Their skin was dark. Their languages were foreign. And their world views and spiritual beliefs were beyond most white men’s comprehension.
While Mary was ultimately returned to her white family—and some evidence points to her having lived happily with her adopted Indian tribe—stories such as hers became a cautionary tale among white settlers, stoking fear of “savage” Indians and creating a paranoia that escalated into all-out Indian hating.
|A group of Native Americans look at a sailing ship in the bay below them. (Credit: Corbis/Getty Images)|
From the time Europeans arrived on American shores, the frontier—the edge territory between white man’s civilization and the untamed natural world—became a shared space of vast, clashing differences that led the U.S. government to authorize over 1,500 wars, attacks and raids on Indians, the most of any country in the world against its indigenous people. By the close of the Indian Wars in the late 19th century, fewer than 238,000 indigenous people remained, a sharp decline from the estimated 5 million to 15 million living in North America when Columbus arrived in 1492.
Battle of White Bird Canyon: For the historian in you..there are many interesting narratives about this “first fight of the Nez Perce”; here is one of them.