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Week Eight: Manifest Destiny - Expansion and Conflict

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October 21: Kansas, Nebraska, and Expansion 







Political Cartoons and Propaganda (PowerPoint)



Study Questions 


1. After looking over the Kansas-Nebraska Act, consider the letters, newspaper article, and political cartoons (note the letters are listed in chronological order), consider the following questions: What were the effects of the Kansas-Nebraska act on the nation and the West? How did the Act affect Kansas and Missouri? What were the prevalent emotions embodied in the letters and newspaper article? What are the main issues that appear in both the Compromise of 1850 and the Kansas-Nebraska Act?


2. Considering the information provided by the letters, legislation, and background information--how would you explain each cartoon to somebody who does not know anything about this time period or the issues? Summarize the issues using these cartoons as illustrations and launching points. What does each cartoon—Liberty the Fair Maid of Kansas, Forcing Slavery Down the Throat of a Freesoiler, and The Balls are Rolling—represent?


3. How is Union different from the other illustrations? What is the artist attempting to convey and why might the message of this piece be important during the 1850s?


4. What is the relationship between slavery, governance, and national expansion? Your answer should make reference to the concept of popular sovereignty as applied to the creation of new Territories and the emergence of the Free Soil party and ideology. You should also  include discussion about the difference between arguing for abolition as opposed to the non-extension of slavery in the west. 


5. How are the bills that comprise the Kansas-Nebraska Act different from the Northwest Ordinance in the way that they understand self government in newly created territories?




October 23:  Indian Wars on the Plains



  • Jeffrey Ostler, “Conquest and the State: Why the United States Employed Massive Military Force to Suppress the Lakota Ghost Dance,” Pacific Historical Review 65.2 (1996). (Ctools/Coursepack)
  • Paul Rosier, "Indian Country in the Twenty-First Century," in Serving Their Country: American Indian Politics and Patriotism in the Twentieth Century (2009) (Ctools/Coursepack)


Battle of the Little Bighorn



The Wounded Knee Massacre




Study Questions 


Jeffrey Ostler writes about the increased U.S. military presence in the West following the Civil War. Today we will think about how military intervention came to be seen as an increasingly central "solution" to the Indian-U.S. relations on the Great Plains. Draw from the Ostler article as you answer the questions below, discussing how they connect to and support, or not, the ideas presented by the primary sources.


1. In "Boots and Saddles," Elizabeth Custer narrates her experience of the Battle of the Little Bighorn, in which her husband George Armstrong Custer and the US Seventh Cavalry were defeated by Cheyenne, Lakota, and Arapaho warriors. How does Elizabeth Custer explain the events leading up to the battle? And how does she structure this chapter along gender lines? How are the US soldiers described, and the wives they leave behind? What type of story does Elizabeth Custer turn the report of the Battle into?


2. In comparison, what kind of meaning does Mrs. Spotted Horn Bull assign to the Battle of the Little Bighorn? How does she narrate the events in terms of historical and political significance, and ideas about gender?


3. Aaron Beede writes in the introduction to "Sitting Bull - Custer" that he wants to give "a picture of the 'Custer Massacre,' so called, as the Indians themselves saw the battle." When you read his note on "Sources" at the end of the book, to what extent do you think Beede is successful in doing this? Scene IV: "Sitting Bull and Custer Face to Face" stages a dialogue between Sitting Bull and the dead Custer's spirit. What kind of resolution does the play offer? What is the book's final appraisal of George Armstrong Custer?


4. Sitting Bull give this 1883 speech at the Standing Rock agency, after he had surrendered to the US two years earlier. What argument does Sitting Bull make in the 1883 Senate Committee report? How does he present the history of Sioux-US interactions? Also, what does Sitting Bull mean when he says "You white men advise us to follow your ways, and therefore I talk as I do"?


5. Charles Alexander Eastman was a Santee Sioux and Anglo-American doctor who worked on the Pine Ridge Reservation in 1890. Using Eastman's account, Wovoka's "Messiah Letter," and Black Elk's reflections on the Wounded Knee massacre, how would you explain the social, religious, and political circumstances at Pine Ridge that led to what Eastman calls "The Ghost Dance War"?




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