In the last half of the nineteenth century, the lives of the Plains Indians were more dramatically affected then ever before. Both the technological breakthroughs and government policies had a significant impact on the Plains Indians. Technology played a major part not only with the advancements with railroads but with the now exchangeable parts in guns, which showed useful in the battle of Little Big Horn and Wounded Knee.
The government gave the railroad millions of acres of land grants, such as the Morrill Land Grants. This action by the government often forced the Plains Indians to move or they were forced onto reservations by the government. The Dawes Act of 1887 forced certain tribes onto reservations. Frontiersmen and railroad companies now expanded out west with technological advancements, forever changing the lives of the Native Americans. As a result of technological developments, the Plains Indians suffered many losses.
Most notably, the expansion of the railroad led to a severe loss of the Indian population as well as their culture and way of life, which depended heavily on the buffalo. Railroad expansion brought white settlers to lands which were nearby to pre-existing Indian territories. This caused much conflict between Native Americans and whites who wanted to claim the land. Indians also experienced difficulties because treaties were usually not honored by settlers and the government. The railroad also allowed frontiersmen to have easier access to food and supplies when fighting the Indians.
Because the whites had this advantage, Indians experienced an increase in the number of casualties. Railroads also provided easier access to the buffalo for the whites. Indian life revolved around the buffalo as they used every part of it- for food, homes, and clothing. Settlers would kill the buffalo for business and for money. One such individual, Buffalo Bill slaughtered hundreds of buffalo selling it to other settlers who needed it to feed themselves. With the decrease of buffalo Indian resistance also decreased.
As a last attempt at white resistance, Wovoka, an Indian chief and holy man, developed the Ghost Dance. In response the whites who felt this was a threat to them decided to arrest Sitting Bull, the leader of the army who won victoriously at the Battle of Little Big Horn, in order to put a stop to it. This resulted in Sitting Bull’s death. The Battle of Wounded Knee was a result of the Ghost Dance movement as well; thinking they were invincible, thousands of Indians worriers charged into American soldiers.
It was a devastating loss to the Plain Indians. In order to provide land for the railroad, expansion, and settlers the government created reservation for the Indians. They were forced to live on these reservations further destroying their nomadic way of life. Those who resisted were punished. Indian was also dissolved by those who believed the solution was for Indians to adapt to the American culture and society by becoming educated.