Study Notes

The American West (c1835-c1895): Impact of Railroads on Plains Indians


Last updated 15 Jul 2024

The Fort Laramie Treaty (1851) stipulated that Plains Indians had to allow railroad construction teams on their land. This had a huge impact on the Plains Indians way of life. The land grants that the railroad companies were given took away land from the Plains Indians.

It also greatly disrupted buffalo hunting, as fences around new white settler’s lands and the railroad blocked the buffalo migrations. Furthermore, railroad workers often killed buffalo for meat or leather, or hunted them for sport.

Some tribes who lived near the railroad signed treaties that forced them to move to reservations. For example, the Pawnee, Omaha, Santee Sioux and Winnebago tribes all moved to reservations as a result of the construction of the railroad.

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