The relationship between Natives and Americans consisted of a history of broken promises. In 1851, a federal reservation policy was introduced. The concentration policy assigned each tribe its own defined reservation. This benefitted whites but greatly harmed the Indians, eventually leading to conflict and its repeal.
As whites continued to move westward, many ecological changes occurred. Most significantly, the population of buffalo was decimated,taking away the Natives' main source of survival. Railroad companieseven hired riflemen, such as Buffalo Bill Cody, to clear obstruction to railroad traffic.
The Native Americans fought hard to protect their way of life which often resulted in armed conflict. In November of 1864, the Sand Creek Massacre resulted in 133 unsuspecting Indians slaughtered. At Little Bighorn in 1786, Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull united the Natives and led the fight in which they were able to surround and kill all the whites.
Not only did the US Army threaten the tribes, but white vigilantes also engaged in violence with the Indians. This became known as "Indian hunting." The killing of Indians became for some whites a kind of sport. However, Natives still kept hope by participating in a new revivial, called the "Ghost Dance" which inspired visions of restoration.
Tensions peaked on December 29th, 1890 when the Seventh Cavalry tried to round up a group of 350 cold and starving Sioux at Wounded Knee, South Dakota. About 40 white soldiers and more than 300 Indians died. The battle turned into a massacre as white soldiers mowed down Indians in the snow,
The US government now moved to forever destroy the tribal structure. The Dawes Act of 1887 provided for the gradual elimination of tribal ownership of land and the allotment of tracts to individual owners. The act also took Native children away from their families and sent them to boarding schools run by whites to try to assimilate them.