat in the saddle from dawn to dusk and slept on the ground.  They would also have to bathe in rivers.

   Sometimes cowboys would lose some or find a wild one and brand it as theirs.  Cowboys would each have their own brand so that if a couple of herds got together when cowboys met, they could separate correctly.

   People we know like "Wild Bill" Hickok and Calamity Jane never handled cows.

   Over the years, many changes came to the ranching industry.  Ranchers started to keep smaller herds that produces more per animal.  The innovation of barbed wire created separate specified ranges instead of being an open range. Unfortunately, due to overgrazing and bad weather, whole herds were killed in 1883 to 1887.


  • Cowboys Lifestyle
  • Herding and Cattle

Annie Oakley (Calamity Jane)

   At 30 paces she could split a playing card held edge-on, she hit dimes tossed into the air, she shot cigarettes from her husband's lips, and, a playing card being thrown into the air, she riddled it before it touched the ground.

   Perhaps Oakley's most famous trick was her ability to repeatedly split a playing card, edge-on, and put several more holes in it before it could touch the ground, while using a .22 caliber rifle, at 90 feet (27 m).

   R. A. Koestler-Grack reports that, on March 19, 1884, she was being watched by Chief Sitting Bull when:

"Oakley playfully skipped on stage, lifted her rifle, and aimed the barrel at a burning candle. In one shot, she snuffed out the flame with a whizzing bullet. Sitting Bull watched her knock corks off of bottles and slice through a cigar Butler held in his teeth."


Script Writer: Bryce Schoenherr

Head Historian: {PRIVATE}

Historians: Bryce Schoenherr