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Native American Warriors Describe the Threats to their Way of Life

Native American warriors in the 19th century attacked the various people and institutions that threatened their way of life on the Great Plains. In these speeches to federal agents during the Indian Wars of the 1860s, Indian leaders attempt to explain the sources of conflict.

The Great Father has made [railroads] stretching east and west. Those roads are the cause of all our troubles... The country where we live is overrun with whites. All our game is gone. This is the cause of the great trouble. I have been a friend of the whites and am now... If you stop your roads we can get our game... My friends, help us; take pity on us. 

 --Spotted Tail, chief spokesman of the Brule Tetons at a conference with U.S. Indian Commissioners, 1867 

We will not have the wagons [steam locomotives] which make a noise in the hunting grounds of the buffalo. If the palefaces come farther into our land, there will be scalps of your brethren in the wigwams of the Cheyennes. I have spoken.

 --Roman Nose, chief who led his fellow Cheyenne against homesteaders and railroad workers on what he considered traditional Native American lands in Kansas, 1866 

Fathers, your young men have devastated the country and killed my animals, the elk, the deer, the antelope, my buffalo. They do not kill them to eat them; they leave them to rot where the fall. Fathers, if I went into your country to kill your animals, what would you say? Should I not be wrong, and would you not make war on me? 

 --Bear Tooth, a Crow chief, 1867

You said that you wanted to put us on a reservation, to build us houses and make us medicine lodges. I do not want them. I was born upon the prairie where the wind blew free and there was nothing to break the light of the sun. I was born where there were no enclosures and where everything drew a free breath. I want to die there and not within walls.

--Ten Bears, a Comanche warrior chief, 1871

Source | Quoted in American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning, "The Iron Horse vs. the Buffalo: Indian-Settler Conflict on the Great Plains: 1869-90," (Teacher's Handbook).
Creator | Various
Item Type | Speech
Cite This document | Various, “Native American Warriors Describe the Threats to their Way of Life ,” SHEC: Resources for Teachers, accessed December 7, 2023,

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