Native American Timeline – Westward Expansion

Geronimo, 1903, by J.W. Collins

Geronimo, 1903, by J.W. Collins

1886 – Geronimo, described by one follower as “the most intelligent and resourceful … most vigorous and farsighted” of the Apache leaders, surrendered to General Nelson A. Miles in Skeleton Canyon, Arizona, after more than a decade of guerilla warfare against American and Mexican settlers in the Southwest. The terms of surrender required Geronimo and his tribe to settle in Florida, where the Army hoped he could be contained.

1887 – The Dawes Severalty Act, otherwise known as the General Allotment Act, gives the President power to reduce the landholdings of the Indian nations across the country by allotting 160 acres to the heads of Indian families and 80 acres to individuals. The “surplus lands” on the reservations were opened up to settlement.

On July 16, J. D. C. Atkins, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, wrote in his annual report that English would be the exclusive language used at all Indian schools. He argued that native languages were not only of no use but were detrimental to the education and civilization of Indian.

1888 – The Oglala Lakota Sioux move to Pine Ridge Agency on South Dakota/Nebraska border.

The Sioux Act – This Congressional Act divided the Great Sioux Reservation into six separate reservations in an effort to dilute their power and make much of their land available for non-Indian settlement.

1889 – The Oklahoma Organic Act divided Indian land into two territories in what is currently the state of Oklahoma. The Territory of Oklahoma in western Oklahoma was opened up to non-Indian settlement, and the Indian Territory in eastern Oklahoma was retained for continued Indian settlement.

Two Zuni Indians were hanged over the wall of a Spanish church in Arizona on the charge of using witchcraft to chase away rain clouds.

Ghost Dance

Ghost Dance

On January 1, 1889, a Paiute rancher named Wovoka announced that he had dreamed a vision of a new world set aside for native people and where white people would vanish en masse. This was the birth of the short-lived Ghost Dance religion.

February 19, 1889 – The Quileute Indian reservation at La Push, Washington was established.

April 22, 1889 – In the first “Oklahoma Land Rush,” the U.S. government bows to pressure and opens for settlement land that it had previously promised would be a permanent refuge for Native Americans moved from their eastern territories. Native American tribes are paid about $4 million for the parcel of land. The starting gun sounds at noon and an estimated 50,000 settlers race across the land; by sunset, all 1.92 million acres have been claimed.

1890 – Congress established the Oklahoma Territory on unoccupied lands in the Indian Territory, breaking a 60-year-old pledge to preserve this area exclusively for Native Americans forced from their lands in the east.

May 29, 1890 – Charles L. Hyde, a Pierre, South Dakota citizen, wrote a letter to the Secretary of the Interior saying the Ghost Dance was leading to a possible uprising by the Sioux. Prior to the letter, federal agents were not concerned about the Ghost Dance, but soon after, they feared the ceremony.

October 16, 1890 – Reservation Police forcibly removed Kicking Bear from Standing Rock Agency, South Dakota, for teaching the Ghost Dance, a visionary ceremony foretelling the disappearance of white people.

Sitting Bull, D.F. Barry, 1885

Sitting Bull, by D.F. Barry, 1885.

December 15, 1890 – When Federal troops tried to arrest Sioux Indians in Little Eagle, South Dakota on December 15, Chief Sitting Bull ordered his warriors to resist and he was shot in the back of the head and killed. The aftermath of his death led to the massacre of the Sioux at Wounded Knee.

December 29, 1890 – Big Foot’s band of Minneconjous try to reach Pine Ridge and the protection of Red Cloud after hearing of Sitting Bull’s death. Also present were members of the Sioux band led by Chief Spotted Elk. Hungry and exhausted, they assembled under armed guard as requested to receive the protection of the Government of the United States of America, surrendering their arms and submitting to a forced search of tents and teepees that yielded only two remaining rifles. Marched to Wounded Knee Creek, South Dakota, they were disarmed by the U.S. Army. A group of 120 men and 230 women and children were counted by Major Samuel Whitside at sundown on December 28, 1890. The next day an unidentified shot rang out and the well-armed 487 U.S. soldiers surrounding the defenseless people opened fire. Afterward, 256 Sioux lay dead and were buried in mass graves. Twenty Congressional Medals of Honor were awarded the soldiers.

1891 – Indian Education – A Congressional Act authorized the Commissioner of Indian Affairs “to make and enforce by proper means” rules and regulations to ensure that Indian children attended schools designed and administered by non-Indians.

Amendment to the Dawes Act – This amendment modified the amount of land to be allotted and set conditions for leasing allotments.

1893 – Experts estimated that fewer than 2,000 buffalo remained of the more than 20 million that once roamed the Western plains.

More than 100,000 white settlers rushed into Oklahoma’s Cherokee Outlet to claim six million acres of former Cherokee land.

On February 10, the Campo Indian Reservation near San Diego was established for the Campo band of Kumeyaay Indians. The tribe that had dwindled down to 200 members, from 2.000 forty years earlier, was given one acre of land.

1894 – On January 8, the Yakama signed away 23,000 acres of timberland formerly inhabited by the Wenatchee tribe to the U.S. for $20,000.

Hopi Prisoners sent to Alcatraz.

Hopi Prisoners sent to Alcatraz.

1895 – From January through August, Chief Lomahongyoma and 18 other Hopi Indians were placed in Alcatraz for their resistance to government attempts to erase the Hopi culture. The 19 Hopi member were jailed for their resistance to farm on individual plots away from the mesas and for refusing to send their children to government boarding schools.

1898 – The Curtis Act ended tribal governments’ practice of refusing allotments and mandated the allotment of tribal lands in Indian Territory – including the lands of the Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Seminole nations.

1899 – On March 2, Congress allowed railroad companies blanket approval for rights-of-way through Indian lands.

Compiled and edited by Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated March 2020.

Also See:

Native American Photo Galleries

Native American Timelines

Native American Tribes

Native Americans – First Owners of America

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