Sites and Battlefields of the American-Indian Wars

Sites and Battlefields of the American-Indian Wars

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1. Little Bighorn Battlefield

Little Bighorn Battlefield in Montana played an important role in the Great Sioux War, a conflict between the Lakota and Northern Cheyenne Native Americans and the US government, part of the American-Indian Wars. On 25 June 1876, Custer and around a quarter of his men – for he had divided them into four units – converged on Little Bighorn. The entire unit, including Custer, were killed in the clash, leading to the battle being known as ’Custer’s Last Stand’. Little Bighorn Battlefield is now a National Park, dedicated to commemorating the events of the battle and the conflict of which it formed part.

This was a seven-year struggle between Great Britain and France for control of North America. It paved the way for the American colonists' fight for their independence from Great Britain a generation later.

Fought from 1775 through 1783, America's Revolutionary War resulted in the independence of the United States of America. Battles were fought from Maine to Florida and as far west as Arkansas and Louisiana. Places such as Bunker Hill, Cowpens and Yorktown entered the American consciousness and lexicon, and are today preserved by the National Park Service, allowing visitors to stand in the spot where the Founding Fathers debated whether to break away from England, or where patriots fought.

    , Massachussetts , South Carolina , South Carolina , New York , Indiana , North Carolina , Pennsylvania , South Carolina , Massachusetts , North Carolina , New Jersey , South Carolina , North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia , New York , (Thomas Creek Battle Site) Florida , Pennsylvania

The Search Is On for the Site of the Worst Indian Massacre in U.S. History

In the frigid dawn of January 29, 1863, Sagwitch, a leader among the Shoshone of Bia Ogoi, or Big River, in what is now Idaho, stepped outside his lodge and saw a curious band of fog moving down the bluff toward him across a half-frozen river. The mist was no fog, though. It was steam rising in the subzero air from hundreds of U.S. Army foot soldiers, cavalry and their horses. The Army was coming for his people.

Over the next four hours, the 200 soldiers under Colonel Patrick Connor’s command killed 250 or more Shoshone, including at least 90 women, children and infants. The Shoshone were shot, stabbed and battered to death. Some were driven into the icy river to drown or freeze. The Shoshone men, and some women, meanwhile, managed to kill or mortally wound 24 soldiers by gunfire.

Historians call the Bear River Massacre of 1863 the deadliest reported attack on Native Americans by the U.S. military—worse than Sand Creek in 1864, the Marias in 1870 and Wounded Knee in 1890.

It is also the least well known. In 1863, most of the nation’s attention was focused on the Civil War, not the distant western territories. Only a few eyewitness and secondhand accounts of the incident were published at the time in Utah and California newspapers. Local people avoided the site, with its bones and shanks of hair, for years, and the remaining Bia Ogoi families quietly dispersed. But their descendants still tell the tale of that long-ago bloody day, and now archaeologists are beginning to unearth the remains of the village that didn’t survive. 

The valley where the Bear River massacre took place is now criss-crossed by farms and roads. (Courtesy of Ken Cannon)

Darren Parry, a solemn man who is a council member of the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation and Sagwitch’s great-great-great grandson, stands on a hill named Cedar Point. He looks down on the historic battlefield in its braided river valley. An irrigation canal curves along the base of the bluffs, and a few pickup trucks drive along U.S. Highway 91, following a route used by the Shoshone 200 years ago.

These alterations to the landscape—roads, farms and an aqueduct, along with shifts in the river’s meandering course through the valley—have made it difficult, from a scientist’s perspective, to pinpoint the location of the Shoshone winter village. Parry, though, does not have this problem.

“This spot overlooks everything that was important to our tribe,” he says. “Our bands wintered here, resting and spending time with family. There are warmer places in Utah, but here there are hot springs, and the ravine for protection from storms.”

The So-So-Goi, or People Who Travel on Foot, had been living well on Bia Ogoi for generations. All their needs—food, clothes, tools and shelter—were met by the rabbits, deer, elk and bighorn sheep on the land, the fish in the river, and the camas lilies, pinyon nuts and other plants that ripened in the short, intense summers. They lived in loose communities of extended families and often left the valley for resources such as salmon in Oregon and bison in Wyoming. In the cold months, they mostly stayed in the ravine village, eating carefully stored provisions and occasional fresh meat.

White-skinned strangers came through the mountain passes into the valley seeking beaver and other furs. These men gave the place a new name, Cache Valley, and the year a number, 1825. They gave the So-So-Goi a new name, too—Shoshone. The Shoshone traded with the hunters and trappers, who were little cause for concern since they were few in number and only passing through.

But then people who called themselves Mormons came to the northern valley. The Mormons were looking for a place where they, too, could live well. They were many in number, and they stayed, calling this place Franklin. The newcomers cut down trees, built cabins, fenced the land to keep in livestock, plowed the meadows for crops and hunted the remaining game. They even changed Big River’s name to Bear.

At first, relations between the Shoshone and the Mormons were cordial. The settlers had valuable things to trade, such as cooking pots, knives, horses and guns. And the Shoshone knowledge of living off the land was essential when the Mormons’ first crops failed. 

But eventually, the Shoshone “became burdensome beggars” in the eyes of the Mormons, writes Kenneth Reid, Idaho’s state archaeologist and director of the Idaho State Historic Preservation Office, in a new summary of the massacre for the U.S. National Park Service’s American Battlefield Protection Program. “Hunger, fear and anger prompted unpredictable transactions of charity and demand between the Mormon settlers and the increasingly desperate and defiant Shoshones. The Indians pretended to be friendly, and the Mormons pretended to take care of them, but neither pretense was very reassuring to the opposite party.”

In Salt Lake City, the territorial commissioner of Indian affairs was well aware of the growing discord between the two peoples and hoped to resolve it through treaty negotiations that would give the Shoshones land—somewhere else, of course—and food. Conflict continued, however, and when a small group of miners was killed, Army Colonel Connor resolved to “chastise” those he believed responsible—the Shoshone people living in the ravine in the northern valley at the confluence of a creek and the Bear River.

Pointing below Cedar Point, Parry says, “My grandmother told me that her grandfather [Sagwitch’s son Yeager, who was 12 years old and survived the massacre by pretending to be dead] told her that all the tipis were set up right here in the ravine and hugging the side of the mountain.” He continues, “Most of the killing took place between here and the river. Because the soldiers drove the people into the open and into the river.”

A group of Shoshone people from Wyoming, photographed in 1870. (Library of Congress)

In 2013, the Idaho State Historical Society began efforts to map and protect what may remain of the battlefield. The following year, archaeologists Kenneth Cannon, of Utah State University and president of USU Archeological Services, and Molly Cannon, director of the Museum of Anthropology at Utah State, started investigating the site.

Written and oral accounts of the events at Bear River suggested the Cannons would find remains from the battle in a ravine with a creek that flowed into the river. And soon they did find artifacts from the post-massacre years, such as buckles, buttons, barbed wire and railroad spikes. They even found traces of a prehistoric hearth from around 900 A.D.

But their primary goal, the location of the Shoshone-village-turned-killing-ground, proved elusive. There should have been thousands of bullets that had been fired from rifles and revolvers, as well as the remnants of 70 lodges that had sheltered 400 people—post-holes, hardened floors, hearths, pots, kettles, arrowheads, food stores and trash middens.

Yet of this core objective, the scientists found only one piece of hard evidence: a spent .44-caliber round lead ball of that period that could have been fired by a soldier or warrior.

The Cannons dove back into the data. Their team combined historic maps with magnetometer and ground-penetrating-radar studies, which showed potential artifacts underground, and geomorphic maps that showed how floods and landslides had reshaped the terrain. That’s when they found “something really exciting,” says Kenneth Cannon.

Molly Cannon uses ground penetrating radar in the search for the location of the Bear River massacre. (Courtesy of Ken Cannon)

“The three different types of data sources came together to support the notion that the Bear River, within a decade of the massacre, shifted at least 500 yards to the south, to its present location,” he says.

The archaeologists now suspect that the site where the heaviest fighting and most deaths occurred has been buried by a century of sediment, entombing all traces of the Shoshone. “We had been looking in the wrong place,” Kenneth Cannon says. If his team can get funding, the Cannons will return to the Bear River valley this summer to resume their search for Bia Ogoi.

Though the exact site of the village is still unknown, the massacre that destroyed it may finally be getting the attention it deserves. In 2017, the Idaho State Museum in Boise will host an exhibit on the Bear River Massacre. And the Northwestern Shoshone are in the process of acquiring land in the area for an interpretive center that would describe the the lives of their ancestors in the Bear River valley, the conflicts between native people and European immigrants and the killings of 1863.

This is a story, Parry says, that needs to be told.

Editor's Note, May 13, 2016: After publishing, two corrections were made to this story. First, a sentence was clarified to indicate that archaeologists found evidence of a prehistoric hearth, not a dwelling. Second, a sentence was removed to avoid the implication that the scientists are looking for or collecting human bones as part of their research.

About Sylvia Wright

Sylvia Wright is a science writer and photographer based in Davis, Calif. She tells stories about the work of researchers in the American West.

Battlefield Site History

The Battle of Fallen Timbers was fought on August 20, 1794 between the Legion of the United States under Major General Anthony Wayne and the Western Confederacy of Native Americans under Blue Jacket, Little Turtle and other Tribal War Leaders from the area.

The battle was the culmination of a long engagement between the United States and those allied Native American Nations for control over lands northwest of the Ohio River.

In the summer of 1793, Wayne began marching approximately 1,500 men north from Fort Washington (Cincinnati) to where the Western Confederacy and British Fort Miamis were positioned. In August the following year, Wayne and his Legion encountered approximately 1,000 warriors from the Western Confederacy. The battle that ensued lasted less than two hours, but the Legion's victory was decisive in its outcome.

Following the battle, the Western Confederacy lost strength. In the summer of 1795, representatives from each tribe in the alliance met with representatives of the United States to negotiate and sign the Treaty of Greenville, which ultimately led to the United States’ settlement of the Northwest Territories.

Wayne vs. Little Turtle

The Battle of Fallen Timbers was a decisive victory by the Legion of the United States led by General "Mad" Anthony Wayne over a confederacy of native Americans led by Miami Chief Little Turtle. Wayne's victory opened the Northwest Territory for white settlement, later leading to Ohio's statehood in 1803.

General Wayne was the commander of the legion of the United States at the Battle of Fallen Timbers. He was born in Pennsylvania on January 1, 1745. After growing up in Waynesborough, Pennsylvania, Anthony Wayne was commissioned a colonel and assisted General Benedict Arnold in his retreat from Quebec. He held various positions with the Continental Army and even shared the long winter of 1777-1778 at Valley Forge with General George Washington.

Wayne was recalled as a major general by Washington in 1792 to lead the Legion of the United States against the Native American forces in Ohio and Indiana. Wayne's troops defeated the Native Americans at the Battle of Fallen Timbers, which led to the Wayne's Treaty of Greenville in 1795. This opened the Northwest Territory to white settlement. A year later, Wayne died on December 15, 1796.

Michikinikwa or Little Turtle was born in 1752 near Fort Wayne in Little Turtle Village. As a young warrior, he participated in defense of his village in 1780. He later led a small confederation of Native American tribes in defeating federal army forces in 1790 and 1791. Michikinikwa urged people to seek peace prior to the 1794 Battle of Fallen Timbers, where his forces were defeated by Anthony Wayne. He later died in Fort Wayne on July 14, 1812. Other partners of Michikinikwa during the Battle of Fallen Timbers were Tecumseh, Chief Blue Jacket and Chief Bukongahelas.

Tecumseh was one of the most famous leaders during the resistance, but refused to sign the Treaty of Greenville in 1795.

The Battlefield Today

The Fallen Timbers Battlefield is both historical and new. It was the site of a famous and important event in American history. Yet the exact location where the 1794 battle between General Anthony Wayne's army and a confederacy of American Indian tribes took place was discovered more than 200 years later.

The Battle of Fallen Timbers was one of four major engagements during the Indian Wars period of 1790-1795 and is regarded as one of the most significant US military actions in the period between the Revolution and the War of 1812.

Preserving the Fallen Timbers Battlefield is important to commemorate and learn about military and social events that took place in the Maumee Valley that led directly to Ohio becoming a state.

For more than 70 years, a monument to the battle has stood on a bluff overlooking the Maumee River. Many speculated that the battle took place on the high spot and the floodplain below. But G. Michael Pratt, an anthropologist and faculty member at Heidelberg College, theorized that the battle occurred about a quarter-mile away.

In 1995, Pratt conducted the first archaeological survey in a farm field at the northwest corner of the intersection of US 24 and US 23/I-475 in Maumee, Ohio. A significant number of artifacts dating to the late 1700s supported his theory, and subsequent surveys revealed additional evidence that intense fighting took place on the site.

At the same time, a group of citizens called the Fallen Timbers Battlefield Preservation Commission organized to advocate for the battlefield's protection.

In 2000, Metroparks of the Toledo area reached an agreement to buy a 187-acre site considered to be a key portion of the battlefield site.

The same year, Congress established the Fallen Timbers Battlefield and Fort Miamis National Historic Site and designated it as an Affiliated Unit of the National Park Service.

The purposes of Fallen Timbers Battlefield and Fort Miamis National Historic Site, according to the legislation, is to recognize, preserve and interpret U.S. military history and Native American culture between 1794 and 1813, and to create links between three separate historic places:

The 185-acre Fallen Timbers Battlefield site, the battleground where General Wayne and the native confederacy led by Shawnee Chief Tecumseh, Little Turtle and Blue Jacket, fought the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794. The battle secured Ohio and the Northwest Territory for U.S. settlement.

Fort Miamis, which was occupied by General Anthony Wayne's legion from 1796 to 1798 and later was the site of a battle in the War of 1812.

And the Fallen Timbers Monument, which memorializes the battle and the combatants: General Wayne, the American Indians and the Kentucky Militia.

Metroparks completed buying the property with local, state and federal funds in the fall of 2001. Immediately, The Fallen Timbers Advisory Commission was formed to plan the future of the historic site. The commission has submitted a draft General Management Plan to the National Park Service.


1. E. Lawrence Lee, Indian Wars in North Carolina, 1663-1763 (Raleigh, NC: The Carolina Charter Tercentenary Commission, 1963), 4.
2. William Hilton, et al., “Ye Relacon of ye Discovery made in Florida . . . dated aboard ye ship Adventure ye 6 Nov. 1662,” in E. Lawrence Lee, The Lower Cape Fear in Colonial Days (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1965), 70.
3. Lee, Indian Wars in North Carolina, 14.
4. Lee, Indian Wars in North Carolina, 15.
5. Lee, Indian Wars in North Carolina, 15.
6. Lee, Indian Wars in North Carolina, 15.
7. Lee, Indian Wars in North Carolina, 16.
8. Lee, Indian Wars in North Carolina, 27.
9. Lee, Indian Wars in North Carolina, 30.
10. Lee, Indian Wars in North Carolina, 31.
11. Lee, Indian Wars in North Carolina, 39.
12. Lee, Indian Wars in North Carolina, 41.
13. Lee, Indian Wars in North Carolina, 42.
14. Lee, Indian Wars in North Carolina, 42.
15. Lee, Indian Wars in North Carolina, 47.
16. Hugh Meredith, An Account of the Cape Fear Country, 1731, in E. Lawrence Lee, The Lower Cape Fear in Colonial Days (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1965), 83

The Last Battle of the American Indian Wars

For the most part, armed American Indian resistance to the U.S. government ended at the Wounded Knee Massacre December 29, 1890, and in the subsequent Drexel Mission Fight the next day. But the last battle between Native Americans and U.S. Army forces — and the last fight documented in Anton Treuer’s (Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe) The Indian Wars: Battles, Bloodshed, and the Fight for Freedom on the American Frontier (National Geographic, 2017) — would not occur until 26 years later on January 9, 1918, when a group of Yaquis opened fire on a group of 10th Cavalry soldiers in a tragic case of mistaken identity.

In the late 19th and early 20th century, the Yaqui people were fighting the government of Mexico, hoping to establish an independent homeland in Sonora. Yaqui warriors joined in the rebellion when the Mexican Revolution broke out in 1910, but by 1916 Mexican generals were claiming Yaqui land as their own, which led to renewed conflict between Yaqui and Mexican military forces.

During this period Yaquis would cross the border for farm work in Arizona, where they would use their wages to buy firearms and ammunition and then return to Mexico to keep up the fight. As for the U.S. military, of course, its forces were mostly in or on their way to Europe for the Great War. But cavalry forces, seen as obsolete against machine-gun fire, were left behind to guard the border and against the unlikely event of an Indian uprising.

In late 1917, Sonora military governor Gen. Plutarco Elías Calles asked the U.S. government to help stop the arms smugglers bringing weapons into Mexico. Meanwhile, local ranchers were complaining about bands of Yaqui trespassing and occasionally slaughtering their cattle for food and sandal leather.

The Nogales, Arizona, subdistrict commander, Col. J.C. Friers, issued orders for increased patrolling in the area, and forces from the 35th Infantry Regiment and the 10th Cavalry Regiment spread out to protect towns along the border. Among them were Capt. Frederick H.L. “Blondy” Ryder and his Troop E.

On January 8, cattleman and Ruby Mercantile owner Philip C. Clarke rode into camp to report that a neighbor found a freshly killed cow, with only parts of its hide stripped for sandals, in the mountains to the north. The carcass suggested the Yaqui must be nearby.

Capt. Ryder sent 1st. Lt. William Scott and other men to watch the trails, and about midday the following day, Scott signaled that the Yaqui were in sight and on the move. Troopers rode out to the location, dismounted, and advanced in a skirmish line through a draw but didn’t see the Indians. Heading back to the horses using a different route, Ryder stumbled upon a cache of discarded packs. The Yaqui were in the immediate vicinity and knew they were being pursued. The U.S. troops continued up the canyon until suddenly the Yaquis fired on them.

A 10th Cavalry historian, Col. Harold B. Wharfield, interviewed fighters from both sides of the fight and wrote the following:

“[T]he fighting developed into an old kind of Indian engagement with both sides using all the natural cover of boulders and brush to full advantage. The Yaquis kept falling back, dodging from boulder to boulder and firing rapidly. They offered only a fleeting target, seemingly just a disappearing shadow. The officer saw one of them running for another cover, then stumble and thereby expose himself. A corporal alongside of the captain had a good chance for an open shot. At the report of the Springfield, a flash of fire enveloped the Indian’s body for an instant, but he kept on to the rock.”

The troopers finally overtook a group of 10, who were covering for the escape of the rest of the band into Mexico, and took them captive. Ryder later wrote of the engagement that it “was a courageous stand by a brave group of Indians and the Cavalrymen treated them with the respect due to fighting men. Especially astonishing was the discovery that one of the Yaquis was an eleven-year old boy. The youngster had fought bravely alongside his elders, firing a rifle that was almost as long as he was tall.”

One of the prisoners, the chief of the group, had been grievously wounded. “This was the man who had been hit by my corporal’s shot,” Ryder wrote. “He was wearing two belts of ammunition around his waist and more over each shoulder. The bullet had hit one of the cartridges in his belt, causing it to be exploded, making the flash of fire I saw. Then the bullet entered one side and came out the other, laying his stomach open.”

It turned out the Yaqui had mistaken the Buffalo Soldiers for Mexican troops. The captives, including the wounded chief, were escorted to Nogales and stoically endured a miserable 20-mile ride on horses despite their lack of riding experience, arriving blistered and bloodily chafed. The chief died in the hospital the next day.

The surviving prisoners were held at Arivaca while the Army awaited orders from Washington and adapted so well to military life that they all, including the 11-year-old, volunteered to enlist. Eventually they were sent, in chains, to Tucson for trial in federal court, where they were charged with illegal exporting of arms without a license. The adults were sentenced to 30 days, a much preferable outcome than deportation to Mexico, where they would have been executed.

Museums and Historic Sites

What do Wild West Shows, Victorian mansions, sod houses, forts, battlefields, and prehistoric archaeological sites have in common? They are all right here in Oklahoma, where the diverse and exciting past unfolds across the state. Use the links below to explore Oklahoma Historical Society museums, historic homes, and military sites.

1 Atoka Museum and Civil War Cemetery 2 Cherokee Strip Museum and Rose Hill School 3 Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center 4 Chisholm Trail Museum and Horizon Hill 5 Museum of the Western Prairie 6 Oklahoma History Center 7 Oklahoma Route 66 Museum 8 Oklahoma Territorial Museum and Carnegie Library 9 Pioneer Woman Museum and Statue 10 Spiro Mounds Archaeological Center 11 Tom Mix Museum 12 White Hair Memorial 13 Will Rogers Memorial Museum 14 Cabin Creek Battlefield 15 Fort Gibson Historic Site 16 Fort Supply Historic Site 17 Fort Towson Historic Site 18 Honey Springs Battlefield 19 Fred and Addie Drummond Home 20 Henry and Anna Overholser Mansion 21 Hunter’s Home 22 Pawnee Bill Ranch and Museum 23 Sod House Museum 24 Will Rogers Birthplace Ranch

Sites and Battlefields of the American-Indian Wars - History

Massasoit and his men taught the Puritans how to grow crops in the New World and generally enjoyed good relationships with these new settlers. But in most areas, the colonists and Indians maintained an uneasy coexistence. The colonists brought disease to the Indians and took their land. Colonists often saw the Indians as godless and uncivilized. They sought to convert the natives and change their culture.

Fun facts Puritans- Image of Indian Wars

In 1675 and 1676, the Wampanoag leader, Metacom, (called King Philip by the colonists) formed an alliance with other tribes to fight the Puritans.

The Indians burned 12 villages near Providence and Boston.

In 1676, the Mohawks joined with the Puritans. The Puritans killed Metacom and carried his head on a stick. His wife and son were sold as slaves.

The war was over: two thousand colonists and four thousand Indians had been killed.

In the 1750s, the French and English were fighting for control of North America. The Algonquin Indians, allies with the French, often attacked British settlements to help the French.

In 1754, the British engaged in a battle with the French and Indian tribes, who fought from the cover of trees. Over half the British soldiers were killed. George Washington realized that the troops must change their tactic of fighting in formation in open fields.

In 1756, England formally declared war on France. William Pitt, leader of Parliament, focused Britain’s military focus on defeating the French in North America. The Iroquois tribes, the colonists, and the British military worked together, attacking Fort Niagara and Lake Champlain. In 1763, gave up all claims to North America.

2. Godless: uncivilized, without religion

3. Coexistence: living or existing together

Questions and Answers

Question: Did the wars between the Indians and the colonists end after the Revolutionary War?

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  • According to Mandan oral history, Double Ditch was one of seven to nine villages simultaneously occupied near the mouth of the Heart River.

The Protection of Indian Sacred Sites Advisory Council DA: 12 PA: 50 MOZ Rank: 86

  • In the Section 106 context, the term “sacred sites” is sometimes used as shorthand for historic properties of religious and cultural significance to Indian tribes or Native Hawaiian organizations
  • As with other kinds of properties, sacred sites must be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places in order to be considered in the Section 106 process.

Native American History Minnesota Historical Society DA: 12 PA: 22 MOZ Rank: 59

  • Native American History | Minnesota Historical Society
  • The Dakota and Ojibwe were Minnesota’s first peoples, and their stories — shared at the sites below — are vital to understanding our history.

Top 10 Historical Monuments in India DA: 15 PA: 6 MOZ Rank: 47

Top 10 Places to visit in India,Top 10 Famous Monuments in India, Top 10 Tourist Destinations in India, Top 10 Famous places in India, Top 10 Historical Monu

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