Mini-DBQ: Impact of Westward Expansion on Native Americans

Historical Context

Since the first English settlers arrived at Jamestown in 1607, the story of America has been one of movement westward. As more and more Europeans came to our shores, colonists spread further and further into what was called the frontier, which is defined as an area of unsettled land. We know, however, that America was already inhabited by Natives whose ancestors had arrived thousands of years earlier.

Conflicts over land ownership, religion, and culture, combined with broken promises by the U.S. government, moved the Indian population away from their homeland. The presidency of Andrew Jackson forced the removal of the tribes of the Southeast on the “Trail of Tears” to what is now Oklahoma.

In the period following the Civil War, many people moved west for new opportunities and a new life. This would mean more clashes—this time with Plains Indians. Although America had changed much in the 250 years since the first settlers arrived, the attitude toward Native Americans had not. The building of the transcontinental was the beginning of the end for many proud tribes of the West.


The following question is based on the accompanying documents (A–E). As you analyze the documents, take into account both the source of the document and the author’s point of view. Be sure to:

1. Carefully read the document-based question. Consider what you already know about this topic. How would you answer the question if you had no documents to examine?

2. Carefully read each document, underlining key phrases and words that address the document-based question. You may wish to use the margin to make brief notes. Answer the question that follows each document.

3. On the basis of your own knowledge and the information found in the documents, formulate a thesis statement that directly answers the question.

4. Organize supportive and relevant information into a brief outline.

5. Write a well-organized essay proving your thesis. The essay should be logically presented and should include information from the documents and from your own knowledge outside of the documents.


How did westward expansion affect Native Americans after the Civil War?

Part 1: Brainstorm what you know about the question.

Part 2: The following documents address the impact of westward expansion on Native Americans after the Civil War. Examine each document carefully. Answer the question or questions about each.