Indian Wars

In my last post, at the urging of a Nez Perce friend, I compared our nation’s current “longest war” with the wars our government has fought with Indian tribes. The nineteenth century and Indian wars seem a long way away to us now, and the Indians, with many tribes somewhat intact, have been largely missing from the American consciousness for at least that long. The recent revival of Indian histories, based on long hidden, lost, or neglected documents, the Boarding School scandal in Canada, and the recent appointment of Deb Haaland as Secretary of the Interior have tilted the table in favor of acknowledgments, “land-back” programs, have brought us the voices of Indian scholars.

In a piece in the NYT Magazine, August 31, 2021, “‘A Sadness I Can’t Carry’: The Story Of The Drum,” Ojibwe writer David Treuer lists Indian wars of the nineteenth century. Treuer’s story combines historical events involving his Ojibwe tribe and neighboring Dakotas, personal losses, and the story of Indian veterans of American wars with the story of the healing drum. Indians, Treuer notes, have served in US wars from WW I and WW II, Korea, and Vietnam to the present. And then there is this paragraph, citing Indian fights against “rapacious European powers,” prior to US nationhood, and then the wars by the United States against the tribes:

“In the 19th century, the United States fought more wars against Indian tribes than it did against “foreign” powers, among them: Tecumseh’s War (1811), the Creek War (1813-14), the First and Second and Third Seminole Wars (1817-18 and 1835-42 and 1855-58), the Arikara War (1823), the Winnebago War (1827), the Black Hawk War (1832), the Cayuse War (1847-55), the Apache Wars (1861-1900), the Puget Sound War (1855-56), the Rogue River Wars (1855-56), the Yakama War (1855-58), the Utah War (1857-58), the Navajo Wars (1848-68), the Paiute War (1860), the Yavapai Wars (1861-75), the Dakota War (1862), the Colorado War (1864-65), the Snake War (1864-68), the Powder River War (1865), Red Cloud’s War (1865-68), the Comanche Campaign (1867-75), the Modoc War (1872-73), the Red River War (1874-75), the Great Sioux War (1876-77), the Buffalo Hunters’ War (1877), the Nez Percé War (1877), the Bannock War (1878), the Cheyenne Campaign (1878), the Sheepeater War (1879), Victorio’s War (1879-80), the White River Ute War (1879), the Pine Ridge Campaign (1890-91), the Yaqui Wars (1896-1918).”

Twenty years of war in Afghanistan is upsetting, but the litany of Indian wars and their impacts to the present day is mind-numbing.

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