American Indian Wars

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American Indian Wars
U.S. Army-Cavalry Pursuing Indians-1876.jpg
Perpetrator: Spanish Empire
Kingdom of France
Kingdom of England
Kingdom of Scotland
British Empire
Dutch Empire
Swedish Empire
British America
British North America
Dominion of Canada
Dominion of Newfoundland
Russian Empire (1721-1867)
United States (1776-1924)
Vermont Republic (1777-1791)
Portuguese Empire
Republic of Texas (1836-1846)
Confederate States (1861-1865)
Native American tribes
Date: 1609–1924
Location: North America
Motive: To remove Native Americans from their lands for white settlers (partially succeeded)
Crimes: Genocide
War crimes
Forced assimilation
Ethnic cleansing
Anti-Native American Sentiment
Crimes against humanity
The Indian wars under the government of the United States have been more than 40 in number. They have cost the lives of about 19,000 white men, women and children, including those killed in individual combats, and the lives of about 30,000 Indians. The actual number of killed and wounded Indians must be very much higher than the number given ... Fifty percent additional would be a safe estimate.
~ Report from the Bureau of Indian Affairs regarding the wars.

The American Indian Wars, also known as the American Frontier Wars, the First Nations Wars in Canada (French: Guerres des Premières Nations), and the Indian Wars, were fought by European governments and colonists, and later by the United States and Canadian governments and American and Canadian settlers, against various Amerindian tribes. These conflicts occurred in North America from the time of the earliest colonial settlements in the 17th century until the early 20th century. The wars were part of the ongoing genocidal campaigns against the indigenous peoples of the Americas and Canada during this time period.

List of wars

  • Tiguex War (1540-1541) – Fought in the winter of 1540-41 by the army of Francisco Vasquez de Coronado against the 12 pueblos of Tiwa people along both sides of the Rio Grande in New Mexico. It was the first war between Europeans and Native Americans in the American West.
  • Powhatan Wars (1622-1644) - Following an initial period of peaceful relations in Virginia, a 12-year conflict left many natives and colonists dead.
  • Pequot War (1636-1637) - Taking place in Connecticut and Rhode Island, the death of a colonist eventually led to the destruction of 600-700 natives. The remainder were sold into slavery in Bermuda.
  • Iroquois Confederacy vs Hurons (1647-1649) – An armed conflict between the Iroquois confederacy and the Hurons, resulting in mass killings and assimilation done to the Hurons as a result.
  • King Philip’s War (1675-1676) –  King Philip’s War erupts in New England between colonists and Native Americans as a result of tensions over colonist’s expansionist activities. The bloody war rages up and down the Connecticut River valley in Massachusetts and in the Plymouth and Rhode Island colonies, eventually resulting in 600 English colonials being killed and 3,000 Native Americans, including women and children, on both sides. King Philip (the colonist’s nickname for Metacomet, chief of the Wampanoag) is hunted down and killed on August 12, 1676, in a swamp in Rhode Island, ending the war in southern New England. In New Hampshire and Maine, the Saco Amerindians continue to raid settlements for another year and a half.
  • Pueblo Revolt (1680-1692) – In Arizona and New Mexico, Pueblo Amerindians led by Popé, rebelled against the Spanish and lived independently for 12 years. The Spanish re-conquered them in 1692.
  • King William’s War (1689–1697) – The first of the French and Indian Wars, King William’s War was fought between England, France, and their respective Amerindian allies in the colonies of Canada (New France), Acadia, and New England. It was also known as the Second Indian War (the first having been King Philip’s War).
  • Tuscarora War (1711) – Taking place in North Carolina, the Tuscarora War, led by Chief Hancock, was fought between the British, Dutch, and German settlers and the Tuscarora Amerindians. In an attempt to drive the colonists out of their territory, the tribe attacked several settlements, killing settlers and destroying farms. In 1713, James Moore and Yamasee warriors defeated the Amerindians.
  • Yamasee War (1715-1718) – In southern Carolina, an Amerindian confederation led by the Yamasee came close to exterminating a white settlement in their region.
  • French and Indian War (1754-1763) – A conflict between France and Britain for possession of North America. For various motivations, most Algonquian tribes allied with the French, the Iroquois with the British.
  • Cherokee Uprising (1760-1762) – A breakdown in relations between the British and the Cherokee leads to a general uprising in present-day Tennessee, Virginia, and the Carolinas.
  • Pontiac’s Rebellion (1763) – In the Ohio River Valley, War Chief Pontiac and a large alliance drove out the British at every post except Detroit. After besieging the fort for five months, they withdrew to find food for the winter.
  • Lord Dunmore’s War (1774) – Shawnee and Mingo Amerindians raided a wave of traders and settlers in the southern Ohio River Valley. Governor Dunmore of Virginia sent in 3,000 soldiers and defeated 1,000 natives.
  • Chickamauga Wars (1776-1794) – A series of conflicts that were a continuation of the Cherokee struggle against white encroachment. Led by Dragging Canoe, who was called the Chickamauga by colonials, the Cherokee fought white settlers in Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.
  • Old Northwest War (1785-1795) – Fighting occurred in Ohio and Indiana. Following two humiliating defeats at the hands of native warriors, the Americans won a decisive victory under “Mad Anthony” Wayne at the Battle of Fallen Timbers.
  • Peoria War (Sept 19 – Oct 21, 1813) – An armed conflict between the U. S. Army and the Potawatomi and the Kickapoo that took place in the Peoria County, Illinois area.
  • Creek War (1814) – Militiamen under Andrew Jackson, broke the power of Creek raiders known as the Red Sticks in Georgia and Alabama after the Red Sticks had attacked Fort Mims and massacred settlers. They relinquished a vast land tract.
  • First Seminole War (1816-1818) – The Seminole, defending runaway slaves and their land in Florida, fought Andrew Jackson’s force. Jackson failed to subdue them but forced Spain to relinquish the territory.
  • Winnebago War (1827) – Also referred to as the Le Fèvre Indian War, this armed conflict took place in Wisconsin between the Winnebago and military forces. Losses of lives were minimal, but the war was a precedent to the much larger Black Hawk War.
  • Black Hawk War (1832) – Occurring in northern Illinois and southwestern Wisconsin, it was the last native conflict in the area. Led by Chief Black Hawk, the Sac and Fox tribes made an unsuccessful attempt to move back to their homeland.
  • Second Seminole War (1835-1842) – Under Chief Osceola, the Seminole resumed fighting for their land in the Florida Everglades. Osceola was captured, and they were nearly eliminated.
  • Comanche Wars (1836-1875) – On the southern plains, primarily in the Texas Republic, there were many conflicts with the Comanche. The U.S. Military instituted official campaigns against the Comanche in 1867.
  • Creek War of 1836 (1836) – Though most Creeks ad been forced to Indian Territory, those that remained rebelled when the state moved to abolish tribal governments and extend state laws over the Creeks.
  • Cherokee War (1839) – This war was a culmination of friction between the Cherokee, Kickapoo, and Shawnee Indians and the white settlers in Northeast Texas.
  • Cayuse War (1848-1855) –  Occurring in Oregon Territory and Washington Territory, the conflict between the Cayuse and white settlers was caused in part by the influx of disease and resulting in the Whitman Massacre and the Cayuse War.
  • Navajo Conflicts (1849-1863) – Persistent fighting between the Navajo and the U.S. Army in Arizona and New Mexico led to their expulsion and incarceration on an inhospitable reservation far from their homelands.
  • Mariposa War (1850-1851) – Spawned by the flood of miners rushing onto their lands after the California Gold Rush, some tribes fought back, including the Paiute and the Yokut.
  • Utah Indian Wars (1851-1853) – Numerous skirmishes throughout Utah finally lead to the Walker War.
  • Walker War (1853) – When the Mormons began to settle on the hunting grounds of the Ute Amerindians of Utah, they were at first friendly, then fought back.
  • Sioux Wars (1854-1890) – As white settlers moved across the Mississippi River into Minnesota, South Dakota, and Wyoming, the Sioux under Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse resisted to keep their hunting grounds.
  • Snake River War (1855) – Fighting occurred at the junction of the Tucannon River and the Snake River in Washington Territory.
  • Third Seminole War (1855-1858) – Under Chief Billy Bowlegs, the Seminole mounted their final stand against the U.S. in the Florida Everglades. When Bowlegs surrendered, he and others were deported to Indian Territory in Oklahoma.
  • Rogue River Wars (1855-1856) – In the Rogue River Valley area southern Oregon, a conflict between the area Amerindians and white settlers increased, eventually breaking into open warfare.
  • Yakima War (1855-1858) – A conflict of land rights in Washington state, involving the Nisqually, Muckleshoot, Puyallup, and Klickitat tribes in the state of Washington. The central figure of the war, Nisqually Chief Leschi, was executed.
  • Klamath and Salmon Indian Wars (January-March, 1855) – Klamath and Salmon River War, aka Klamath War, or Red Cap War, occurred in Klamath County, California, after local miners wanted Indians disarmed due to rumors of an uprising. Some of the Native Americans of the Yurok and Karok tribes refused, leading to hostilities resulting in the state militia and U.S. Army involvement.
  • Tintic War (February 1856) – A short series of skirmishes occurring in Tintic and Cedar Valleys of Utah after the conclusion of the Walker War.
  • Antelope Hills Expedition (January-May,1858) – A campaign by Texas Rangers and members of allied tribes against the Comanche and Kiowa in Texas and Oklahoma.
  • Coeur d’Alene War (1858) – Also known as the Spokane-Coeur d’Alene-Paloos War, this second phase of the Yakima War was a series of encounters between the Coeur d’Alene, Spokane, Palouse, and Northern Paiute tribes and U.S. forces in the Washington and Idaho areas.
  • Mendocino War (1859) – A conflict between settlers and Amerindians in California that took place in 1859. Several hundred Amerindians were killed.
  • California Indian Wars (1860-1865) – Numerous battles and skirmishes against Hupa, Wiyot, Yurok, Tolowa, Nomlaki, Chimariko, Tsnungwe, Whilkut, Karuk, Wintun, and others.
  • Navajo Wars (1861-1864) – Occurring in Arizona and New Mexico Territories, it ended with the Long Walk of the Navajo.
  • Apache Attacks (1861-1900) – In New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas, numerous Apache bands rejected reservation life, and under Geronimo, Cochise, and others, staged hundreds of attacks on outposts. Geronimo finally surrendered in 1886; others fought on until 1900.
  • Sioux War of 1862 (August-September, 1862) – Skirmishes in the southwestern quadrant of Minnesota resulted in the deaths of several hundred white settlers. In the largest mass execution in U.S. history, 38 Dakota were hanged. About 1,600 others were sent to a reservation in present-day South Dakota.
  • Cheyenne War of 1864 (August-November, 1864) – In the early 1860s, the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes were suffering terrible conditions on their reservation and, in the summer of 1864, began to retaliate by attacking stagecoaches and settlements along the Oregon Trail.
  • Colorado War (1864-1865) - Fought between the Sioux, Cheyenne, Arapaho tribes and the U.S. Army for control of Colorado. The Sand Creek Massacre took place during the Colorado War.
  • Apache Wars (1864-1886) – When the Mescalero Apaches were placed on a reservation with Navajo at Fort Sumner, New Mexico, the war began and continued until 1886, when Geronimo surrendered.
  • Ute Wars (1865-1879) – The Ute nation rose episodically against white settlers in Utah as the Mormons relentlessly took over their lands and exhausted their resources.
  • Red Cloud’s War (1866-1868) – Lakota Chief Red Cloud conducts the most successful attacks against the U.S. Army during the Indian Wars. By the Treaty of Fort Laramie (1868), the U.S. granted a large reservation to the Lakota without military presence or oversight, no settlements, and no reserved road-building rights. The reservation included the entire Black Hills.
  • Comanche Campaign (1867-1875) – Major General Philip Sheridan, in command of the Department of the Missouri, instituted winter campaigning in 1868–69 to root out the elusive Amerindian tribes scattered throughout the border regions of Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, and Texas.
  • Modoc War (1872-1873) – Fighting northern California and southern Oregon, Captain Jack and followers fled from their reservation to the lava beds of Tule Lake, where they held out against soldiers for six months. Major General Edward Canby was killed during a peace conference—the only general to be killed during the Indian Wars. Captain Jack was hanged for the killing.
  • Red River War (1874-1875) – Occurring in northwestern Texas, William Tecumseh Sherman and Ranald Mackenzie led a campaign of more than 14 battles against the Arapaho, Comanche, Cheyenne, and Kiowa tribes, who eventually surrendered.
  • Black Hills War (1876-1877) – Also called the Sioux War of 1876, the Lakota under Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse fought the U.S. after repeated violations of the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie.
  • Nez Perce War (1877) – Occurring in Oregon, Idaho, and Montana, the Nez Perce were fighting to keep their home in Wallowa Valley. Chief Joseph retreated from the 1st U.S. Cavalry through Idaho, Yellowstone Park, and Montana after a group of Nez Perce attacked and killed a group of Anglo settlers in early 1877. They surrendered near the border to Nelson Miles’ soldiers.
  • Bannock War (1878) – Elements of the 21st U.S. Infantry, 4th U.S. Artillery, and 1st U.S. Cavalry engaged the natives of southern Idaho, including the Bannock and Paiute, when the tribes threatened rebellion in 1878, dissatisfied with their land allotments.
  • White River War (1879) – The war was fought between Ute Amerindians and the U.S. Army Buffalo Soldiers near the area of the White River that passes through both the states of Colorado and Utah.
  • Ghost Dance Uprising (1890-1891) – An armed conflict between the U.S. government and Native Americans that resulted from a religious movement called the Ghost Dance. The conflict included the Wounded Knee Massacre and the Pine Ridge Campaign.


The various wars resulted from a wide variety of factors. The European powers and their colonies also enlisted allied Amerindian tribes to help them conduct warfare against each other's colonial settlements. After the American Revolution, many conflicts were local to specific states or regions and frequently involved disputes over land use; some entailed cycles of violent reprisal. Under the doctrine of vacuum domicilium first employed by John Locke in 1690, the settlers believed that the natives lacked any concept of property rights, which gave them the justification to annex their lands.

As settlers spread westward across North America after 1780, armed conflicts increased in size, duration, and intensity between settlers and various Amerindian tribes. The climax came in the War of 1812, when major Amerindian coalitions in the Midwest and the South fought against the United States and lost. Conflict with settlers became much less common and was usually resolved by treaty, often through sale or exchange of territory between the federal government and specific tribes. The Indian Removal Act of 1830 authorized the American government to enforce Native American removal from east of the Mississippi River to Indian Territory west on the American frontier, especially what became Oklahoma. The federal policy of removal was eventually refined in the West, as American settlers kept expanding their territories, to relocate Amerindian tribes to reservations.


The 2010 United States Census found 2,932,248 Americans who identified themselves as being American Indian or Alaskan Native, about 0.9% of the US population. The Canada 2011 Census found 1,836,035 Canadians who identified themselves as being First Nations (or Inuit or Métis), about 4.3% of the Canadian population. No consensus exists on how many people lived in the Americas before the arrival of Europeans, but extensive research continues to be conducted. Contemporary estimates range from 2.1 million to 18 million people living on the North American continent prior to European colonization, but the US Census Bureau claimed in 1894 that North America was an almost empty continent in 1492 and that Amerindian populations "could not have exceeded much over 500,000", to which that claim has been debunked by the findings of several ancient civilizations such as the Mississippian and Puebloan cultures.

The number of Amerindians dropped to below half a million in the 19th century because of mass epidemics, conflict with Europeans, wars between tribes, assimilation, migration to Canada and Mexico, and declining birth rates. The main cause was infectious diseases carried by European explorers and traders. The United States Census Bureau (1894) provided their estimate of deaths due specifically to war during the 102 years between 1789 and 1891, including 8,500 Indians and 5,000 whites killed in "individual affairs".

To this day, Native Americans are left disadvantaged on their own lands, due to them being treated by the BIA as wards who are incapable of governing their own affairs and lacking the rights to control their lands without permission from a bureaucrat at the Department of the Interior, as the 56 million acres of land on their reservations are held in trust by the U.S. government.