Emigrant Deaths

“Gold fever unleashed a white tsunami across native lands, eroding emigrant-Indian relations and muddying heretofore friendly waters. Hordes of emigrant cattle stripped grass from river valleys. Emigrant campfires burned up sparse wood supplies. The noise and chaos of the wagon trains probably drove game away from the river valleys. Disease followed the wagons and stayed when they had gone. Unhappy Indians began to demand payment for passage across their lands. Most emigrants scoffed at the notion that Indians could lay claim to land. Armed to the teeth and banded into large trains akin to mobile armies, many emigrants refused to pay such tribute and threatened reprisal if Indians pressed too hard. Confrontations and general hostility escalated. Even in the worst years, though, far fewer emigrants died from Indian attacks than died from disease. In the 20 year period from 1840 to 1860, there are 362 documented instances of emigrant death from Indians. Estimates of total emigrant deaths during the same period range from 10,000 to 30,000. In other words, Indians probably caused somewhere from 1 to 4 percent of emigrant fatalities. More Indians died at emigrant hands than vice versa; in that same 20-year period, there are 426 documented reports of Indians killed by emigrants.”