Women and Native Americans

When making the journey westward, it was nearly impossible to avoid Native Americans altogether. In Montana, the Crow was the largest group of Native Americans, but there were other tribes such as the Blackfoot, Gros Ventre, Piegan and even the Bannacks, for which Bannack Montana is named. [1] During the mid-eighteen hundreds, anti-Indian sentiments were rampant. These feelings had been prominent since the early colonial period when Europeans first made contact with the indigenous peoples of the Americas and had only grown stronger. [2] According to diaries of women during this time, their feelings toward Native Americans were mixed. Some women saw Native Americans solely as “deficient in morality, uncivilized, and brutalized,” according to Glenda Riley, [3]  while others viewed them as “helpful guides and purveyors of services,” in the words of Lilian Schlissel. [4] The majority of women, however, either viewed Native Americans positively and negatively simultaneously or changed their opinion gradually from negative to positive. [5] Kate Dunlap would be a part of the mixed sentiment group as she discusses Native Americans in both positive and negative lights in her diary.

Regardless of the opinion women held toward Native Americans, they were still, as a group, one of the most dangerous aspects of the trail westward. In mining towns, such as Bannack, the possibility of an attack was more perilous than other places in the west because of the extreme isolation [6] largely due to their location in the mountains. [7] Women also had to be particularly wary because “white women were objects of curiosity for the savages,” in the words of William Sprague, and consequently many Native Americans would demand the wives of pioneers in trading arrangements or simply steal white women away. [8] Kate often wrote of attacks and the worries she had that her camp would be attacked as well.

Positive and Neutral Mentions of Native Americans

May 18, 1864

May 26, 1864

May 27, 1864

June 8, 1864

June 17, 1864

July 27, 1864

August 16, 1864

Negative Mentions of Native Americans

May 28, 1864

June 4, 1864

June 6, 1864

June 7, 1864

June 9, 1864

June 16, 1864

June 20, 1864

June 23, 1864

August 16, 1864

[1]Ralph H. Brown, Historical Geography of the United States, ed. J. Russell Whitaker (New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, Inc., 1948), 365.

[2]Glenda Riley, Women and Indians on the Frontier, 1825-1915 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1984), 17.

[3]Glenda Riley, Women and Indians on the Frontier, 1825-1915 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1984), 250.

[4]Lillian Schlissel, Women’s Diaries of the Westward Journey, ed. Gerda Lerner (New York: Shocken Books, 1982), 14.

[5]Glenda Riley, Women and Indians on the Frontier, 1825-1915 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1984), 205.

[6]Rodman Wilson Paul, Mining Frontiers of the Far West: 1848-1880, ed. Ray Allen Billington (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc., 1963), 143.

[7]William Forrest Sprague, Women and the West: A Short Social History (Boston: The Christopher Publishing House, 1940), 107.

[8]William Forrest Sprague, Women and the West: A Short Social History (Boston: The Christopher Publishing House, 1940), 109.

Published in: ||on November 21st, 2011 |No Comments »
css.php