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The Military Conquest of the Prairie

Native American Resistance, Evasion and Survival, 1865–1890

Tore T. Petersen is Professor of International and American Diplomatic History at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. He is the author of The Middle East between the Great Powers: Anglo-American Conflict and Cooperation, 1952–7, The Decline of the Anglo-American Middle East, 1961–1969, and Richard Nixon, Great Britain and the Anglo-American Alignment in the Persian Gulf and Arabian Peninsula. His most recent publication is Anglo-American Policy toward the Persian Gulf, 1978–1985.

The Military Conquest of the Prairie is a study on the final wars on the prairie from the Native American perspective. When the reservation system took hold about one-third of tribes stayed permanently there, one-third during the harsh winter months, and the last third remained on what the government termed unceded territory, which Native Americans had the right to occupy by treaty. For the Federal government it was completely unacceptable that some Indians refused to submit to its authority. Both the Red River war (187475) in the south and the great Sioux war (187677 ) in the north were the direct result of Federal violation of treaties and agreements. At issue was the one-sided violence against free roaming tribes that were trying to maintain their old way of life, at the heart of which was avoidance on intermingling with white men.

Contrary to the expectations of the government, and indeed to most historical accounts, the Native Americans were winning on the battlefields with clear conceptions of strategy and tactics. They only laid down their arms when their reservation was secured on their homeland, thus providing their preferred living space and enabling them to continue their way of life in security. But white man perfidy and governmental double-cross were the order of the day. The Federal government found it intolerable that what it termed ‘savages’ should be able to determine their own future. Vicious attacks were initiated in order to stamp out tribalism, resulting in driving the US aboriginal population almost to extinction. Analysis of these events is discussed in light of the passing of the Dawes Act in 1887 that provided for breaking up the reservations to the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 that gave a semblance of justice to Native Americans.

Hardback ISBN: 978-1-84519-544-1
Hardback Price: £65.00 / $79.95
Release Date: July 2016
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-84519-545-8
Paperback Price: £27.50 / $39.95
Release Date: July 2016
Page Extent / Format: 256 pp. / 234 x 156 mm
Illustrated: Yes, in colour and mono




The United States Army and the Indians 

The Other Side of the Hill: Warrior Prowess and Political Power in Plains Indian Societies 

Palo Duro Canyon: The Battle that Never Was in a Campaign to the Benefit of the Army 

Crazy Horse and the Question of Native American Military Leadership  

Winning the War, Losing the Peace? 

VI         Revenge                                                                                               

VII        Survival                                                                                               


Arguing that Native Americans were better fighters than the US military, the author describes the Red River War (1874–1875) in the south and the great Sioux War (1876–1877) in the north from the Native American perspective and the role of Native American armed resistance, evasion, and survival against the genocidal policies of the American government. He discusses the final campaigns, to early reservation life, to Federal Indian policy from the Dawes Act in 1887 to the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934.

The author was interviewed by Ryan Tripp on New Books Network in March 2018, on

Reviewed by Susannah Hopson, University of Hull, in American Nineteenth Century History, August 2018

Reviewed by Michael P. Irvin, Park University, Fort Belvoir, Virginia, in the Journal of Military History, August 2018

Petersen proves a steady hand at drawing us in to revisit a past he rightly concludes is far from settled and reminds us of the need to question our biases, wherever we may find them, even when the answers can make us uncomfortable.
Eric P. Anderson, Indigenous and American Indian Studies, Haskell Indian Nations University, writing in the Canadian Journal of Native Studies XXXVIII, 1 (2018)

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