The Indian Wars

The Indian Wars were a series of battles between natives and whites in the United States. These wars up started in colonial times and continued until the American frontier was considered closed in 1890. This resulted in American Indian peoples being decimated, assimilated, or herded onto Indian reservations.

The phrase “Indian Wars” is inaccurate, since it labels all tribes under one heading. In reality, the American Indians have wildly varying cultures, beliefs, and social networks.

The Indian Wars are unpopular for another reason. The story of Indian warfare is long and rich, yet the phrase “Indian wars” relegates centuries of history to a footnote. American Indians also fought in the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, vote in either a war has been labeled an Indian war.

The Indian wars were not simply a racial battle between natives and whites. While Indians and whites may have fought against each other, they were just as likely to be on the same team. Additionally, Indians fought other Indian tribes in frequent, bloody conflict. The Indian wars were about more than the subjugation of Native Americans. The reality was more complex.

The United States census from 1894 provides interesting statistics. In more than 40 Indian wars spanning a timeframe from 1775 to 1890, 45,000 Indians and 19,000 whites were killed. This number includes the deaths of women and children, who were often victims of frontier violence.

An 1899 chromolithograph of U.S. cavalry pursuing American Indians, artist unknown. Courtesy Wikipedia