Sunday, January 25, 2009

Chapter 18

Chapter 18 focusses on the industrialization of Western America, made possible largely through the emergence of an established railroad system across the country from the East to West. The chapter explores the consequences of the railroads construction, some being positive, and some negative. The chapter also talks about the Homestead Act, and the effect it had on the countries industrialization.
One aspect that made moving out West possible was the Homestead Act. This piece of legislation allowed people to acquire free land out West. However, not all people were able to take advantage of the Homestead Act. For African American and Hispanic people, the dream of settling out West was almost impossible, as they did not have the resources necessary to make such a journey. Thus, it was mostly white farmers who made the trek. It should also be noted that Chinese people were excluded from taking part in the Homestead Act, as they were not even allowed to become citizens of the United States at that time. Transportation out West was made possible by the connecting of the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroad lines at the now famous site known as the "golden spike" in Utah.
The downside to all of this industrialization was displacement of Native American peoples from their land. Conflicts were often resolved with violence. Two of the most notable conflicts were the Sand Creek massacre, and the infamous battle of Little Bighorn. Casualties on both sides add up to around 400 if you combine just these two conflicts, not to mention the repercussions in which even more people were killed. The conflicts between Native Americans and other people who called themselves just Americans, led to a very sad period in American History, where Native American cultures and practices were almost lost due to the "Peace Policy." Passed in 1869 by President Grant, the policy was aimed at assimilating Native people into white culture, including adoption of the English language, and Christianity. This led to the creation of Indian boarding schools, where Native people were taught everything they would need to know to become "Americanized." This led to the loss of Native American culture, as traditional practices were forgotten through generations of "assimilated" children.

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