The Indians' Last Stand
The new Americans and the Native Indians tried sharing the land . But it didn't work. The Plains Indians had long depended on hunting . Hunters need land free and uncultivated so herds of buffalo and deer and antelope can roam freely. The new settlers were mostly farmers. Farmers need land cleared of wild animals so their crops won't be trampled and eaten. Kicking Bird was a chief of the Kiowa tribe. He counseled peace with the whites, but still he complained: "The buffalo is our money. Just as it makes a white man's heart feel to have his money carried away, so it makes us feel to see others killing and stealing our buffaloes, which are our cattle given to us by the Great Father above to provide us meat to eat and things to wear."
Back in 1804 when Lewis and Clark explored the West, vast herds of buffalo stretched as far as the eye could see . By 1850 there were still about twelve million buffalo. Hunters like Buffalo Bill Cody led the charge, leaving herds where they fell. The land soon stank with the smell of dead buffalo. The Indians of the Plains depended on buffalo meat for food and buffalo skins for clothing and shelter, and they were horrified to see the buffalo and land wasted. By the mid-1870s the buffalo had been hunted almost to extinction . A Cheyenne chief expressed his outrage: "You people make big talk, and sometimes make war, if an Indian kills a white man's ox to keep his wife and children from starving. What do you think my people ought to say when they see their buffalo killed by your race when you are not hungry?"