Indian Wars In The West

In 1825 President James Monroe, after looking at reports from his top advisors, created, what was called, the Indian Frontier between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains. It was believed at the time that this area was unfit for anything other than the native tribes and the wandering herds of bison.

The frontier designation came shortly after the government got out of the trade business with Americas western frontier. For decades the United States Government had licensed traders in the west, allowing them to build trading posts/forts, referred to by the government as factories. When the government gave up the selling of trade licenses for specific monopolies of trade territories, it cost the government some money, but they were no longer considered a significant economic boon to the country.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs, formed in March of 1824, by Secretary of War, John C. Calhoun, as part of his department and without asking for, or getting authorization from Congress. Calhoun recognizing that trappers and traders were going to operate in the West without the benefit of traders licensed by the government, but still wanted some type of organization in the western wilderness. He appointed, also with anyone’s approval, Thomas L. McKenney as the first Superintendent of Indian Affairs. McKenney called himself, the head of the Indian Office. He was removed by President Jackson in 1830 because of his belief that the Indian was morally and intellectual the equal of white’s.
President Jackson

In 1834, the Indian Intercourse Act was passed, forbidding whites from going into Indian lands without permission from the commissioner of Indian affairs. That date is important because there were already hundreds if not thousands of company trappers, free trappers, traders, hunters, and wanders, already in the forbidden, to whites, Indian lands.
From this came the new Army of the West. It took a few years but by 1849, the Bureau realized the need for a presence in Wyoming, purchased Fort John, and changed it to a military post, renaming it Fort Laramie.
Fort Laramie's Old Bedlam
From that point, troubles persisted. People moved west without permission, young military commanders wanted to fight Indians not make peace and the tribes grew more and more aggressive as the bison on the plains were shot up.

During his brief, 16 months, Presidency, Zachary Taylor, moved Indian Affairs to the U. S. Department of the Interior, believing it was a better fit for the unsettled lands.

Some have argued that the BIA created as many problems as it solved. Five years late, 1854, the Grattan Massacre just east of Fort Laramie began histories Plains Indian Wars period.

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