Native American Life

Native Americans were neither bloodthirsty savages nor the noble red men of popular imagination, but whites tended to see them in terms of those stereotypes. Seemingly there was not room on the continent for both races to live freely. Of the estimated 360,000 American Indians who were still alive at mid-century (down from pre-Columbian times), some 200,000 lived on lands newly acquired in the 1840s by war, treaty, or annexation. The most unbowed were the 75,000 Plains Indians. They had battled the Spanish and the Mexicans before the Europeans arrived and were unlikely to back down to the latest interlopers. Another 84,000 Indians living on the Plains represented tribes uprooted from their eastern lands and transplanted west of the 95th meridian. The Mexican Cession held another 150,000, and Oregon Country could claim 25,000. By comparison, the United States at the mid-century mark had a population of 20 million and counting. In the next decades the Native American population would continue to drop precipitously, victimized by war, disease, and what might be called "rootlessness."

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