Monument Valley provides perhaps the most enduring and definitive images of the American West. Photo: U.S. Department of State.

The Boston Tea Party

Amerikanerne er ikke særligt begejstrede for at betale skat, og det har de faktisk aldrig været. Det værste er dog, når man bliver bedt om at betale skat, uden at have noget at skulle have sagt om, hvad pengene skal bruges til, det der hedder “taxation without representation”. Det var præcis hvad der skete da englænderne krævede nye skatter for en række varer – herunder te – fra indbyggerne i kolonierne i Amerika.

Det ville folk ikke være med til og det førte til the Boston Tea Party.

After the French and Indian War, England attempted to regain control of the colonies and the North American region resulting in resentment and distrust by the colonists. The Royal Proclamation of 1763 reserved all the western territory between the Allegheny Mountains, Florida, the Mississippi River, and Quebec for use by American Indians, thus restricting any westward expansion of the colonies. To support its growing empire, British Parliament levied new taxes on the colonies. To the contempt of merchants, the Sugar Act was imposed and strictly enforced in 1764. It outlawed the importation of foreign rum, placed a duty on molasses, and taxed wines, silks, coffee, and other luxury items. The Stamp Act was then imposed which required all newspapers, pamphlets, licenses, and other legal documents to have revenue stamps. The Stamp Act had a direct effect on all colonists and created great hostility against England. Prominent men formed secret organizations under the alias, “Sons of Liberty” to protest the Stamp Act. These groups boycotted trade with England, violently resisted customs agents, and destroyed the stamps.

The colonists began to officially assemble against the notion of ‘taxation without representation’. The Virginia House of Burgess and the Massachusetts Assembly sought to unite the 13 colonies by adopting a set of resolutions which explicitly defined their rights and liberties. The colonists believed that their interests were not being represented by the “virtual representation” of Parliament and that they should not be subject to taxation. Most colonists still felt a loyalty to King, but not to Parliament. The British Parliament rejected the colonist’s ideas. Feeling the economic strain of the colonial boycott, Parliament did nullify the Stamp Act and modify the Sugar Act in 1766. But, Parliament also issued the Declaratory Act which asserted the authority of Parliament to make laws for the colonies under any circumstance.

In 1773, the British government granted the East India Tea Company a monopoly on all tea exported to the colonies. Until then, tea was being imported illegally, duty-free. The colonists protested the new practices and new shipments of tea were either returned to England or warehoused. Defying the colonists, several cargo ships of tea docked in the Boston harbor. On the night of December 16, 1773, a group of men, disguised as Mohawk American Indians and led by Samuel Adams, boarded three British ships and dumped all of the tea cargo into the harbor. This event, known as the Boston Tea Party was a direct act of defiance against Britain. In response, the British imposed the Coercive Acts or the Five Intolerable Acts, including: Boston Port Act, Massachusetts Government Act, Administration of Justice Act, Quartering Act, and the Quebec Act.

Colonial representatives met in Philadelphia on September 5, 1774, and formed the First Continental Congress. Of the 55 delegates, only Georgia failed to send a representative. They resolved that the Coercive Acts were unjust and should not be obeyed. They affirmed their rights to “life, liberty, and property” and the right of provincial legislatures to dictate “all cases of taxation and internal policy”. They also formed the Continental Association to reestablish the trade boycott. Moderate colonists appealed to King George III in order to negotiate concessions. In September 1774, the King, revealing no intentions of compromising, responded to a petition sent by Philadelphia Quakers, “The die is now cast, the Colonies must either submit or triumph.”

In 1767 the Townshend Acts placed duties on colonial paper, glass, lead, and tea from Britain. The Townshend Acts sought to tax imports from Britain, unlike the Stamp Act which was an internal tax. Colonists again boycotted imports. They dressed in homespun clothing, found substitutes for tea, used homemade paper, and left their houses unpainted. Violence erupted against customs officials and British regiments were dispatched to enforce the tax. On March 5, 1770, antagonism between British soldiers and citizens escalated to a mob attack. The British fired into the crowd and killed three Boston residents. The “Boston Massacre” became a symbol of British tyranny. In 1770, the Townshend Acts were repealed and only the duties on tea, which was considered a luxury item, remained.

  • What did The Royal Proclamation of 1763 do?
  • In the text above, the word Act is mentioned quite a few times. Explain what “Act” means in the text. Does the word have other meanings as well?
  • Who were the Sons of Liberty”? What did they do?
  • What happened at the “Boston Massacre”?
  • What was Samuel Adams’ role in the Boston Tea Party?
  • In September 1774 Philadelphia Quakers sent a petition to King George III. What did the king respond to their petition?
  • What did ” the shot heard round the world” start?


Discuss the phrases “taxation without representation” and “virtual representation”. Discuss the view of human nature that lies behind an idea like “virtual representation”. Consider what consequences opposing that view may have had for how people in the US view human nature.

Discuss the use of boycotts as a political instrument

Discuss the use of legislation as a means of collective punishment. Do you think such a tactic had been possible if the people in the colonies had had real representation instead of real representation?

Discuss the concept “civil disobedience”. Is it justifiable?

The First Continental Congress touched upon some key concepts of modern societies; Rights, sovereignty and the justness of laws. Discuss what these concepts mean to you. Are there any limitations to them?

Revolution and Independence

Amerikanerne blev trætte af at høre under den engelske konge, og gjorde derfor oprør. Det faldt selvfølgeligt ikke i god jord hos englænderne. Resultatet blev den amerikanske uafhængighedskrig.

Krigen blev skelsættende i amerikansk historie. Amerikanerne fik – til dels i kraft af fransk støtte – deres uafhængighed fra England. Verdens første store demokratiske republik havde set dagens lys.

The Shot Heard Round the World

On April 19, 1775, British troops entered the Massachusetts town of Lexington after hearing news that colonists were gathering military munitions. Seventy-seven armed men, under the leadership of Captain John Parker stood waiting. The soldiers, called Minute Men because they were said to be ready to fight in a minute, were told to hold their fire unless fired upon. British commander, Major John Pitcairn commanded the colonists to leave. A shot was fired from an unknown source and the British charged with bayonets. Eight Minute Men were killed and ten wounded. This became known as “the shot heard round the world”  and the beginning of the Revolutionary War.

The British continued to Concord, Massachusetts but the colonists had already taken or destroyed all of the munitions. Militiamen gathered along the countryside from Concord to Boston. When the British returned to Boston, they were ambushed at every opportunity. By the time they reached Boston, 250 British soldiers and 93 American militiamen were wounded or killed.

The Revolutionary War

On May 10, 1775, the Second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They voted to go to war and inducted the colonial militias into continental service. Colonel George Washington of Virginia was appointed the commander-in-chief on June 15. Many members of the Continental Congress still sought to negotiate a resolution with England. In July 1775, King George rejected an Olive Branch Petition that sought to end the conflict. On August 23, 1775 King George issued a proclamation declaring the colonies to be in a state of rebellion.

The Declaration of Independence

The Declaration of Independence was adopted on July 4, 1776. Largely written by Thomas Jefferson and influenced by the Thomas Paine pamphlet, Common Sense, the document announced the birth of a new nation and declared the natural rights of humankind as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Jefferson reasoned that to fight for American Independence was to fight on behalf of one’s own natural rights.

We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal,

that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that

among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. – That to secure

these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just

powers from the consent of the governed, – That whenever any Form of

Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People

to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its

foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to

them shall seem most likely to affect their Safety and Happiness.

Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) was the 10th son of a candle and soap maker. He became a painter, writer, scientist, inventor, civic leader, and diplomat. Franklin is the only person to have signed all three documents that established the United States, the Declaration of Independence, the Treaty of Paris that stopped the war with Britain, and the Constitution. In 1751, Franklin proved that lightening is an electrical phenomenon through an experiment using a key and a kite to conduct a lightening rod. His study opened scientific thought to the uses and value of electricity. Franklin was also an advocate for the abolition of slavery and the integration and education of African Americans into the United States. Franklin helped create the first public lending library, first nonreligious college, and first national newspaper.

Revolutionary armies suffered many defeats and set backs at the onset of the war. High casualties were incurred at Bunker Hill, just outside of Boston and ground gained in Montreal, Canada was again lost in Quebec. While the British army had greater resources and strength, the Revolutionaries were resilient and persevered. In December 1776, Washington’s army was near collapse lacking promised reinforcement and aid. Luckily for the Revolutionaries, British commander, General William Howe decided to cease fighting until the spring and pulled back his forces. Washington’s army crossed the Delaware River, north of Trenton, New Jersey on Christmas day. Early the following morning, December 26, 1776, Washington’s army ambushed the unsuspecting British forces, capturing more than 900 prisoners. Washington’s army was victorious again on January 3, 1777 in an attack against the British at Princeton. These battles boosted morale for the American soldiers.

Howe defeated the American army at Brandywine, Pennsylvania in September 1777, occupied Philadelphia, and forced the Continental Congress to flee. Valley Forge in the winter of 1777-1778 marks an exceptionally difficult time for the American soldiers under Washington. The soldiers lacked adequate food, clothing, and supplies.

Elsewhere, advances continued to be made by revolutionary brigades. American troops were able to push back the advancing forces of General John Burgoyne’s British command from extending south of Canada into New York, New England, and Vermont. Burgoyne’s army was again defeated in Albany, New York by American troops under the leadership of General Benedict Arnold. Burgoyne fell back to Saratoga, New York. On October 17, 1777 Burgoyne surrendered his entire army, six generals, 300 officers, and 5,500 enlisted personnel to the American forces led by General Horatio Gates.

In 1776, after meeting with Benjamin Franklin in Paris, France began providing aid to the American forces. France sent 14 ships filled with munitions to the colonies and supplied the Revolutionary forces with almost all of their gunpowder. France hoped to restore a balance of power lost in the French and Indian War by supporting the independence of the colonies and thus weakening the British Empire. On February 6, 1778, the colonies and France signed a Treaty of Amity and Commerce, in which France recognized the United States and formed trade agreements. They also signed a Treaty of Alliance, which stated that neither country would cease fighting against the British until colonial independence was achieved, neither would make peace agreements with Britain without the other’s consent, and guaranteed the possessions of each country in America. This was the only bilateral defense treaty signed by the United States or its predecessors until 1949.

The Franco-American alliance broadened the conflict. In June 1778 British ships fired on French vessels and the two countries went to war. In 1779 Spain, hoping to reacquire territories taken by Britain in the Seven Years’ War, entered the conflict on the side of France, but not as an ally of the Americans. In 1780 Britain declared war on the Dutch, who had continued to trade with the Americans. The combination of these European powers, with France in the lead, was a far greater threat to Britain than the American colonies standing alone.

France’s entrance in the war proved extremely beneficial to the Americans. In July 1780, King Louis XVI of France sent 6,000 soldiers to support the Revolutionary cause. French fleets blockaded British aid and supplies to Virginia. On October 19, 1781, British forces surrendered 8,000 soldiers at Yorktown. The war continued for two more years without any decisive victory or defeat. In 1782, American representatives, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and John Jay met with the British in Paris to negotiate peace. On April 15, 1783, Congress approved the final treaty. Signed on September 3, the Treaty of Paris acknowledged the independence, freedom, and sovereignty of the 13 former colonies, now states.  The new United States stretched west to the Mississippi River, north to Canada, and south to Florida, which was returned to Spain.

  • What is the other name for the French and Indian War?
  • What was the outcome of the war?
  • What did the king reject in July 1775?
  • When was The Declaration of Independence adopted?
  • What were the natural rights declared in The Declaration of Independence?
  • Name at least three things Benjamin Franklin did.
  • What decision by General William Howe helped Washington’s army achieve important victories in December 1776?
  • What did the American soldiers lack at Valley Forge in the winter 1777 – 1778?
  • What happened on October 17, 1777?
  • What was signed on February 6, 1778?
  • What countries were somehow involved in the Revolutionary War around 1780?
  • When was the Treaty of Paris signed?

The Declaration of Independence marks the birth of the United States of America as a sovereign federation of states. While sovereignty was a well known concept at the time the type of sovereignty applied in these new United States was a bit special. It was Popular Sovereignty meaning that it was up to the people to decide how government should look and who should be in it. This was in sharp contrast to most other countries that, at that time, were absolutist monarchies. Considering this, discuss the idea of sovereignty and the legitimacy of sovereignty if not based on the will of the people.

The Constitutional Convention

Efter Uafhængighedskrigen skulle det nye land jo have en grundlov. Skabelsen af den gik ikke altid helt stille for sig. Der var ret stor forskel på, hvor tæt folk mente, at staterne skulle hænge sammen. Da grundloven var færdig, manglede den et afsnit om borgernes frihedsrettigheder. Det blev til det, der hedder the Bill of Rights.

I afsnittene herunder kan I læse om, hvordan USAs grundlov blev til, hvad den indeholder samt hvilke rettigheder the Bill of Rights gav de første borgere i USA.

In response to the weak nature of the Articles of Confederation, a Federal Convention, presided by George Washington, was held in May 1787. States were called to appoint representatives from their jurisdictions to meet and work towards ratifying a new, stronger constitution to replace the Articles. Congress had authorized the Convention to draft amendments to the Articles, but the delegates drafted an entirely new document.

They set out to define the powers of local or state control and federal or national control. The federal government was authorized to coin money, regulate commerce, declare war, and make peace. The things not designated to federal control were to be decided by individual states.

Debate and Compromise

Influences by Montesquieu’s concept of balance of power, the writings of John Locke, and the colonial experience led to the establishment of three equal and coordinate branches of government. The legislative, judicial, and executive branches were created with the notion of checks and balances, meaning no one branch could function without the others.

Like the colonial legislatures and British Parliament, the legislative branch was designed to have two houses, the House of Representatives and the Senate. Small states wanted equal representation and were concerned that representation based on population would reduce their influence. Large states argued that proportional representation was best. A compromise was negotiated in which proportional representation would be used in the House of Representatives and equal representation in the Senate.

The convention drafted a new constitution that attempted to clearly define and limit the sphere of government. It would have full power to levy taxes, borrow money, establish uniform duties and eliminate taxes, coin money, regulate interstate commerce, fix weights and measures, grant patents and copyrights, set up post offices, and build post roads. It also was authorized to raise and maintain an army and navy, manage Native-American affairs, conduct foreign policy, and wage war. It could pass laws for naturalizing foreigners and controlling public lands; it could admit new states on a basis of absolute equality with the old. The power to pass all necessary and proper laws for executing these clearly defined powers enabled the federal government to meet the needs of later generations and of a greatly expanded government.

The framers incorporated a system of checks and balances to control the authority of each of the three branches of government. The executive, legislative, and judicial bodies were designed to be intertwined. Basically, the legislative branch (Congress) makes laws, the executive branch (the President) executes the law, and the judicial branch (Courts) determines the constitutionality of laws. The laws would be enforced through state and federal courts.

Congressional enactments could not become law until approved by the president. The president must submit his most important appointments and all treaties to the Senate for confirmation. The president, in turn, could be impeached and removed by Congress. The judiciary was to hear all cases arising under federal laws and the Constitution; in effect, the courts were empowered to interpret both the fundamental and the statute law. But members of the judiciary, appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate, could also be impeached by Congress.

On September 17, 1787, after 16 weeks of deliberation, the finished Constitution was signed by 39 of the 42 delegates present. Franklin, pointing to the half sun painted in brilliant gold on the back of Washington’s chair, said, “I have often in the course of the session … looked at that [chair] behind the president, without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting; but now, at length, I have the happiness to know that it is a rising, and not a setting, sun”.

Differing views on the power of the central government led to the formation of America’s first two political parties, the Federalists, who favored a strong central government, and the Antifederalists (also known as the Republicans or the Democratic-Republicans), who preferred a loose association of separate states. Alexander Hamilton and the Federalists represented the interests of trade and manufacturing. Thomas Jefferson and the Antifederalists represented agricultural interests and values. Impassioned arguments on both sides were voiced by the press, the legislatures, and the state conventions.

In Virginia, the Antifederalists attacked the proposed new government by challenging the opening phrase of the Constitution: “We the People of the United States.” Without using the individual state names in the Constitution, the delegates argued, the states would not retain their separate rights or powers. Virginia Antifederalists were led by Patrick Henry, who became the chief spokesman for back-country farmers who feared the powers of the new central government. Wavering delegates were persuaded by a proposal that the Virginia convention recommend a bill of rights, and Antifederalists joined with the Federalists to ratify the Constitution on June 25.

In New York, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison pushed for the ratification of the Constitution in a series of essays known as The Federalist Papers. The essays, published in New York newspapers, provided a now-classic argument for a central federal government, with separate executive, legislative, and judicial branches that checked and balanced one another. With The Federalist Papers influencing the New York delegates, the Constitution was ratified on July 26.

In addition to the antipathy toward a strong central government, many feared that the Constitution did not protect individual rights and freedoms sufficiently. Virginian George Mason, author of Virginia’s Declaration of Rights of 1776, was one of three delegates to the Constitutional Convention who had refused to sign the final document because it did not name individual rights. Together with Patrick Henry, he campaigned vigorously against ratification of the Constitution by Virginia. Five states, including Massachusetts, ratified the Constitution on the condition that such amendments were added immediately.

When the first Congress convened in New York City in September 1789, the calls for amendments protecting individual rights were virtually unanimous. Congress quickly adopted 12 such amendments; by December 1791, enough states had ratified 10 amendments to make them part of the Constitution. Collectively, they are known as the Bill of Rights. Among their provisions: freedom of speech, press, religion, and the right to assemble peacefully, protest, and demand changes (First Amendment); protection against unreasonable searches, seizures of property, and arrest (Fourth Amendment); due process of law in all criminal cases (Fifth Amendment); right to a fair and speedy trial (Sixth Amendment); protection against cruel and unusual punishment (Eighth Amendment); and provision that the people retain additional rights not listed in the Constitution (Ninth Amendment).

Since the adoption of the Bill of Rights, only 17 more amendments have been added to the Constitution. Although a number of the subsequent amendments revised the federal government’s structure and operations, most followed the precedent established by the Bill of Rights and expanded individual rights and freedoms.

  • What was the Constitutional Convention authorized to do by Congress?
  • What did they in fact do?
  • What solution was chosen to accommodate different states’ whishes concerning representation in the judicial branch?
  • Under the new constitution the federal government was given authority over a number of areas. Name five.
  • Name the three branches of government and explain what they do.
  • Differing views on the power of the central government led to the formation of America’s first two political parties. What were their names?
  • What were the Federalist Papers?
  • What is the Bill of Rights?
  • Why was it made?

The text you’ve just read, explains how the Constitution of the United States was made. You will notice that it took a while before the final format of the Constitution was ready for signing. Before becoming the United States of America the states were joined together in a confederation. Explain and discuss the concepts federation and confederation. Consider differences and similarities to the development that has taken place in Europe since the treaty of Rome in 1957. Consider the pros and cons of states being tied together in a legal framework.

Discuss the differences between a centralized state like Denmark or Sweden and a decentralized federation of states like the U.S. Both systems have advantages and disadvantages. Can you think of any?

Discuss the concepts “separation of powers” and “checks and balances”. What would a country be like if power were concentrated in one branch of government?

The U.S. Congress is bi-cameral; it has two houses of elected officials. One has proportional representation, one has equal representation. Discuss the difference between the two systems. What are the advantages and disadvantages of the two systems?

The Bill of Rights was one of the first documents to account what has later been named human rights. These rights are seen as inalienable, meaning that a person can never lose them. Discuss the idea of human rights. The Bill of Rights and the later Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in 1948 deal with individual human rights. African and Asian countries have later argued that collective rights are more important. Discuss the differences between individual and collective rights.

Westward Expansion and the American Indian

I 1800-tallet udvidede USA sig kraftigt mod vest. Det betød fremgang for USA men havde alvorlige konsekvenser for landets oprindelige befolkning.

De nye stater bød på nærmest uendelige mængder af jord og naturressourcer som guld og olie. Samtidig med at de økonomiske fordele ved at udvide vestpå blev klarere og klarere for amerikanerne, blev de regler, der omfattede de originale indbyggere – Indianerne – udhulet og reformeret, så Indianernes vilkår blev støt dårligere.

The frontier did much to shape American life. Conditions along the entire Atlantic seaboard stimulated migration to the newer regions. Poor farming soil in coastal New England encouraged migration to richer interior land. The lack of roads and canals accessible to the coastal markets in the backcountry settlements of the Carolinas and Virginia and political inequity led to westward migration as well. By 1800 the Mississippi and Ohio River valleys were becoming a great frontier region.

The westward flow of population in the early 19th century led to the division of old territories and the drawing of new boundaries. As new states were admitted, the political map stabilized east of the Mississippi River. From 1816 to 1821, six states were created – Indiana, Illinois, and Maine (which were free states), and Mississippi, Alabama, and Missouri (slave states). The first frontier had been tied closely to Europe, the second to the coastal settlements, but the Mississippi Valley was independent and its people looked west rather than east.

Frontier settlers were a varied group. One English traveler described them as “a daring, hardy race of men, who live in miserable cabins. … They are unpolished but hospitable, kind to strangers, honest, and trustworthy. They raise a little Indian corn, pumpkins, hogs, and sometimes have a cow or two. … But the rifle is their principal means of support.” Skillful with the ax, snare, and fishing line, these men blazed the trails, built the first log cabins, and confronted Native-American tribes, whose land they occupied.

Many settlers became farmers as well as hunters. They developed their log cabins into houses with glass windows, a chimney, and partitioned rooms. Land was rapidly cleared of timber. They grew their own grain, vegetables, and fruit and ranged the woods for deer, wild turkeys, and honey. They fished the nearby streams and looked after cattle and hogs. Land speculators bought large tracts of the cheap land and if land values rose, sold their holdings and moved still farther west, making way for others.

Doctors, lawyers, storekeepers, editors, preachers, mechanics, and politicians soon followed the farmers. The farmers were the sturdy base, however. Where they settled, they intended to stay and hoped their children would remain after them. They built large barns and brick or frame houses. They brought improved livestock, plowed the land skillfully, and sowed productive seed. Some erected flour mills, sawmills, and distilleries. They laid out good highways, and built churches and schools. Incredible transformations were accomplished in a few years. In 1830, for example, Chicago, Illinois, was merely an unpromising trading village with a fort; but long before some of its original settlers had died, it had become one of the largest and richest cities in the nation.

Farms were easy to acquire. Government land after 1820 could be bought for $1.25 for about half a hectare, and after the 1862 Homestead Act, could be claimed by merely occupying and improving it. In addition, tools for working the land were easily available. It was a time when, in a phrase coined by Indiana newspaperman John Soule and popularized by New York Tribune editor Horace Greeley, young men could “go west and grow with the country.”

In 1819, the United States obtained from Spain both Florida and Spain’s rights to the Oregon country in the Far West. The French and Scots-Irish fur trappers explored the great rivers and discovered the passes through the Rocky and Sierra Mountains which made the migration of the 1840s and the later occupation of the interior of the nation possible.

Overall, the growth of the nation was enormous. The population grew from 7.25 million to more than 23 million from 1812 to 1852 and the land available for settlement increased by almost the size of Western Europe – from 4.4 million to 7.8 million square kilometers. The westward expansion and rising population increasingly infringed on the life of the American Indians.

Andrew Jackson and the Indian Removal Act

In the first part of the 19th century, the most prominent figure associated with these conflicts was Andrew Jackson, the first “Westerner” to occupy the White House. During the War of 1812, Jackson, then in charge of the Tennessee militia, was sent into southern Alabama, where he ruthlessly put down an uprising of Creek Indians. The Creeks soon ceded two-thirds of their land to the United States. Jackson later routed bands of Seminoles from their sanctuaries in Spanish-owned Florida.

In the 1820s, President Monroe’s secretary of war, John C. Calhoun, pursued a policy of removing the remaining tribes from the old Southwest and resettling them beyond the Mississippi. Jackson continued this policy as president. In 1830 Congress passed the Indian Removal Act, which provided funding to forcibly transport the eastern tribes beyond the Mississippi. In 1834 a special American Indian territory was set up in what is now Oklahoma. In all, the tribes signed 94 treaties during Jackson’s two terms, ceding millions of hectares to the federal government and removing dozens of tribes from their ancestral homelands.

The Trail of Tears

The Cherokees had lands in western North Carolina and Georgia that had been guaranteed by a treaty since 1791. Among the most progressive of the eastern tribes, the Cherokees nevertheless were displaced after gold was discovered on their land in 1829. 18,000 Cherokees were forced to make a long and cruel trek to Oklahoma in 1838. Known as the “Trail of Tears,” 4,000 American Indians died along the journey due to hunger, extreme cold, and disease. Their land was then distributed by the state of Georgia through a public lottery to become slave plantations. The American Indian removal process (from 1830-1840) resulted in approximately 100,000 American Indians being voluntarily or forcibly relocated west of the Mississippi River. Many European settlers tried to “civilize” the American Indians with Christian religion and public education. They hoped that the American Indian customs and culture would die out and saw assimilation and conversion to the new American ways as the only possible way to coexist.

In the Plains region of North America, the buffalo or American bison was an integral part of American Indian survival and culture. Considered sacred, the entire buffalo was used by the American Indians and no portion was wasted. The American bison came near extinction in the 19th century due to the westward migration of American settlers. The bison was hunted for sport and commercial profit. The US government supported the hunting of buffalo in an attempt to remove the main source of livelihood from the Plains American Indians and force them into reservations. Railroad industries also worried that the bison crossing the railroad tracks could damage locomotives if they failed to stop in time.

In 1800, the North American buffalo population was 40,000,000. By 1875 it was only 1,000,000. The lowest rates were in 1895 when the population was less than 1,000. Private citizens began protecting herds of bison and the population was revived to 50,000 in 1983, although many were cross bred with cattle creating genetic mutations. Today, the only purely wild bison live in Yellow Stone Park and number between 3,000 and 3,500.

How American Indians Used the Buffalo:

  • Meat: Food and ceremonial use
  • Fat and Marrow: Food, paint, and cosmetics
  • Bones: Tools, weapons, knives, pipes, soup, sleds
  • Brain: Food, used to tan hides
  • Intestine: Cord
  • Hoofs: Implements, utensils, glue, jewelry, food, ceremonial use
  • Bladder: Storage pouches
  • Rawhide: Moccasin soles, shields, containers, ornaments, rattles, snow shoes, mortars, lariats, bridles, boats, luggage, food boiling, medicine bundle, saddles, thongs, stirrups
  • Hide: Tepees, robes, dresses, gloves, breech cloth, shirts, leggings, moccasins, bedding, dolls, regalia, cradleboards, implements, drums, tipi furnishings
  • Skull: Ceremonial use
  • Horns: Implements, ornaments, ceremonial use, games
  • Hair: Rope, stuffing, ornaments, ceremonial use
  • Dung: Fuel
  • Sinew and Muscle: Thread, cord, bow strings
  • Tail: Fly brush
  • Stomach: Cooking vessel, container for carrying/storing water
  • Which states were created from 1816 to 1821?
  • How were the frontier settlers described by an English traveler?
  • The first settlers were framers and hunters, but they were soon followed by other types of people. What occupations did those people have?
  • How could you get land after the Homestead Act of 1862?
  • According to New York Tribune editor Horace Greeley, what could young men do?
  • How much did the population grow from 1812 – 1852?
  • What did the Indian Removal Act do?

Discuss the idea that people could claim land under the Homestead Act. Consider also the concept of ownership of land. How do you decide who owns a piece of land?

Discuss the evolution of how the US government perceived American Indians as shown by the acts above.