A STUDENT PUBLICATION — High School Thesis
(Lakota Sioux), an 18-year old Trinity Classical Academy high school student,
wrote this research paper on Manifest Destiny for his senior thesis
project. Shane has plans to attend Northern Arizona University with a major in
forestry, minor in Native American studies.
The religious belief that the United States should expand from the Atlantic
Ocean to the Pacific Ocean in the name of God. In 1872 artist John Gast painted
this popular scene of people moving west that captured the view of Americans at
the time. Entitled "American Progress" or "Spirit of the Frontier." (wikipedia.org)
Ke T’ona Takuon Takuwe (The Many Reasons Why):
Manifest Destiny and Other Crimes Against The Native American Nations
Larsen, April 30th, 2012, Exordium
inception in 1776, the United States of America has been considered the world’s
most prominent advocate for freedom and liberty. Its emphasis on liberty and
equality results from this nation’s dedication to and founding upon the
Christian proposition that all men are created equal by God. This idea is
clearly defined by influential Americans in their proclamation of independence
from Great Britain. As stated in the Declaration of Independence, “We hold these
truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed
by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.” It should be noted that the
American Founding Fathers’ understanding of equality was inclusive of all of
Yet if this
were true, then why, when it came to the Native Americans, did concern over
their human rights and equality seem to disappear? When the Americans began
establishing their own government after securing their freedom from Britain,
they sought to establish a framework that purposefully set down and protected
their unalienable rights. Following the creation of the Constitution in 1787,
influential leaders demanded a Bill of Rights.
ten amendments to the Constitution established those freedoms for the American
citizenry, thereby guaranteeing equality. We Americans know what they are: the
freedom of speech, religion, press, assembly, and petition; the right to bear
arms, and the right to a trial by jury. These ten amendments affirmed the
nation’s belief that all men deserved life, liberty and the pursuit of
happiness. To ensure the continuation of these essential freedoms and freedom
itself, American soldiers would sacrificially lay down their lives and pay the
ultimate cost. In light of their acts of valor, the question that remains can be
perplexing to answer. Would all Americans enjoy these rights or would the
precious tenets found in the Bill of Rights extend only to certain individuals?
The reason that this issue is so important, is because if we do not correctly
understand the mistakes that were made in history, it will inevitably repeat
itself. If we do not realize the scars on American history, and the mistakes we
made with the Native Americans, the mindset for the improvement of their
situation will not change. Some of the serious mistakes as they relate to
American Indians arise from the ideals associated with Manifest Destiny.
term originated in the 19th century, one can still observe how these principles
negatively affect today's Indian population. If we do not realize the effects
that Manifest Destiny had on the Native Americans, improvement of the housing,
health-care, and other important essentials on the reservations cannot happen.
clearly describes the beginning and changing relationship between the European
settlers and the Native Americans. In 1607, Jamestown was established as the
first permanent English settlement in what is now the United States. The English
settlers had quite friendly relations with the tribes of Indians living there.
In fact, the colonial experiment would have halted and the colonists perished
had Squanto and the Pawtuxet tribe not assisted by giving them food, and
teaching them to fish and hunt. In between the Plymouth Colony and the eventual
creation of the United States, there was a noteworthy conflict between Native
Americans and colonists. This conflict became known as King Philip’s War. The
cause of the war was attributed to a failed diplomacy attempt by both the
Indians and the Puritans. The war lasted less than three years, and in that time
twelve of New England’s towns were burned to the ground. About 3,000 Indians
died compared to the colonists 600 fatalities. It was the greatest calamity that
pre-American colonists had experienced. In 1771, a group of men in the English
colonies convened in Philadelphia to discuss the problems of oppression and
taxation by the British crown, as well as the possibility of going to war.
were tired of this constant oppression and they were especially angry over the
Proclamation of 1763, that stated that settlers were not allowed to settle
anywhere past the Mississippi river. Time and time again, peaceful efforts to
break ties with England were denied. Thus, the colonists went into a long war to
win their freedom. In 1776 they proclaimed their independence and defeated
Britain, thereby establishing themselves as the United States of America.
Americans had won their independence, they looked to expand and grow. As the
young country grew in prominence and population, the only place to go was west.
When the United States quickly succeeded to the level of other European colonial
influences in the Gulf region, the new government followed a custom established
by its predecessors of making alliances with the Indian tribes, but from 1800 on
a new problem arose through the encroachments of its rapidly advancing settlers
west. Going west meant the unknown, rough terrain, and Indians. In the Treaty
of Paris, which ended the American Revolution, Great Britain had to cede the
Ohio River Valley to the United States. At this time there were several
different tribes, including the Iroquois, living in the Northwest Territory of
the Ohio River Valley.
In order to
explore the newly acquired Louisiana Purchase west of the Mississippi River, and
to determine the whereabouts of a potential water passage to the Pacific,
President Thomas Jefferson organized a discovery expedition in 1805. The
expedition was led by two Virginian born veterans of the previous Indian Wars in
the Ohio River Valley, Meriwether Lewis, and William Clark. The main focus of
the voyage was to discover, if at all possible a “direct & practicable water
communication across this continent, for the purposes of commerce with Asia”
(Am. Pageant) (the Northwest Passage). In order to find this practicable
waterway, they needed someone that knew the area well. That person was a
15-year-old Shoshone girl named
expedition relied on this girl in order to prevent getting lost in the vast new
territory. Beyond personal assistance from Sacagawea, the party was also given
help from the Shoshone tribe. In 1805, the entire exploration party trekked
down from the Rocky Mountains despite serious obstacles.
party was] half-famished and ill with dysentery- too weak to defend
themselves. They were in the country of the Nez Perces... Had the Nez Perces
chosen to do so, they could have put an end to the Lewis and Clark
expedition there on the banks of Clearwater River, and seized their wealth
of horses. Instead the Nez Perces welcomed the white Americans, supplied
them with food, and looked after the explorers’ horses for several months
while they continued by canoe to the Pacific shore. Thus began a long
friendship between the Nez Perces and the white Americans. (Brown 316-17)
Had the Nez
Perces, along with the Shoshone tribe, not helped the expedition, this country
may not have expanded much further than the Mississippi River. The expansion of
America, specifically the Lewis and Clark discoveries, was preserved by Native
Americans, who viewed these men with kindness and respect, and without malice.
As soon as
the Lewis and Clark expedition returned to Washington, the news was out. There
was land, and lots of it, waiting to be settled. While the Americans continued
to move west, war was declared in 1812 between America and Great Britain. This
time, the British wanted to halt American expansion, in order to protect their
own holdings in Canada, as well as in the Northwest territory. Though not widely
known, the War of 1812 is also commonly referred to as Tecumseh’s War. This is
because of the Shawnee chiefs premier involvement in the beginning of the War of
resistance movement against U.S. expansion had been growing through the
leadership of the Shawnee brothers, Tecumseh and Tenskwatawa. In August 1810,
Tecumseh led 400 armed warriors down the Wabash River to meet with the American
General William H. Harrison, in Vincennes. As the warriors were dressed in war
paint, their sudden appearance at first frightened the soldiers. The leaders of
the group were escorted to Grouseland where they met Harrison. Tecumseh insisted
that the Fort Wayne Treaty, which was signed by other tribal leaders that gave
about 160,000 acres of present-day Indiana to the United States, was
illegitimate. He argued that no one tribe could sell land without the approval
of the other tribes; he asked Harrison to nullify it and warned that Americans
should not attempt to settle the lands sold in the treaty.
the Miami, who had the sale proposed to them, were the owners of the land and
could sell it if they so chose. Tecumseh argued that no one man could sell the
earth from which all life spawns. Thus began a heated exchange of words that led
to the culmination of the short war, at the Battle of Tippecanoe. Here, Harrison
was authorized by Secretary of War William Eustis to march against the nascent
confederation as a show of force. Harrison led an army of more than 1,000 men
north to try to intimidate the Shawnee into making peace. Instead, the tribes
launched a surprise attack on Harrison's army early on the morning of November
6, in what became known as the Battle of Tippecanoe. Harrison defeated the
tribal forces at Prophetstown, and soon after the US blamed Britain for the
uprising of the Shawnee and declared war in 1812. (www.tcha.mus.in.us/battlehistory.htm)
War of 1812 and Tecumseh’s war, Native American tensions between the United
States and the Native American tribes had been rising over land and their
removal from their homelands. During the Creek War from 1813 to 1814, Colonel
Andrew Jackson became a national hero after his victory over the Creek Red
Sticks at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend. After his victory, Jackson forced the
Treaty of Fort Jackson on the Creek, resulting in the loss of much Creek
territory in southern Georgia and central and southern Alabama. Also, in 1814,
Britain, still at war with the United States, landed forces in Pensacola and
other places in West Florida. They began to recruit Indian allies. In May 1814,
a British force entered the mouth of the Apalachicola River, and distributed
arms to the Seminole and Creek warriors, and fugitive slaves. After the British
and their Indian allies were beaten back from an attack on Mobile, located in
what is now the south Alabama, an American force led by General Jackson finally
drove the British out of Pensacola.
In the 1830’s
a new rivalry arose between the Indians and the United States’ government. In
1804, Black Hawk, the warrior chief of the Sauk and Fox Indians, had unknowingly
signed away his village along with 50 million acres of Sauk and Fox land. He was
under the impression that the whites wanted the land for hunting only, though
he soon realized that white settlers claim his land for reasons beyond hunting.
years following the war (of 1812), Black Hawk watched the settlers pouring
into Illinois. Every year, returning from their winter hunting, the Sauk and
Foxes found their lodges burned, their cornfields fenced in, their
cemeteries plowed up. Again and again Black Hawk protested to the Indian
agents at Rock Island, only to be told that he should move across the
Mississippi. At last, early in 1829, the chieftain returned from a poor hunt
to find a white family settled in his own lodge. (Nardo 74)
after peacefully requesting that the whites leave their lands, went with a
thousand men women and children back across the Mississippi to return to his
town. He was met by troops under General Edmund P. Gaines and over sixteen
hundred men who came out to volunteer. Black Hawk, wildly outnumbered, decided
to send messengers in to discuss surrender. His men were shot down by the
drunken militiamen. He decided that then and there he would fight or die trying.
As his warriors charged, the white settlers and corresponding militia ran in
fear. In retaliation of the battle called Stillman’s Run, the steamboat Warrior,
and her American soldiers sought to put down the rebellion made by the warriors
of Black Hawk.
On August 3,
1829, thirteen hundred volunteers and regulars stormed the Sauk and Fox Indians,
who tried to surrender but were viciously beaten down with clubs, shot at, and
stabbed to death. All in all the soldiers only took thirty nine prisoners. It
seems, unfortunately, that Black Hawk’s warriors could scare off the soldiers
and volunteers of the United States Army, but when faced with the yearly mass of
settlers roving into his lands, Black Hawk could not defend his homelands well
enough. As many as 150,000 settlers were now in Illinois and he had no choice
but to cede his lands to the white man.
Black Hawk’s war, President Andrew Jackson signed into law the Indian Removal
Act. This particular piece of legislation was one of the forerunning beams of
support for the idea of “Manifest Destiny”. This devastating piece of
legislation sought forth to remove the Five Civilized Tribes, the Cherokee,
Choctaw, Creek, Chickasaw, and Seminoles, from their homelands and into the
newly designated Indian Territory, what is now present day Oklahoma. The Removal
Act paved the way for the reluctant — and often forcible — emigration of tens of
thousands of American Indians to the West. The first removal treaty signed after
the Removal Act was the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek. On September 27, 1830,
the Choctaws in Mississippi ceded land east of the river in exchange for payment
and land in the West. A Choctaw chief, thought to be Thomas Harkins otherwise
known as Nitikechi, was quoted in the Arkansas
Gazette as saying that the Choctaw removal was a "trail of tears and
The Treaty of
New Echota, signed in 1835, resulted in the removal of the Cherokee on the Trail
of Tears. In 1832 the Cherokee Nation attempted to take the issue of their
forced removal to court. In 1827, the Cherokee had declared themselves a
separate nation, only to have the state of Georgia propose laws that asserted
dominion over them. In 1832, when the Cherokee Nation filed for
Cherokee Nation v. Georgia, the Cherokee
asked for an injunction against laws that they claimed were being used to drive
them off of their lands. Chief justice John Marshall acknowledged the plight of
the tribe, but could not base his judgement on emotions. The Federal government
regarded the Cherokee as a separate nation, due to the fact that they made
treaties with them as they would any other foreign power. However, due to the
fact that the Cherokee Nation was fully within the jurisdictional and legal
bounds of the United States, the Court rejected their claims. The basis for
their decision came from the Commerce Clause,
empowers Congress to "regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the
several states, and with the Indian tribes." This clause clearly
distinguished between foreign nations and Native American tribes, making
them distinct entities. The relation between the tribes and the United
States resembled that of a ward and his guardian rather than of coequal
states. Based on this analysis the Supreme Court dismissed the case for lack
of jurisdiction. (Cherokee Cases 2012)
returned to court four years later, in the case of
Worcester v. Georgia, where Samuel A.
Worcester, a missionary, and six others were found to be living on tribal lands
without a permit, which was illegal. Worcester argued that the state of Georgia
had no jurisdiction over sovereign Cherokee lands. During the trial, Chief
Justice John Marshall examined two treaties between the United States and the
Cherokee. What he found was that Congress had put forth a series of laws that
regulated trade and relations with the Cherokee. In these laws, the Cherokee
Nation was viewed as a foreign nation, that had rights, and Marshall found that
these laws endeavored to protect the rights of the tribe that the treaties had
put forth. Marshall then concluded that, “Indian nations are distinct political
communities, having territorial boundaries, within which their authority is
exclusive, and having a right to all the lands within those boundaries, which is
not only acknowledged, but guaranteed by the United States.” (Cherokee Cases
2012) On those grounds, Marshall ruled that the Cherokee Nation was in fact, a
sovereign nation, free to govern itself as its tribal government deemed so.
ruled that the Cherokee nation was a "distinct community occupying its own
territory," where the laws of Georgia had no force. The Cherokee were vested
with the power to determine whether the citizens of Georgia could enter their
territory, subject to treaty provisions and acts of Congress. He concluded that
"the whole intercourse between the United States and this nation, is, by our
constitution and laws, vested in the government of the United States." (Cherokee
did not leave peacefully as did other tribes; along with the Cherokee, they
resisted the removal. The Second Seminole War lasted from 1835 to 1842 and
resulted in the forced removal of Seminoles, only a small number to remain, and
around 3,000 were killed amongst American soldiers and Seminoles. By a
combination of bribery, trickery, and intimidation the Federal agents induced
all five tribes during the 1830’s to cede the remainder of their Eastern lands
to the United States and to agree to migrate beyond the Mississippi.
Essentially, the way in which the United States conducted their negotiations
with the Indians was extremely predatory, and did not show a brotherly Christian
love towards the Indians.
In the years
following Lewis and Clark’s expedition, it was the United States government’s
undying vision to own all of the land from sea to shining sea. This vision could
possibly be contributed to the Old Testament prophet Zechariah, when he said
“His rule will extend from sea to sea.” (Zechariah 9:10) The primary reason
behind this idea of righteous westward expansion was American columnist John
O’Sullivan’s definition of the term entitled “Manifest Destiny.” In this idea,
the Americans believed that God had placed the Anglo-Saxon race, (the white
race) above all others, and had allotted the continent to them. These beliefs
can be connected to the Massachusetts Bay Colony and it’s well known leader,
Governor John Winthrop. In particular, he stated that the colonies’ inhabitants
were to be “as a City upon a Hill, the eyes of all people upon us.” He seemed to
be claiming that the role of the ancient Israelites, possibly even the early
Christians, was now being passed on to the citizens in the colony. The idea of
spanning the continent in God’s name is in fact, a proper and noble act.
However, it is incorrect to do so at the expense of human lives. The idea that
the Americans were God’s chosen people, just as the Israelites were, is a noble,
yet misinterpreted and false idea. But, what had started out as a noble and
respectful idea of leadership and brotherhood, like many other noble ideas,
changed over time. Instead of being an example for others to follow, and being
brotherly in sharing that example with others, forced assimilation took place of
understanding and tolerance. What was bred out of this was severe contempt for
non-Christians, and a mislead conception that the “heathens” did not deserve
such a wealth of land and resources.
In the mid
1840’s the term “Manifest Destiny” took many a man up to calling for an
unmistakable drive for American expansionism. The idea of Manifest Destiny, a
phrase coined by American editor John O’ Sullivan by 1845, took the center stage
with the issue of westward expansion. This underlying ideology that the Anglo
Saxon race was destined to span the continent, seemed to originate from a widely
misunderstood doctrine that was set forth with the original colonists of the New
World. Manifest Destiny retains its roots deep in Puritan John Winthrop’s belief
and challenge to the Massachusetts Bay Colony during the 17th century. The
governor commented, “For we must consider that we shall be as a city set upon a
hill. The eyes of all people are upon us.” (Winthrop 1630) The charge to
demonstrate Christian virtue and morality to all people can be closely linked to
O’ Sullivan’s commentary on expansion as a way to achieve Winthrop’s goal. In
his 1839 editorial in the Democratic Review,
he states the following.
far-reaching, the boundless future will be the era of American greatness. In
its magnificent domain of space and time, the nation of many nations is
destined to manifest to mankind the excellence of divine principles; to
establish on earth the noblest temple ever dedicated to the worship of the
Most High -- the Sacred and the True. Its floor shall be a hemisphere -- its
roof the firmament of the star-studded heavens, and its congregation an
Union of many Republics, comprising hundreds of happy millions, calling,
owning no man master, but governed by God's natural and moral law of
equality, the law of brotherhood -- of ‘peace and goodwill amongst men.
high and noble charge became predictably true as the nation continued to
experience great change in the nineteenth century. What soon followed was the
mass movement of hundreds of thousands of land-hungry white settlers across
Native American lands. In 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed into effect the
Homestead Act, which gave 160 acres west of the Mississippi, to any man who was
willing to farm it. The terms were simple, file an application, improve the
land, and file for deed of title. This only fueled the drive for the removal of
Indians and the fast claim of their lands.
With the sale
of Indian lands, the United States government now had thousands of Indians that
had no place to live. They also had nothing to eat, due to the mass slaughter of
the buffalo, their main food supply, which was now valuable for their hides due
to the massive demand in Europe. In order to facilitate all the Indians and the
“promises” made in their treaties with the government, they began the
Reservation System. This was a disastrous mistake. By taking lands that had been
“bought” by the government and setting aside specific portions for the Native
Americans, they believed that this would appease the tribes. In fact, when a
tribe surrendered after warring with the army, or ceding lands to the
government, usually they were taken to a reservation far away from where they
had lived for thousands of years. These tribes had spiritual as well as
emotional ties to the land which they loved. Being forced to live on these
“paradise” reservations, to the Indians, was like living in another world. The
conditions at most of these reservations were horrible in the 1860’s and
continue to be deplorable to this day.
the autumn, Navajos who had escaped from the Bosque Redondo began returning
to their homeland with frightening accounts of what was happening to the
people there. It was a wretched land, they said. the soldiers prodded them
with bayonets and herded them into adobe-walled compounds where the soldier
chiefs were always counting them and putting numbers down in little books.
The soldier chiefs promised them clothing and blankets and better food, but
their promises were never kept. All the cottonwood and mesquite had been cut
down, so that the roots were left for firewood. To shelter themselves from
rain and sun they had to dig holes in the sandy ground, and cover and line
them with mats of woven grass. They lived like prairie dogs in burrows. With
a few tools the soldiers gave them they broke the soil of the Pecos
bottomlands and planted grain but floods and droughts and insects killed the
crops, and now everyone was on half-rations. Crowded together as they were,
disease had begun to take a toll of the weaker ones. It was a bad place, and
although escape was difficult and dangerous under the watchful eyes of the
soldiers, many were risking their lives to get away. (Brown 30)
whites noticed the horrid conditions on the Bosque. But it was not only at the
Bosque, but on the reservations of the Plains Indians as well. (Debo 90) The
public began to criticize General Carleton for the conditions at the Bosque
Redondo. “Although General Carleton was being openly criticized now by New
Mexicans for conditions at Bosque Redondo, he continued to hunt down Navahos.”
(Brown 33) General Carleton, being one of the biggest advocates of “Manifest
Destiny” expressed his support of that philosophy in this way.
exodus of this whole people (the Indians) from the land of their fathers is
not only an interesting, but a touching sight. They have fought us gallantly
for years and years; they have defended their mountains... but, when at
length, they found it was their destiny, too, as it had been of their
brethren, tribe after tribe, away back toward the rising sun, to give way to
the insatiable progress of our race, (the whites) they (the Indians) threw
down their arms... we will not dole out to them an miser’s pittance in
return for what they know to be and what we know to be a princely realm.
Unfortunately, in the treaties made at such places as Fort Laramie and Fort
Jackson, the “miser’s pittance” was never given to the Indians. But it was not
only in the Southwestern area but in the Great Plains as well. The Cheyenne,
after losing their hunting grounds in 1877, were forced to move from their
agency at Fort Robinson in the Northwest part of Nebraska, to the Indian
Territory, which is present day Oklahoma.
came from Washington for the Cheyennes to be marched overland to Indian
Territory... Before leaving the apprehensive Cheyenne asked for a final
council with Three Stars Crook. The general tried to reassure them, telling
them to go down and have a look at the Indian Territory; and if they did not
like it they could come back north. (Brown 333)
in those treaties have yet to be fulfilled. And it was this forcible removal of
Indians on to unfamiliar lands, driven wild by the outcries of settlers,
soldiers, and men alike, for the support of “Manifest Destiny”, that created
feelings of hostility from the Indians towards the whites.
period of North American Indian Wars had begun. It started with the exodus of
the Five Civilized Tribes, and finally ended with the Sioux at Wounded Knee
Creek in December, 1890. There was not one tribe unaffected by the drive across
the West by the white settlers. From the “Long Walk of the Navajos” to the
Bosque Redondo in Texas to Red Cloud’s War to save the Powder River Territory in
the present day Dakotas, it seemed that the whites, in fact, really were
destined to have the entire continent solely to them.
history of 19th-century American westward expansion, John O’Sullivan, an
American columnist and editor, coined the phrase “Manifest Destiny”. Manifest
Destiny described the belief that Americans were destined to expand across the
entire continent or as O’Sullivan put it, “allotted by Providence for the free
development of our (the American) yearly multiplying millions.” The vast support
for this “destiny” of westward expansion was primarily fueled by a misguided
theology that Providence had placed the Anglo-Saxon race above all others and
allotted the continent solely to them. John Winthrop, the governor of the
Massachusetts Bay Colony during the early 17th century proclaimed that the
Puritans should be considered “as a City upon a Hill, [because] the eyes of the
people [will be] upon us.” (Governor John Winthrop as quoted by Professor Donald
M. Scott, CUNY). This idealistic philosophy can be traced to both the Pilgrims
and Puritans understanding that they “were generally thought of as a ‘New
Israel’ linking the sacred history of biblical ‘covenant lands’ to the destiny
of America.” (Professor Lawrence Davidson, 159) What had started out with
Winthrop and being a noble idea quickly became an excuse for the compelling
national, corporate and individual greed. With an insatiable hunger for land and
wealth, the young Americans forged ahead, destroying Indian lands, massacring
thousands along the way as well as killing their culture, all to achieve their
personal goals. During this time, the American policies of westward expansion
and Manifest Destiny toward Native Americans resulted in illegal and immoral
acts that drastically changed their lives and continue to impact the future and
welfare of today’s sovereign tribes. The doctrine caused specific abuses against
the Indians, such as: the exemption of the Native American people from the 14th
Amendment, a refusal to acknowledge that the Indians owned any land, a racial
barrier that was created by the privileging of the Anglo-Saxon race in the
context of Manifest Destiny, and finally a close-minded intolerance for the
Indians and their culture. Also, the doctrine provided a mislead religious
excuse for the mistreatment of the Indians by white settlers, specifically in
cases concerning both land and property. The idea of Manifest Destiny, a phrase
coined by an American editor, took the center stage with the issue of westward
expansion. This underlying ideology that the Anglo Saxon race was destined to
span the continent, seemed to come from a widely misunderstood doctrine that was
set forth with the original colonists of the New World. Manifest Destiny, as it
was phrased in 1845, retains roots deep in the Christian idea of being “a city
upon the hill”, an example for others to see and admire. But what was once a
noble cause, slowly but surely warped into a “war of race.” Native American
exclusion from such a doctrine, caused by the specific mention of only the
Anglo-Saxon race owning the New World, presented an immovable barrier between
the two races, the whites, and the “reds”.
Why were the
Native Americans in such a “blind spot” of liberty? If the founding fathers’
words are correctly interpreted, “liberty for all” which is found in the Pledge
of Allegiance, should not exclude anyone under that proclamation. Despite this
call for liberty, the ideals of Manifest Destiny significantly altered the lives
of Native Americans by suppressing and ending their personal freedoms. In
addition, it led to the current conditions of the reservations, housing, and
subsidized health care for America’s original inhabitants. The Bible will
henceforth be examined, in order to show why Manifest Destiny was not in
accordance with God and His commandments, as evidenced by the several infamous
massacres of both Indians and whites, such as; the Fetterman Massacre, the Fort
Robinson Tragedy, Sand Creek Massacre and finally Wounded Knee Creek. The
immediate and long-term consequences, including the reservation system, show how
America has failed to provide the Indians with any of the promises made to them
when the system began.
In 1776, the
colonists revolted against the tyranny of King George and won their
independence, thus bringing forth the United States of America. By then, the New
World was all about expansion. King George's Proclamation of 1763 flatly
prohibited the then colonists from settling any lands west of the Appalachian
mountains. This, although not designed to oppress the colonists, caused many
settlers to become defiant in support of their desire for Western land and
dreams to move West. After the American Revolution which eradicated the
restrictions by King George, the young United States feverishly looked for ways
to expand. Over the next 48 years, several Presidents would purchase large
pieces of land from other countries, the most important being the Louisiana
Purchase in 1803 that included present-day Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma,
Kansas, and Nebraska; parts of Minnesota that were west of the Mississippi
River; most of North Dakota; nearly all of South Dakota; northeastern New
Mexico; northern Texas; portions of Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado east of the
Continental Divide; and Louisiana west of the Mississippi River
Andrew Jackson, who had been a hero as a general in the War of 1812, was elected
as President. Thus begun the age of Jacksonian Democracy. What was Jacksonian
Democracy? Essentially it protected the poor, the farmer, and the laboring
non-capitalists, not by rejecting capitalism but by “clinging to the virtues of
the agrarian past.” (The Jacksonian Persuasion 1957) But in order to preserve
this agrarian past, uphold the Land Act of 1820, which enabled settlers to
purchase the new Western lands for $1.50 an acre, and satisfy the public cry for
land, Jackson had to open up the west to unbridled settlement. There, again, was
a problem. The Native Americans, who had been there for thousands of years, were
still on that land.
attitude toward Native Americans was paternalistic and patronizing -- he
described them as children in need of guidance. And believed the removal
policy was beneficial to the Indians. Most white Americans thought that the
United States would never extend beyond the Mississippi. Removal would save
Indian people from the depredations of whites, and would resettle them in an
area where they could govern themselves in peace. (People and Events: Indian
the westward progress that the Americans wanted. A tidal wave of hundreds of
thousands of Americans flooded into the West that the Indians could not hold off
In most of
the fighting that occurred during the period of the Indian Wars, more often than
not, the Indians were simply protecting their lands. There were several raids
and massacres by Indians against white settlers, that were generally
revenge-driven, and heavily opposed by the chiefs of the tribe. In 1865, the
Americans desperately needed a wagon road through the Powder River country,
which is current-day Wyoming, and parts of South Dakota.
Trail was planned to go through this area, which was inhabited by the Sioux and
Cheyenne tribes. “As the Bozeman Trail was the most important route out of Fort
Laramie to Montana, military officials at the fort were under heavy pressure to
coax Red Cloud and other war leaders to cease their blockade of the road and
come to Laramie at the earliest possible date.” (Brown 123) Several attempts for
a treaty were made, but the Indians were content to have the Americans find an
alternate route. The Indians were tired of signing treaties that never gave them
anything. “Red Cloud then wanted to know what the treaty would give his people;
they had signed treaties before, and it seemed that the Indians gave something
to the white men. This time the white men must give something to the Indians.”
(Brown 126) After several months of deliberation and debate, the United States
Army was sent out to try and drive the Indians out of the Platte Valley.
several small skirmishes leading up to the final conflict in the area, but none
of those fights equaled the one that came to be known as the Fetterman Massacre.
On December 21, 1865, Crazy Horse, and hundreds of other Oglala Sioux, as well
as Minneconjous, Brules, and Cheyenne warriors fought against Captain William J.
Fetterman’s division of army regulars. The fighting went on for hours, and at
the end of the day, “Not a soldier was left alive... This was the fight the
white men called the Fetterman Massacre; the Indians called it the Battle of the
Hundred Slain.” (Brown 137) The white man’s drive for land caused this war. The
Indians refused the road, yet the whites would not listen. They believed in
Manifest Destiny, and by doing so they sealed their own fate.
Cheyenne Exodus that took place in May of 1877, a band of Cheyenne Indians were
making their march back to their homelands after escaping from the reservation
they had been placed in. The Cheyenne were warned that if they left, there would
be trouble. The Cheyenne replied that they did not want any war, just to go back
to their lands as they were promised. “ ‘We are going north,’ Little Wolf
replied, ‘as it was promised we might, when we consented to come down into this
country. We intend to go peaceably...” (Brown 341) Once the United States Army
caught up with them, the Cheyenne were forced to surrender at Fort Robinson, and
relinquish their guns and weapons. On January 9th, 1877, a few Cheyenne warriors
attempted to kill the guards at the gates of Fort Robinson. Once the brief
fighting had ceased, “the soldiers herded 65 Cheyenne prisoners, 23 of them
wounded, back into Fort Robinson. Most were women and children. Only 38 of those
who escaped were alive and free; 32 were together...” (Brown 347) Once the army
found the remaining escapees, all of them were shot without any attempt for
peace. This battle shows the vices of the reservation system and how, if the
whites did not support Manifest Destiny, could have avoided such a costly waste
example of an avoidable massacre was the battle at Sand Creek. Here in 1851,
Colonel J.M. Chivington, of the United States Army, and his division of troops
brutally killed 133 Indians, maiming and mutilating the bodies of the deceased.
The cause of this massacre was the refusal of Cheyenne, Sioux, Crow, and Arapaho
leaders to allow military posts and roads through their country. Colonel
Chivington was sent to drive the Indians out, a classic example of the effects
of Manifest Destiny. Once the troops had reached the Indians camp, most of the
men, women and the children came out of their tents to surrender and tell the
men they did not want to fight. Black Kettle had run up the American, as well as
a white flag signaling for a truce. He believed that the troops would not fire
if they saw this. Unfortunately he was wrong.
Calf Beckwourth, riding beside Colonel Chivington, saw White Antelope
approaching. ‘He came running out to meet the command’ Beckwourth later
testified, ‘holding up his hands and saying ‘Stop! Stop!’ He spoke it in as
plain English as I can. He stopped and folded his arms (a signal for refusal
to fight) until shot down. (Brown 89)
firing had stopped, the army regulars began to mutilate the bodies of the slain.
They did this with the knowledge of Colonel Chivington, who made no attempt to
stop the atrocities.
Bent’s description of the soldiers’ atrocities was corroborated by
Lieutenant James Connor: ‘In going over the battleground the next day I did
not see a body of man, woman, or child but was scalped, and in many
instances their bodies were mutilated in the most horrible manner-men, women
children’ privates cut out, &c; ...these atrocities that were committed were
with the knowledge of J.M. Chivington, and I do not know of his taking of
any measures to prevent them... I also heard of numerous instances in which
men had cut out the private parts of females and stretched them over the
saddle-bows and wore them over their hats while riding in the ranks. (Brown
massacre was driven by a belief that Indians were sub-human beings, not worthy
of life. The belief in Manifest Destiny, that white men were destined to own the
continent, and that the Indians were to stand aside and watch as their lands
were taken away, and their people brutally killed, was the root cause of these
How did John
Winthrop’s idea, one that was so noble and brotherly in thought become such an
ugly doctrine? First, is necessary to examine what Winthrop was intending to
convey. He wanted the Massachusetts Bay Colony to be a “city upon a hill”, so
that others would observe their manner of living and strive to emulate them.
Also in John Winthrop’s original thesis of what he wanted the colony to become
she said that,
man might have need of others, and from hence they might be all knit more
nearly together in the bonds of brotherly affection. From hence it appears
plainly that no man is made more honorable than another or more wealthy
etc., out of any particular and singular respect to himself, but for the
glory of his Creator and the common good of the creature, man.(Winthrop
intended for the colony to adhere to God’s commandments, and to look upon one
another with brotherly love. Winthrop also wanted every man in his colony to
respect all other men as they were commanded in the Scriptures.
two rules whereby we are to walk one towards another: Justice and Mercy.
These are always distinguished in their act and in their object, yet may
they both concur in the same subject in each respect; as sometimes there may
be an occasion of showing mercy to a rich man in some sudden danger or
distress, and also doing of mere justice to a poor man in regard of some
particular contract, etc. There is likewise a double Law by which we are
regulated in our conversation towards another. In both the former respects,
the Law of Nature and the Law of Grace (that is, the moral law or the law of
the gospel) to omit the rule of justice as not properly belonging to this
purpose otherwise than it may fall into consideration in some particular
cases. By the first of these laws, man as he was enabled so withal is
commanded to love his neighbor as himself. Upon this ground stands all the
precepts of the moral law, which concerns our dealings with men. To apply
this to the works of mercy, this law requires two things. First, that every
man afford his help to another in every want or distress. (Winthrop 1630)
This was a
purposeful, and worthy goal to have. However, even the best laid plans of men
can quickly fall victim to corruption and greed.
How did the
supporters of Manifest Destiny use and contort Winthrop’s idea for their own
personal gain? Well, firstly Winthrop’s original plan was to act righteously,
and to do what he felt God was calling him and his people to do. Once westward
expansion became an unbearable obsession to the new Americans, they used the
same basis Winthrop used. They adamantly believed that Providence had destined
the Anglo-Saxon race to own the entire continent from coast to coast. The
Americans believed that they were defending the advancement of civilization. But
what they did not realize, was that, by advancing so quickly, they were
overlooking the fact that they were progressing at the Native Americans expense.
The Americans believed that they were doing the right thing, by carrying John
Winthrop’s “City On A Hill” idea onward, and shining the light of righteousness
and progress for others to see. The Americans genuinely attempted to pursue
those ends, but in the end, failed to adhere to the original laws and
propositions set forth by Winthrop, and ultimately God. By supporting Manifest
Destiny and all the benefits that it would provide, it became what seemed the
righteous justification for westward expansion. Unfortunately, they merely
warped Winthrop’s idea of being an example to projecting their strong desire of
expansion onto God’s will for them, simply because they believed that God would
want them to have whatever they desired.
Destiny since its creation, created specific abuses against all those who stood
in its path. Primarily these people were Indians and Mexicans, both of whom were
in immediate danger of conquest and annexation by the white Americans. As the
doctrine so clearly states, it is the Anglo-Saxon race (the whites), that God
had destined for ownership of North America.
and beautiful valleys of Wyoming, (and the other Western states) are
destined for the occupancy and sustenance of the Anglo-Saxon race. The
wealth that for untold ages has been placed there by Providence to reward
the brave spirits whose lot it is to compose the advance-guard of
civilization. The Indians must stand aside or be overwhelmed by the
ever-advancing and ever increasing tide of emigration. The destiny of the
aborigines is in characters not to be mistaken. (O’Sullivan as cited by Dee
default, this created a racial barrier between whites and Indians. The
supporters of Manifest Destiny claimed to have based their beliefs in
Christianity and in God Almighty. “That is how America has seen its own manifest
destiny. It comes from God.” (Davidson 159) If, in the Christian religion, God
created the heavens and the earth, and all the people who inhabit it, why would
he place only the whites in such a position of prominence? Does God not love
equally? God commands His children, specifically Noah, after the Flood, to go
out and multiply and inhabit the earth. While this is a fine and righteous idea,
as it is beneficial and right to make one’s life better by expanding,
multiplying, and growing, it is incorrect to do so at the expense of others. Put
here examples in Bury my heart The only answer is that their ideology was
misguided by their own selfish works. A careful examination of the Bible in
connection to these propositions will be provided later.
settlers believed that it was God who intended for the whites to own North
America, a new revitalized vigor for the spread of Christianity among the
Indians was spawned. In the early time of colonization of North America,
missionaries would seek out the Indians and try to convert them to Christianity.
If they were not successful, they went on and tried to evangelize other tribes.
But, now that this misguided theology had been established and had so many
followers, the method of evangelism changed:
beliefs also played an important role in anti-Indian prejudice. The whites
were Christians, with a strong devotion to the Bible and the existence of
one all-powerful, and decidedly Christian, god. Convinced that theirs was
the only true faith, they looked down on Indian religious notions of nature
gods and spirits as primitive and childish. It seemed, therefore, not only
morally justified for whites to control both Indians, and Indian lands but
also a divinely inspired duty to convert the “red heathens” to Christianity.
Typical was this patronizing speech... (Nardo 13)
But, at this
time, the Americans were attempting to force their religion upon the Indians so
that they could lay claim to their lands. This bred contempt for the whites by
the Indians, who could not understand why the settlers God wanted the whites to
take away all their lands. The way in which this evangelism was taking place was
wrong. God calls His followers to proclaim His name to all the nations. But the
missionaries were not only proclaiming the name of Christ, they were scaring the
Indians into submission with it. With this, evangelistic approaches in the late
19th century went along these lines, as a Boston missionary said to the Seneca
chief, Red Jacket,
come... to instruct you how to worship the Great Spirit agreeably to his
mind and will, and to preach to you the gospel of his son, Jesus Christ.
There is but one religion, and but one way to serve God, and if you do not
embrace the right way, you cannot be happy hereafter. You have never
worshipped the Great Spirit in a manner acceptable to him; but have, all
your lives, been in great error and darkness. (Nardo 13-14)
If the Native
Americans were in fact, worshipping the wrong way, as the missionary had said,
and there was only one way to worship God, then why did the whites quarrel about
God? The Indians said that they never quarreled about God.
you not want churches?’ (asked by the commissioner of the proposed Indian
agency) ‘They will teach us to quarrel about God.’ Joseph said. ‘We do not
want to learn that. We may quarrel with men sometimes about things on this
earth, but we never quarrel about God. We do not want to learn that. (Brown
missionaries that were teaching Christianity to the Native Americans were
preaching the Gospel indeed, but they were not living it out as they preached.
They taught the Indians to love their neighbors, but they were not living out
that commandment as they were commanded.
Americans gained the majority of Indian lands, either by forced removal or by
purchase, the government had hundreds of thousands of Native Americans without
homes, food or income. Because the government had taken ownership of the land,
it was the government’s job to resolve this problem for the Indians. In order to
facilitate all of the Indians, the United States set up the reservation system.
The system was initiated under President Andrew Jackson, who signed the
disastrous Indian Removal Act of 1830 into effect. He created the infamous
Indian Territory, which is now present-day Oklahoma, in order to corral the
Indians that he had just removed from the southeastern United States. By doing
this, Jackson believed that he was improving the lives of the Indians, either by
giving them a better place to live, or by providing better materials for them to
terrifying reality is that the reservations were usually hundreds of miles from
where the Indians were accustomed to living. The Navajo were taken from their
lands in the Southwest, to a reservation in current-day Texas called the Bosque
Redondo. The Five Civilized Tribes, namely the Cherokee, Creek, Chickasaw,
Choctaw, and the Seminoles, as well as the Sioux, hundreds of miles up north in
the Dakotas, were removed from their lands in the South to present-day Oklahoma,
which was set aside as “Indian Territory”. The conditions at these reservations
were anything but tolerable. Not to speak of the long journeys that the Indians
had to take in order to reach the reservations, in which many elderly, women and
children perished. Why did the United States government not set up reservations
where the Indians were already living? Why would they spend money using
supplies, wagons and troops from the army to transport the Native Americans
across hundreds of miles to their new homes? The truth of the matter is that in
most cases, once either gold, or copper or some other precious commodity was
discovered on their lands, the government decided that their profit was more
important than the Indian’s homelands.
Native Americans reached the reservations, they were not permitted to leave
unless specifically allowed by the government or the army officers. This
frustrated the Indians to no end. They were led to believe that, when they
signed the treaties, they were signing for peace. The Indians believed that the
treaties guaranteed them their freedoms, just as other Americans were able to
enjoy everyday. However, they were mistaken. They were rarely allowed to leave
the reservations, and if they escaped, they were brutally hunted down by the
In the 19th
century the conditions of the reservations were deplorable. Disease, hunger and
pneumonia were the chief killers amongst the reservation Indians. Hundreds died
of diseases they had no names for, hunger due to the limited amounts of rations
they were being given, and many froze to death, as no wood was given to the
Indians, and the closest was, in most cases, miles away. Conditions have not
changed in the 150 years. Still the Indians are without sufficient funds for
food, heat or medicine. The government welfare checks that are provided to the
Native Americans are, on average, barely enough to fill their propane-run
heaters twice during the harsh winters on the reservations. The checks do not
account for housing repairs either, as Native Americans are currently living in
houses without roofs, doors or proper heating or air-conditioning. The houses
that are provided are not maintained, and the Native Americans are not given
money to do so themselves. With the casinos, most of the money they raise goes
to education taxes for the state, which leaves very little profit for the Native
Americans. States received $2.5 billion in taxes, regulatory payments and
revenue sharing, resulting from state tribal gaming compacts. (www.indiangaming.org/info/pr/press-releases-2009/NIGA_08_Econ_Impact_Report.pdf)
Jobs are not
guaranteed in the least. The average national unemployment rate for reservation
Indians, is around 80 percent. Most of the revenue generated by the Indians, per
annum, is less 62 percent less than the American average as of 2011. Thus,
without sufficient income, the reservation Indians cannot afford food to last
them longer than a few days at a time.
have argued for years since the days of westward expansion, about Manifest
Destiny and its devastating effects. Some believe that it was because of this
doctrine, the Americans were able to secure their place among the global powers
of the world. Others believe that the idea was Biblically founded, ordained by
God, and they failed to see how their doctrine has created specific abuses
against the Indians, as well as creating lasting impacts upon the tribes of
North America. Supporters of Manifest Destiny claim divine providence as the
chief motivator behind their beliefs. But just how can they identify such a
claim? Did God speak directly to them? Was it in the Bible? Nowhere in
O’Sullivan’s claim does it state such a thing. In order to correctly and
logically justify the claim of divine intervention and motivation, they would
need proof, documented and witnessed, to solidify their claims. No such
documentation exists, or at least, if it does, to this day, none has been
brought forth for examination. The supporters claim as well that God destined
the rich plentiful valleys of the West solely for the Anglo-Saxon race. Yet, God
commands his people to love their neighbors. “The second is this: ‘Love thy
neighbor as thyself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:31
NIV) The Indians were the white man's neighbors. Were they loving toward the
Indians, as God had commanded, they might not have excluded all races,
specifically the Native Americans, in their doctrine. Sadly, the Christian
whites were acting in their own stead, and out of their own greed for land and
wealth. They chose not to love the Indians, by waging war against them, taking
their lands, and considering them racially inferior. “Images of Native Americans
as uncivilized, savage, untrustworthy, and ungodly constituted only part of a
growing collection of stereotypes perpetuated and widely accepted by whites.” (Nardo
14) Yet they persisted that it was God’s will that it be so. God calls his
people to love their neighbors, as it is written in Mark 12:31. If the settlers
had loved the Indians as they were commanded by God, they would have tried to
help them, and accepted their differences as all of God’s children are
different. If the Americans were truly guided by Providence, then they would
have needed to uphold the law as God provided. But, yet again, we find that God
contradicts such a claim in the Scriptures. An example is provided in Romans
debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for
whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not
commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall
not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this
one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a
neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”
settlers obeyed the law, as God commanded, they would have loved the Native
Americans as they would each other, and God Himself. In the Book of John,
chapter three, verse sixteen, it says that, “For God so loved the world that He
sent His one and only Son...(John 3:16 NIV)” It says in this particular verse
that God loved the world. It does not specify any race. Again, in 1 John chapter
four, verses four through eleven,
friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who
loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not
know God, because God is love. This is how God showed His love among us: He
sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him.
This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son
as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us,
we also ought to love one another.
believers in Manifest Destiny all claim to be acting in the will of God, then
why weren’t these conflicts addressed? Sadly, they were not, because, as
previously said they were acting for themselves, and not God. And they certainly
did not “have the truths of God in their (our) minds, and the beneficent objects
within their (our) hearts.” (O’Sullivan 426) As it stands, the supporters of
Manifest Destiny most certainly could not have derived their basis for their
doctrine out of the Holy Scriptures. Believing in Manifest Destiny meant the
unjust oppression and subjugation of others. By supporting it, the whites were
actively pursuing a great miscarriage of justice. The theory of American
exceptionalism, or that God chose the Americans to own the entire North American
continent in His name, however a noble thought, has no basis, nor proof. The
supporters of Manifest Destiny believed that there was something that was
uniquely and exceptionally good about their political and cultural beliefs that
justified the unjust treatment of others. Being so, that America is not a
church, but a nation conceived in liberty, the government has a duty to uphold
certain fundamental values of life and freedom. The injustice here is that the
Indians saw no attempt to preserve their freedoms that they had enjoyed for
thousands of years. The Founding Fathers believed that all men were entitled to
life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is the duty of all those who
serve in government after them to uphold these beliefs and support them with the
utmost dedication. This did not happen with the Native Americans.
Americans had to suffer through much pain and suffering in the 19th century
caused by Manifest Destiny and the people who carried out its doctrine. Manifest
Destiny caused the suffering for the Indians then, and has affected the welfare
of the tribes today. Over the course of 200 years of American history, the
Indians have been hated, despised, mis-understood, and they have been killed in
vain by men who wanted to profit no matter the cost. In this, we should see that
Manifest Destiny, and the beliefs that it presented created abuses, illegal and
immoral acts that significantly altered the lives of Native Americans by
suppressing and ending their personal freedoms. We cannot afford for another
atrocity like this to occur again in the course of human events. We are fully
capable of preventing such inhumane behavior. May freedom, true freedom, ring.
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