In the first chapter of the text, the author gives a brief history of the interactions between the Indians living on American soil and different foreign settlers. The first person to come into contact with the Indians was Christopher Columbus who arrived in San Salvador in the year 1482. Columbus described the Indians in derogatory terms and when he returned home he took some Indians with him. The same tribe later started a war against the white settlers because they acted with extreme violence towards the Indian tribes.
Next, the British reached the American soil but instead of using violence, they traded with the Indian chiefs who agreed to enslave their own people for money and lands in New England. Another war broke between the English and the Indians lost and the English become more powerful and influential in America.
In the 17th century, the Dutch came and they conquered various islands inhabited by Native Americans. While the Indians tried to fight them off, they were unsuccessful and many tribes were wiped out as a result.
The action then moves in 1829 when the president of the United States tried to force all Indians to relocate in a single part of the country. During the march, entire tribes died and many people perished because of the harsh conditions on the road. Various tribes rebelled against the white settlers between 1860 and 1890 but almost every time the uprisings ended tragically for the Indians who were defeated time and time again. The author notes that the most tragic event happened in 1890 at Wounded Knee.
Before the events that took place between 1860 and 1890, there were a few Native Americans who tried to make peace with the white settlers. In 1850 for example, a Navaho leader signed a peace treaty with the government but only a few days later the whites attacked the tribe and killed their animals. Another treaty was signed in the 1860s by the same Indian chief and the tribes even began trading with the soldiers that hunt them in the past. The treaty did not last a long time either and the violence escalated once more.
In 1862, General Carleton ordered the Indians living near the Rio Grande River to relocate, believing that the land where the Indians were staying was filled with gold. To force the Indians to leave, the General ordered his men to kill their animals and then burn their fields. A few months later, the soldiers were told to kill any Indian they saw and Carson, a white explorer notes how he murdered many Indians under Carleton’s orders. In less than a year, the area was cleaned of any Indians who once lived there.
The next year, Carleton ordered his men to use the same strategy to drive out the Indians in the Canyon de Chelly region. The Navahos tried to resist but when it became clear that they had no chance of winning, they surrendered. Even though they surrendered, Carleton still ordered his men to destroy everything the Indians owned. The Indians were relocated to the Bosque Redondo reservation but because the conditions were less than ideal, many chose to side with Manuelito, a Navaho chief who refused to move his people to the reservation. Because of this, the army was allowed to kill any Navaho found outside the reservation and in less than a year the Indians outside the reservation surrender as well.
After 1865, Carleton was replaced by Norton who moved the Indians once more. The reason why he wanted to move the Indians was to provide them with a reservation with fertile soil that will allow them to be self-sufficient and to live in peace. In 1868, the tribe signed a new treaty and were permitted to move back on their lands.
In the third chapter, the author talks about another tribe, in the north of the country. The tribe was called Santee Sioux who in the 1850s signed a treaty forcing them to move to a much smaller territory. The land was extremely unproductive and the tribe soon faced hunger and illnesses. Little Cow, the tribe chief, tried to get more resources for his tribe but the government officials refused to help them. Out if necessity, Little Cow decided to lead raids against the white settlements even though he knew the tribe will be punished for their actions. While Little Cow had a few success, he failed to capture important American forts and he soon found himself with no army.
Some of Little Cow’s men decided to surrender instead of fighting for the cause and they ended up being executed for their actions. Little Cow fled to Canada but returned to Minnesota in search of horse. He was later killed in Minnesota when one of his raids failed.
The remaining men were later organized by Medicine Bottle and Shakopee but they failed as well and every man who was associated with them was eventually killed. After that, the remaining Indians were forced to live in a harsh reservation, with no access to potable water and forced to live on land that did not produce any food.
In 1851, another treaty was signed by the chiefs from the Great Plains. The Indians agreed to move to a territory near the Arkansas River because the territory they were occupying was rich in gold.
When the civil war started, the Indians did their best to avoid getting in the way of the military troops yet some incidents still took place. For example, a Cheyenne leader named Lean Bear was shot when his hunting party was spotted by a group of soldiers. The second in command, Black Kettle, refused to open fire on the American troops and decided instead to talk with William Bent, a white men living with the Indians about what he should do next. Black Kettle was advised not to respond with the same actions and to avoid confrontations if possible.
Unfortunately, some Indians who found about the incident believed that it was their right to respond the same and they began attacking white settlements. As a result, in 1864, John Evans declared that there was a war among the Indian tribes and the white troops. The Indian leaders tried to explain the situation and to control their men better. Black Kettle released four prisoners to Wynkoop and told him that the rest of the prisoners were held in the north side of their territory. Black Kettle tried to make peace with the Governor but he was appalled to see that his people were being accused of doing various wrong doings just to make sure that the white men are painted in a positive light.
Wynkoop was released from his position because he was sympathetic with the Indians and he was replaced by Scott J. Anthony who was given the task to relocate the Indians at Sand Creek. When Anthony received back up, he ordered his men to kill the Indians at Sand Creek. Only a handful of Indians managed to survive and flee. Among the people killed, were the Indian leaders who tried to promote peace and unity among the Indians and the Americans. After the massacre, the remaining Indians decided to start a war against the American troops.
Black Kettle refused to participate in such acts and decided instead to march north with his followers. The rest of the Indians planned various attacks on the white soldiers, killing some of them.
Black Kettle was asked once more to negotiate with the USA government, this time for Colorado. The government let it be understood that even if Black Kettle decides not to cooperate, they will still build railroads and began mining on their territory for gold. In an effort to maintain the peace, Black Kettle decided to agree to move his people south of the Arkansas River.
In chapter five, the author presents the history of another Native tribe, the Arapahos. Black Bear, their chief, organized them quickly after he found about the Sand Creek massacre and lead them away from the soldiers who were told to kill every Indian they found.
The soldiers eventually found the Arapaho camp and they killed every woman and child they found. The remaining members fled while being attacked by the soldiers. The soldiers followed the Arapahos back to their village where they burnt the village to the ground and destroyed all their supplies. Also, almost all Arapahos were killed in the battle.
The attacks were led by General Connor and faced with this situation, the Indians had no other choice but to fight back in an effort to survive. Two Indian chiefs, Sitting Bull and Roman Nose, joined forces and were able to make the soldiers retreat. General Connor understood then that his soldiers, while more powerful and better armed that the Indians, were at a disadvantage because they did not had enough food. Also, the soldiers were less inclined to fight since they had just gotten out of the Civil War.
In 1856, various governors tried to make the Indians sign peace treaties allowing them to build railroads and expand on their territory. Colonel Maynadier tried to convince both Red Cloud and Spotted Tail to sign peace treaties. Red Could gave up on signing the treaty when General Henry B. Carrington arrived and decided instead to wage war against him. More Indians decided to side with Red Could and they attacked the white soldiers, killing a large number of them at Carrington’s fort.
John Sanborn was a commissioner sent to negotiate with the Indians following Red Could but was unsuccessful in meeting him. Meanwhile, two Indian leaders named Little Wound and Pawnee Killer tried to negotiate with General George Armstrong but was unsuccessful. As a result, the Indians began attacking the railroads, destroying them and attacking the trains, stealing everything they could from them.
The Indians however were overpowered by the guns the Americans had and in 1867, another man named Nathaniel Taylor tried to negotiate with Red Cloud once more. Nathan Taylor meet with representatives from the Indian tribes and listened to their demands and complains. He eventually meet Red Cloud as well and Nathan convinced him to sign a peace treaty with the US Government.
In 1866, Red Cloud and a group of followers moved south while other tribes began to go to war with the US after they heard about Red Cloud’s victories. Among the people inspired by Red Cloud were Roman Nose and Black Kettle who began attacking different forts and Convoys.
A general named Winfield Scott Hancock tried to convince Roman Nose to meet and discuss a possible treaty but Roman Nose denied him in the beginning, thinking that maybe the general will want to kill him and his followers. Because Norman Nose refused to meet with General Winfield Scott Hancock, the general took his men into Roman Nose’s territory. General Winfield Scott Hancock then sent one of his men to find Roman Nose’s men and Roman Nose fled, trying to protect his people.
In September that same year, Roman Nose and other chiefs meet to discuss another peace treaty. While the chiefs agreed that their survival depended on the treaty, Roman Nose refused to sign it. Some tribes relocated after they signed the treaty but the US government failed once more to respect the conditions described in the peace treaty.
That same month, Roman Nose stumbled upon a group of soldiers sent to exterminate the Indian camps. Roman Nose attacked the camp but unfortunately he and some of his men were killed in the battle. After his death, the generals in the US army ordered their soldiers to kill every Indian they found, even those who signed the peace treaty and who kept it. One of the tribes attacked where the people lead by Black Kettle and the tribe was almost exterminated. The remaining Indians and Yellow Bear went to Fort Cobb, looking for help but were turned down by General Sheridan.
A new president was elected, Ulysses S. Grant and one of his first actions was to appoint an Indian as the Commissioner of Indian Affairs. The new Commissioner, Donehogawa, tried to solve the tensions between the Indians and the soldiers but things were difficult since the Indians believed that had the right to get revenge on the soldiers who massacred Indian villages.
Donehogawa meet with Red Cloud and tried to convince him to cease the violence but in no vain. Red Cloud also meet with the president and they talked about the conditions of the treaty. Red Cloud worked both with the president and with Donehogawa to rewrite the treaty to be in his favor and then he returned home.
While Donehogawa changed the Indians in America, by 1871 he lost his influence and was being shut off by different agencies who wanted to get the land owned by the Indians. Donehogawa eventually resigned in 1871 and moved to New York where he lived for the rest of his life.
That same year, another chief named Cochise made a deal with the white population. When he was later caught by the white soldiers, he executed white men as an act of revenge. From that point on, Cochise lead various attacks on the white settlers. Cochise’s father in law surrendered himself to the white soldiers and he was killed soon after. Cochise continued to wage war against the white population and to refuse to sign any peace treaty. Various generals tried to find Cochise in an effort to persuade him to sign a peace treaty but were unsuccessful. When they did found him, they tried to convince him to agree to another reservation but he refused time and time again.
Towards the end of his life, Cochise made a deal with the US government, getting the right to move his people to a fertile land. In 1874, Cochise became ill and there was a need for another strong leader among the Apaches.
In the 11th chapter, the author analyzes the Indian tribes living in California. He notes that only one strong Indian tribe remained, the Modocs lead by Kintpuash. The leader tried to secure peace for his people but his efforts lead to his people to starve. When the Indians tried to leave in search of a better land, they were pushed back by the soldiers who did not wanted to let them go. The situation became dire when some Modocs killed a few white men and Kintpuash knew that he will have to suffer the consequences. Kintpuash and his men fled but were later find and surrounded. Kintpuash tried to make a deal with the general leading the soldiers but his demands were not listened. At the request of his men, Kintpuash killed Canby, the peace commissioner and his men and then fled. Kintpuash was later caught and hanged.
In 1869, four tribes were ordered by General Sheridan to move to Fort Cobb. Some, not wanting to depend on the cruel generals, decided to flee. The Kiowas and Comanches were moved to a reservation after their chiefs, Lone Wolf and Satanta signed peace treaties with the US government.
Satanata was later imprisoned and then released once more and when Lone Wolf and Satanata began moving their people again, they realized that the white settlers began exterminating the buffaloes in an attempt to force the Indians to accept a life of agriculture. Lone Wolf began then a campaign, attacking every white settlement he encountered. He was later forced to surrender and then he died in less than a year.
The Black Hills in Dakota were given originally to the Indians who were relocated but in 1874 the US soldiers entered the territory looking for gold. The territory was owned by Red Cloud and some of his men began attacking white settlements in response. Red Cloud tried to convince his men not to act violently but in no vain. Some of his men joined other Indian leaders who were not afraid to attack the white settlements. The US government tried to convince the Indians to give up the rights of their lands but time and time again they refused. The US government tried to forcefully relocate the Indians and some Indian leaders among whom was Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull decided to go to war with the US soldiers.
Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull attacked the white soldiers and killed many of them. When Red Cloud heard about this, he knew that his men will have to suffer so he agreed to move them to a place given to them by the government. Sitting Bull fled with his men to Canada while Crazy Horse tried to evade the US soldiers. In the end however, he was forced to surrender to the Americans and agree to move to a reservation. During the relocation, Crazy Horse was killed after he tried to attack a soldier. Crazy Horse was buried at what will be later known as being Wounded Knee.
Sitting Bull was later joined in Canada by another Indian chief named Young Joseph. He was a member of the Nez Percé tribe and he was forced to run from America after he refused to give up his land. His people however soon became sick and Young Joseph decided to return to America and live on a reservation.
In 1877, Little Wolf, a Cheyenne leader left the reservation in search for food. His people were forced to return back to the reservation after they were caught by the US soldiers but Little Wolf refused to surrender. Little Wolf and his followers continued to trek the land for more than a year before returning to the reservation as well.
In the same year, another tribe learned that they were to be moved to a reservation. The tribe, the Poncas, were led by a chief named White Eagle. Before agreeing to be moved, White Eagle visited the reservation where they were supposed to be relocated and found that the land was not fertile enough to offer enough food for the tribe. Despite this, the Poncas were moved to the reservation where many died in a short time. General Crook militated for their cause but it was decided that the Poncas had no right to choose where they want to live. The Poncas were later allowed to move to Nebraska but yet at the same time were forbidden to leave their reservation in Kansas.
The book ends with the description of the Wounded Knee massacre. The events took place after Sitting Bull’s death when another leader named Big Foot took control over the men who followed Sitting Bull. Big Foot and his men were captured by the US soldiers and then taken to Wounded Knee. The Indians were stripped of their arms and then put under heavy protection. It is believes that the US soldiers mistook a man waving his rifle as being violent. The rifle went off, and the soldiers began killing the Indians, women, children and men. Three hundred Indians died that day and the book closes with the descriptions of the bodies of the dead Indians being carried by wagons.