White Americans' attitudes

The Native American race

  • White Americans regarded Native (and black) Americans as subhuman
  • Horace Greeley wrote that: ...their wars, treaties, habitations, crafts, comforts, all belong to the very lowest ages of human existence
  • President Jefferson wrote that they were: ...backward in civilisation like beasts

Nomadic lifestyle

  • White Americans demanded a settled, farming way of life
  • They thought that tipis were: ...too full of smoke ... inconceivably filthy
  • Horace Greeley despised the Native Americans for: ...sitting around the doors of their lodges at the height of the planting season
  • He also said they were ...squalid and conceited, proud and worthless, lazy and lousy. These people must die out,... God has given this earth to those who will subdue and cultivate it.
Painting showing a tipi tent village and a group of native Americans in the foreground.
Painting showing a tipi tent village and a group of native Americans in the foreground

Land rights

  • Native Americans believed that land could not be owned or sold
  • White Americans believed that God had given them the right to subdue the earth, and they wanted to make money from it
  • White Americans thought land ownership, fences and cultivation were natural
  • White Americans thought only they could make full use of the land
  • They gave the Plains to the Native Americans when they thought they were wholly unfit for cultivation but when they found this not to be true, they took the land for themselves

Native American government and laws

  • White observers declared that the Native Americans were without government
  • Government based on community spirit was incomprehensible to white Americans, whose government was based on laws and compulsion
  • White Americans could not understand why chiefs could not make their warriors obey them
  • They particularly hated horse stealing, because depriving a man of his horse could mean life itself on the Plains.

Native American religion and moral code

  • White Americans disapproved of animism and the role of medicine men
  • Christian preachers thought ...the Indians have no religion, only ignorant superstition.
  • Native American customs of marriage, polygamy, divorce and exposure of old people to the elements offended white Americans' religion and morality

View on war

  • White soldiers saw ambush as treachery, scalping as barbarous and retreat as a total lack of courage.
  • The first impulse of the Indian, wrote Colonel Dodge, ...is to scuttle away as fast as his legs will carry him ... there is one example of a fair stand-up fight.