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Book Review - America's Westward Expansion Series - Pioneer Life in the American West by Christy Steele

America's Westward Expansion Series - Pioneer Life in the American West by Christy Steele - ISBN#0-8368-5790-9

Learn how the U.S. government once gave away millions of acres of free land under the Homestead Act. In many cases, the "free" land wound up costing many pioneers much more than they had bargained for, causing some financial ruin and even death. This volume explains the hazardous challenges of daily pioneer life, such as finding food, water and fuel that people needed to survive.


1820 - The Land Law of 1820 offered public lands for sale in 80-acre lots at $1.25 per acre (or $100 per parcel). Land speculators bought up lots and re-sold them at higher prices or split them into smaller units and sold them for a profit.
1830 - President Andrew Jackson enforces a Native American removal policy to obtain their land (in today's Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Montana, and the Dakotas) to eventually give to settlers. This land was known as the "Great American Desert".
1840's - Settlers bypassed the "sea of grass" to settle in California and the Pacific Northwest.
1841 - Pre-Emption Act of 1841 helped squatters to buy legal title to the land they occupied.
1862 - Homestead Act gave title of 160 acres to settlers after improving the land within 5 years (building a house, farming, etc).
The government gave acres of free land grants to the railroad companies who then sold choice land tracks to settlers to finance the railroad construction. They often lured European immigrants to purchase the land (since Americans could get free land already). The railroad even offered transportation to the land for them to buy.
1890 - Open-range ranching was over due to the invention of barbed wire (in 1873).
Sod houses: the homesteader would stack slabs of sod (grass-side down) to form the walls, formed a roof with cottonwood branches and covered that with more sod (grass-side up). This settled for several weeks, then they coated the inside walls with plaster or whitewash paste. The dirt floor had to be raked often to keep it even. Withstood fire and wind well, but insects, snakes, and mice lived within the walls. If it rained too much, the roof (and probably the walls) collapsed. Eventually, successful homesteaders imported timber to build wood-framed homes.
1837 - John Deere invented the steel plot
1845 - Texas becomes a state
1848 - James Marshall finds gold at Sutter's Mill
1850 - California becomes a state
1860 - The Pony Express starts delivering mail
1864 - Nevada becomes a state
1869 - The Transcontinental Railroad is completed
1900 - Hawaii becomes a state
1907 - Oklahoma becomes a state
1912 - New Mexico and Arizona become states

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Book Review - The Sioux of the Great Northern Plains by Pete DiPrimio

The Sioux of the Great Northern Plains (We Were Here First: the Native Americans) - by Pete DiPrimio - ISBN#978-1624690754

Sitting Bull had a vision of a great Sioux victory, but would he live to see it? Crazy Horse had an almost mythical ability to avoid death, but would it last? These were two of the greatest chiefs of the Sioux Nation, a mighty Native American people who once ruled the plains and prairies between the Rocky Mountains and the Great Lakes. The Sioux were great warriors and buffalo hunters. They were master horsemen who roamed the country living in teepees and keeping up with buffalo herds. They fought the U. S. government to keep their land and way of life. Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse led a historic victory over General George Custer in the Battle of the Little Bighorn before they were eventually beaten and driven into reservations. The Massacre at Wounded Knee ended the SiouxĂ­s dream of returning to their old way of life, but not their desire to be free. This is their story.

Dream Catchers - a small round net with feathers attached. Native Americans believed the air was filled with good and bad dreams. The good dreams passed through the center hole to a sleeping person while the bad dreams get caught in the net and are destroyed by the riding sun.
The Sioux had ruled the Great Plains (North and South Dakota, Wyoming and Montana) until 1850 when the white settlers arrived.
1868 - A Treaty was signed which gave the Black Hills (South Dakota) area to the Sioux, but by 1874 gold was found and thousands of settlers came to take over the land.
Spanish introduced horses in the late 1500's.
The Sioux broke into several loosely connected tribes (confederacy) and spoke 3 dialects/styles of language (Dakota, Lakota, and Nakota).
The Sioux believe they are descended from a great spotted eagle (Wanblee Galeshka).
Only the bravest warrior could wear grizzly bear claw necklace
Sky spirits were called Thunderbirds
Each tribe had 1 medicine man who performed ceremonies. Each ceremony honored one spirit at a time.
The number four was symbolic: four sacred colors (white, yellow, red, black) which represented the four elements (air, water, fire, earth) and the four directions (north, south, east, west), 4 seasons, and 4 cycles of life (birth, life, death, afterlife).
Seven Fires Council - main Sioux government/7 tribe chiefs
Sitting Bull had 5 wives (Light Hair, Four Robes, Scarlet Woman, Snow-on-Her, and Seen-by-Her-Nation) and four children (Crow Foot, Many Horses, One Bull, and Walks Looking).
Boys started hunting buffalo at age 10.

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Book Review - The California Gold Rush by Elizabeth Van Steenwyk

"The California Gold Rush" by Elizabeth Van Steenwyk - ISBN#0531200329

Grade 5-7-- An advantage this book has over Rhoda Blumberg's excellent The Great American Gold Rush (Bradbury, 1989) is the lack of footnote style and a good many illustrations in some kind of color--if only a wash. There is not much that can be added to the story of the California gold rush, but Van Steenwyk tries. The discovery of gold at Sutter's mill is somewhat more dramatic and vivid than in other accounts. However, a statement that sea-traveling rushers were called Argonauts "after the gold seekers in Greek mythology" makes one wonder whether gold nuggets and the golden fleece can be equated. Mention, and a picture, of Lola Montez, a gold camp entertainer, is a plus. The story of foreign miners who came to California, particularly the Chinese, enlarges readers' knowledge. Two full-page, useful maps and a helpful glossary round out this attractive addition to literature on the topic. --George Gleason, Department of English, Southwest Missouri State University, Springfield Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

1839 - John Augustus Sutter (originally from Switzerland) arrived in California. Sutter applied for Mexican citizenship in order to receive a land grant of 50,000 acres in the Sacramento Valley. He built an adobe fort near the south bank of the American River. He named this land New Helvetia (Helvetia was another name for Switzerland).
January 1848 - There were 300 people at Sutter's Fort.
January 14, 1848 - Marhsall found a gold pebble.
Second week of March, the news of this discovery finally reached San Francisco. By March 15th, it appeared in newsprint (on the last page of the San Francisco "Californian").
December 5, 1848 - President James K. Polk delivered news to Congress of gold discovery; the rush was finally on.
1949 - 50,000 people rushed to California ("forty-niners"), enduring illness, hard living conditions, bad weather and violent crime. They often moved camp to camp. 15,000 people traveled around Cape Horn or through the Strait of Magellan - they dealt with gales, storms, fires, food spoilage/shortages, seasickness, unsanitary conditions, and overcrowding.

Once the emigrants arrived, they needed transportation to the "diggings" as well as supplies and room & board. A small room rented for $50/month (whereas back East it would only cost $5/month). A pair of boots or a blanket were $100 each. A shovel was $50.
1850 - California became a state. 56,000 people were in San Francisco.
Gold dust became currency.
Preachers rode through to preach; most miners rested on Sundays. Holidays (like Fourth of July) was celebrated. Professional entertainers were paid with gold dust including singers, dancers and actors. Lola Montez was a famous Irish dancer of this time.
People came from all over the world. In 1850, there were 600 Chinese. By 1855, there were 25,000.
Women were still scarce. In 1853, women only accounted for 15% of the population.

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