Claire’s Key Takaways: Custer, Crazy Horse and the so-called “Indian Wars”

Claire’s Key Takaways: Custer, Crazy Horse and the so-called “Indian Wars”

On Thursday, Sept. 28, Dr. Franklin delved into the so-called “Indian Wars.” Here are Claire’s key takeaways from this fascinating talk on Custer, Crazy Horse and other legendary characters from this time in American history.

  • Texas Tech University Professor Dr. Catharine Franklin is on a mission to set the record straight–the historical record concerning Native Americans and the U.S. Army during the 19th Century.
  • The narrative regarding Native Americans has too often reduced them to 2-dimensional characters in B-grade movies. Not only is this insulting, it distorts our understanding of the past.
  • The term “Indian Wars” infers a protracted period of incessant violence. In fact, there were long periods of relative calm punctuated by episodes of violence. Massacres did not solve problems, they only created more problems and instability.
  • The sad, staggering fact is that the federal government perpetrated crimes against humanity in their treatment of Native Americans. The U.S. Army did murder Indians, and Americans in the 19th century accepted and approved of this.
  • However, the U.S. Army also fed Native Americans, often from their own rations. Army officers expressed concern in writing at the government’s treatment of Native Americans asking for just treatment of the Indians and some resigned their commissions as a result of federal inaction.
  • Dr. Franklin pointed out that the Army does not make policy, the government does.
  • The Bureau of Indian Affairs, originally in the War Department (renamed the Department of Defense) was moved to the Interior Department. It managed to be both corrupt and incompetent. Indian agents were frequently unscrupulous. Army officers, on the other hand, could lose their commission for malfeasance.
  • Treaties actually had the effect of making the Native Americans dependent upon the U.S. government.
  • In 1862 the Dakota Uprising was the largest mass execution in U.S. history: 38 East Dakota Indians were hung in Mankato, Minnesota.
  • In 1864 at the Sand Creek Massacre volunteer troops under the command of Colonel John Chivington (an ordained Methodist minister) killed approximately 150 women, children and elders.

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