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Tensions between whites and native peoples in Nevada


Mining town in Nevada
Mining town in Nevada

Tensions between whites and native peoples in Nevada had begun with the early fur trading expeditions of the 1820s and 1830s. Settlers traveling to California disrupted the nomadic habits of the native peoples and exhausted food resources along the Humboldt River route. Later, miners’ demands for fuel to process ore destroyed many of the piñon pines from which native inhabitants gathered pine nuts for their winter food supply. Clashes between Native Americans and whites occurred sporadically until the mining rush to Virginia City sparked the Pyramid Lake War in 1860. The U.S. government had created the Pyramid Lake Reservation in 1859 to provide Native Americans with land away from white settlers. The next year local native inhabitants killed two white prospectors after they had kidnapped two young native women.

When news about the killing of the whites reached towns around the Comstock Lode, a volunteer army formed and set off to take revenge. Paiutes on and near the Pyramid Lake Reservation had not been involved in the original attack, but they had determined to defend their land against the constant encroachment of whites. When the disorganized army of whites reached Pyramid Lake, the Paiutes attacked, killing 76 men and wounding most of those who escaped. United States cavalry troops from California were called and exacted revenge in a second battle at Pyramid Lake in which perhaps 160 Paiutes were killed; the rest were forced to return to the Pyramid Lake Reservation. Some chose to live on the margins of white society providing ranch, farm, and domestic labor. Others joined groups of Paiute and Shoshone that continued to raid farms and isolated way stations into the late 1870s.

In the late 1880s Wovoka, a Northern Paiute, began teaching the ghost dance, which some Native Americans believed would enable them to recover their original land, to reunite them with their ancestors, and to make it possible for them to live in eternal peace and prosperity. The Plains peoples, especially in the Dakotas, soon performed the ghost dance nightly. The U.S. government tried to eliminate the dance, which they regarded as a sign of rebellion. On December 29, 1890, U.S. soldiers killed more than 200 Lakota (Sioux) men, women, and children at Wounded Knee, South Dakota. "Nevada" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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