Trade, Transportation, And Warfare (American Indian Contributions to the World)
South of the forty-ninth parallel but most of all in the Dakotas, much talk and some action occurred in the s and later for the creation of "farmers' railroads. Since capital would be limited, farmers and townspeople—anyone who lived along the projected line—would be asked to donate rights-of-way and to contribute their labor. Animal teams would shape the roadbed, and crossties would be harvested from nearby stands of trees. When grading was completed and ties had been furnished, the infant road would be bonded to raise funds to purchase the cheapest suitable rail and rolling stock.
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The ultimate fate of the finished project usually remained flexible. The road might be sold or leased to a major trunk carrier with the understanding that customers would receive the lowest possible rates and best service. Or, more likely, the line would be operated indefinitely as a cooperative enterprise. Except for several pikes, most notably the Farmers' Grain and Shipping Company and the Fairmount and Veblen, the movement at best produced only "paper" or "hot-air" schemes in the United States.
In the Prairie Provinces, the "farmers' railways" played an even more limited role. Prairie farmers suffered from high freight rates, but they were partly mitigated by the dense branch line system, which left few areas in need of rail facilities. The failure of self-help in the railroad sector, reminiscent of the earlier collapse of state exchanges of the Farmers Alliance which sought to put control of selling farm produce and buying supplies in the hands of farmers , prompted the disaffected residents of the Great Plains to flock to the standard of the People's Party Populists and to make loud demands for public ownership of the railroad enterprise.
Not all residents of the Plains, however, considered the railroad industry to be a public enemy. In Nebraska, for instance, townspeople frequently refrained from confrontation with the carriers, realizing that an all-out assault on them might damage their abilities to attract outside capital and therefore hinder development.
While differences emerged between residents of the Great Plains about how they should respond to railroad policies and practices, nearly everyone endorsed industry efforts to develop what once had been considered the "Great American Desert. Although railroads sought to profit from lot sales, they primarily wanted to settle the territory along their routes. A similar sentiment prevailed in the Prairie Provinces, where, in the early nineteenth century, the Canadian Pacific launched elaborate irrigation projects to promote the region's agricultural capacity and settlement.
Since rails usually preceded settlement, carriers and their town-site satellites selected the station locations, usually every five to fifteen miles along their lines; acquired the necessary real estate; and surveyed lots and streets. A public auction might take place for the sale of the commercial and residential parcels, and newspaper, pamphlet, and broadside advertising would follow to "boom" the infant community, surely a "New Chicago" or a "New Toronto.
Situated on the eastern edge of the Prairies, midway between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, Winnipeg was the natural focus of trunk lines. The transcontinentals made Winnipeg the most important interior transportation point and launched the city into an economic and political boom that is unequaled in Canadian urban history: between about the mids and the end of the century, Winnipeg matured from an unimpressive cluster of wooden sheds and shacks into the leading industrial, financial, and administrative center of the Prairie Provinces.
Railroad-created communities in the Great Plains often had a look-alike appearance. Author Hamlin Garland called them "flimsy little wooden towns. The retailing core stood directly adjacent to the depot, and beyond were the seat of government if the community won the bid to become the county seat , churches, and houses.
The other side of the tracks likely became the locus of major commerce: grain elevators, coal and lumberyards, and the like. This configuration meant that patrons of these businesses, with their carts and wagons, would not clog the commercial thoroughfare and principal residential streets. Thus the railroad corridor, which sliced through the town, sported a practical symmetry: side tracks beyond the main line for local industries and retail and residential sections segregated for their own functions. Hundreds of these T-towns appeared at trackside, including future state and provincial capitals such as Bismarck, North Dakota, Cheyenne, Wyoming, Lincoln, Nebraska, and Regina, Saskatchewan.
Once the railroad network in the Great Plains was set by the early s, it remained stable until the s, particularly to the south of the forty-ninth parallel. Although several carriers, including the Katy, North Western, and Rock Island, fell into bankruptcy during the Great Depression, court-supervised reorganizations revamped these victims of hard times.
The enormous tra. After the war years companies mostly enjoyed a sizable financial reserve to carry them through forthcoming downswings in the economy. Moreover, a replacement technology, the diesel-electric locomotive, which had been widely adopted by the early s, further aided the balance sheet. Yet all was not well with the railroads that served the Great Plains. Tough and at times unreasonable regulation, products of aggressive and well-meaning progressive reforms early in the twentieth century, forced companies to maintain hundreds of unnecessary small-town depots with agents who might work only a few minutes a day.
Companies also had to operate money-losing local and branch line passenger trains. With farm-to-market roads and other highway construction and improved waterways, numerous rail appendages, especially ones that handled mostly seasonal grain tra. And "full crew" laws, actually "excess crew" statutes, escalated labor costs. A Nebraska measure, for example, required an extra flagman on every intrastate passenger train.
Change, however, was forthcoming. The Transportation Act of and other reforms permitted carriers to reduce their fixed costs, including closing scores of rural depots eventually nearly all of them , eliminating most passenger service with the creation of Amtrak in , and abandoning thousands of miles of lightly used trackage.
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Then, in the s, railroad mergers greatly affected the region. Some roads, for example, the North Western and Soo Line, expanded by acquiring smaller properties, and efforts began for megamergers. That phenomenon struck the region in with the formation of Burlington Northern, an amalgamation of the Burlington, Great Northern, and Northern Pacific Railroads.
Enactment of the Staggers Act in further relaxed regulation and gave railroad managers more flexibility, especially in matters of rate setting. New labor accords were also reached with the unions. By the s the roads that served the Plains were in good financial health, with supercarriers Burlington Northern-Santa Fe and Union Pacific dominating the region. In the latter announced that it would acquire the Southern Pacific, a major carrier in Texas and owner of the former Rock Island's Tucumcari line between New Mexico and Kansas City.
Trackage unwanted by the rail giants yet still economically viable commonly emerged as a short line or larger "regional" operation. Throughout the Great Plains, abandoned rail routes were transformed into a new, more recreational transportation system: bike paths. Although drastic changes occurred in the railway systems in the United States in the twentieth century, they pale in significance compared to the developments in the Prairie Provinces.
Intense competition, overexpansion of lines, and financial exigencies during World War I wrecked the two transcontinental companies, the Canadian Northern and Grand Trunk Pacific. These companies, together with three other financially troubled railroads, were amalgamated between and into the government-owned Canadian National Railway.
Further changes occurred in the s, when the Canadian Pacific and Canadian National, distressed by the economic depression, began to cut back their dense branch line network in the Prairies, a process that has continued. The railroads also responded to the economic stress by systematically diversifying their activities. Moreover, the two railway companies established the two largest airlines operating in Canada today. The growing public ownership of railways and increasing government regulation of transportation companies have given rise to intense ideological debates.
One of the most controversial issues has been the regulation of freight rates, which in became the responsibility of the Board of Railway Commissioners, an independent, quasi-judiciary regulation agency. Reorganized in as the Canadian Transport Commission, the board has faced the difficult task of finding a balance between the railway companies, which have demanded higher rates as a compensation for their loss of patronage and rising costs, and the Prairie farmers, who have pressed for lower rates.
More recently, the debate has shifted to the privatization of the Canadian National, which was accomplished in While the Great Plains could never claim to be the heartland of the electric interurban railway, promoters from Manitoba to Texas made numerous efforts from the late s until the early s to realize their traction dreams. Distinct from the electric street railway, commonly found in the major towns and cities on the Plains after , which provided local service and possibly a short extension into the nearby countryside to serve an amusement park, cemetery, or special facility, the interurban was designed to connect two or more communities with services similar to those provided by steam railroads, hauling passengers, express, and often carload freight.
Interurban enthusiasts believed that their alternative transport form held advantages, at least for modest distances, over their steam railroad competitors. Unlike the railroad, the electric car promised "no cinders, no dirt, no dust, no smoke. Most passenger interurbans ran on hourly or semihourly schedules and stopped virtually anywhere, while steam trains usually made only several daily trips, pausing at a limited number of points.
There was also the attraction of transportation at cheaper rates. Typical charges for interurban travel were less than those of steam carriers. This made intercity traction particularly attractive in a period of intense consumer unrest throughout the Plains in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In the Great Plains, electric interurbans appeared mostly in the central and southern sections. Only one interurban served the Prairie Provinces. The Winnipeg, Selkirk and Lake Winnipeg Railway, partially built in as a steam road, became electrically powered four years later and developed into a nearly fortymile traction system.
No "true" interurban ever operated in North Dakota, although in the state claimed twenty-six miles of urban trolley lines. South Dakota received only a small interurban in the Black Hills and about twenty miles of electric street railways. Nebraska fared better. Although residents never rode a bona fide interurban, three electric railways with interurban names actually appeared: Omaha, Lincoln and Beatrice Railway; Omaha and Southern Interurban; and the Omaha and Lincoln Railway and Light Company.
These firms in reality were urban trolleys with rural extensions, part of nearly miles of streetcar operations in the state. Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas, however, built a host of interurbans. Kansas carriers, with about miles of intercity line under wire, chiefly served metropolitan Kansas City, or the Tri-State Mineral Belt of the southeast. A smaller mileage, about miles, laced sections of Oklahoma, but Sooner state companies were more scattered.
The principal system, the seventy miles owned by the Oklahoma Railway, radiated out of Oklahoma City in three directions: north to Guthrie, west to El Reno, and south to Norman. Texas had the most interurbans and the greatest mileage. Eleven companies built approximately miles, about miles of which were in the greater Dallas area. Complementing the interurban mileage in these three states were nearly miles of electric street railways. Scores of interurbans were projected throughout the Great Plains. These "paper" projects proliferated during the two boom periods immediately preceding and following the Panic of Some schemes were monumental.
Early in the century a group of promoters suggested a high-speed electric railway from Winnipeg to the Gulf of Mexico. The mileage of unbuilt interurbans in Texas alone exceeded 20, route miles, the most projected in any American state. An important characteristic of interurbans on the Plains was their relative durability. They often developed carload freight capabilities and could interchange rolling stock with connecting steam roads.
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Interurbans like the Arkansas Valley Interurban, Kansas City—Kaw Valley, Northeast Oklahoma, and Texas Electric, generally built to steam road standards, became viable freight short lines or switching operations and lasted long after the general demise of the interurban industry during the late s and early s.
Several segments of track continue to serve freight consumers. But in general, electric roads failed to develop a competitive freight business and died because of the onslaught of motor, especially automobile, competition. Even though the Great Plains possessed an ample network of rail lines, the appearance of internal combustion vehicles in the early part of the twentieth century prompted residents to demand better public roads. By World War I, good roads associations were pushing hard to lift the region out of the mud and dust. During the s, extensive programs of road improvements, especially paving projects, had been implemented.
By the midtwenties the federal government had embarked upon road improvements, and pioneer endeavors such as the 3,mile coast-to-coast Lincoln Highway, the "Main Street across America," became part of the national system of highways. Whether for short trips or to take an "auto vacation," a rapidly growing number of citizens made car travel part of their daily routine. More than motorists drove the roadways of the Great Plains. Motor truck operators, largely unregulated by the states until the s and not by the federal government until , siphoned off lucrative shipments that previously had moved by rail.
Yet some executives of mid-American railroads applauded the coming of the truck. After all, these versatile vehicles could feed tra. Bus operators made their debut about the same time in the Great Plains. Resembling early providers of trucking services, these firms were usually small affairs, often mom-and-pop enterprises.
But that changed quickly. While trucking remained highly atomized until after World War II, buses in the region tended to be operated by large concerns. The Greyhound Corporation emerged during the formative years of the bus and by provided coast-to-coast and interregional service. Railroads, too, played a major role in the bus business. The Union Pacific Railroad is a good example. His grandfather also taught him about his own boyhood and the history and legends of the Comanche.
As the boy grew older, he joined the other boys to hunt birds. He eventually ranged farther from camp looking for better game to kill. Encouraged to be skillful hunters, boys learned the signs of the prairie as they learned to patiently and quietly stalk game. They became more self-reliant, yet, by playing together as a group, also formed the strong bonds and cooperative spirit that they would need when they hunted and raided.
Boys were highly respected because they would become warriors and might die young in battle. As he approached manhood, a boy went on his first buffalo hunt.
If he made a kill, his father honored him with a feast. Only after he had proven himself on a buffalo hunt was a young man allowed to go to war. When he was ready to become a warrior, at about age fifteen or sixteen, a young man first "made his medicine" by going on a vision quest a rite of passage. Following this quest, his father gave the young man a good horse to ride into battle and another mount for the trail. If he had proved himself as a warrior, a Give Away Dance might be held in his honor.
As drummers faced east, the honored boy and other young men danced. His parents, along with his other relatives and the people in the band, threw presents at his feet — especially blankets and horses symbolized by sticks. Anyone might snatch one of the gifts for themselves, although those with many possessions refrained; they did not want to appear greedy. People often gave away all their belongings during these dances, providing for others in the band, but leaving themselves with nothing. Girls learned to gather healthy berries, nuts, and roots.
They carried water and collected wood, and when about twelve years old learned to cook meals, make tipis, sew clothing, prepare hides, and perform other tasks essential to becoming a wife and mother. They were then considered ready to be married. During the 19th century, the traditional Comanche burial custom was to wrap the deceased's body in a blanket and place it on a horse, behind a rider, who would then ride in search of an appropriate burial place, such as a secure cave.
After entombment, the rider covered the body with stones and returned to camp, where the mourners burned all the deceased's possessions. The primary mourner slashed his arms to express his grief. The Quahada band followed this custom longer than other bands and buried their relatives in the Wichita Mountains. Christian missionaries persuaded Comanche people to bury their dead in coffins in graveyards,  which is the practice today.
When they lived with the Shoshone, the Comanche mainly used dog-drawn travois for transportation. Later, they acquired horses from other tribes, such as the Pueblo, and from the Spaniards. Since horses are faster, easier to control and able to carry more, this helped with their hunting and warfare and made moving camp easier. Larger dwellings were made due to the ability to pull and carry more belongings. Being herbivores, horses were also easier to feed than dogs, since meat was a valuable resource.
A Comanche man's wealth was measured by the size of his horse herd. Horses were prime targets to steal during raids; often raids were conducted specifically to capture horses. Often horse herds numbering in the hundreds were stolen by Comanche during raids against other Indian nations, Spanish, Mexicans, and later from the ranches of Texans. Horses were used for warfare with the Comanche being considered to be among the finest light cavalry and mounted warriors in history. The Comanche sheathed their tipis with a covering made of buffalo hides sewn together.
To prepare the buffalo hides, women first spread them on the ground, then scraped away the fat and flesh with blades made from bones or antlers, and left them in the sun. When the hides were dry, they scraped off the thick hair, and then soaked them in water. After several days, they vigorously rubbed the hides in a mixture of animal fat, brains, and liver to soften the hides. The hides were made even more supple by further rinsing and working back and forth over a rawhide thong.
Finally, they were smoked over a fire, which gave the hides a light tan color. To finish the tipi covering, women laid the tanned hides side by side and stitched them together. As many as 22 hides could be used, but 14 was the average. When finished, the hide covering was tied to a pole and raised, wrapped around the cone-shaped frame, and pinned together with pencil-sized wooden skewers.
Two wing-shaped flaps at the top of the tipi were turned back to make an opening, which could be adjusted to keep out the moisture and held pockets of insulating air. With a fire pit in the center of the earthen floor, the tipis stayed warm in the winter. In the summer, the bottom edges of the tipis could be rolled up to let cool breezes in. Cooking was done outside during the hot weather.
Tipis were very practical homes for itinerant people. Working together, women could quickly set them up or take them down. An entire Comanche band could be packed and chasing a buffalo herd within about 20 minutes. The Comanche women were the ones who did the most work with food processing and preparation. The Comanche were initially hunter-gatherers. When they lived in the Rocky Mountains , during their migration to the Great Plains, both men and women shared the responsibility of gathering and providing food. When the Comanche reached the plains, hunting came to predominate.
Hunting was considered a male activity and was a principal source of prestige. For meat, the Comanche hunted buffalo , elk, black bear, pronghorn, and deer. When game was scarce, the men hunted wild mustangs, sometimes eating their own ponies. In later years the Comanche raided Texas ranches and stole longhorn cattle. They did not eat fish or fowl, unless starving, when they would eat virtually any creature they could catch, including armadillos, skunks, rats, lizards, frogs, and grasshoppers. Buffalo meat and other game was prepared and cooked by the women. The women also gathered wild fruits, seeds, nuts, berries, roots, and tubers — including plums, grapes, juniper berries, persimmons, mulberries, acorns, pecans, wild onions, radishes, and the fruit of the prickly pear cactus.
The Comanche also acquired maize , dried pumpkin, and tobacco through trade and raids. Most meats were roasted over a fire or boiled. To boil fresh or dried meat and vegetables, women dug a pit in the ground, which they lined with animal skins or buffalo stomach and filled with water to make a kind of cooking pot. They placed heated stones in the water until it boiled and had cooked their stew. After they came into contact with the Spanish, the Comanche traded for copper pots and iron kettles, which made cooking easier. Women used berries and nuts, as well as honey and tallow , to flavor buffalo meat.
They especially liked to make a sweet mush of buffalo marrow mixed with crushed mesquite beans. The Comanches sometimes ate raw meat, especially raw liver flavored with gall. They also drank the milk from the slashed udders of buffalo, deer, and elk. They also enjoyed buffalo tripe, or stomachs. Comanche people generally had a light meal in the morning and a large evening meal.
During the day they ate whenever they were hungry or when it was convenient. Like other Plains Indians , the Comanche were very hospitable people. They prepared meals whenever a visitor arrived in camp, which led to outsiders' belief that the Comanches ate at all hours of the day or night. Before calling a public event, the chief took a morsel of food, held it to the sky, and then buried it as a peace offering to the Great Spirit.
Many families offered thanks as they sat down to eat their meals in their tipis. Comanche children ate pemmican , but this was primarily a tasty, high-energy food reserved for war parties. Carried in a parfleche pouch, pemmican was eaten only when the men did not have time to hunt. Similarly, in camp, people ate pemmican only when other food was scarce. Traders ate pemmican sliced and dipped in honey, which they called Indian bread. Comanche clothing was simple and easy to wear.
Men wore a leather belt with a breechcloth — a long piece of buckskin that was brought up between the legs and looped over and under the belt at the front and back, and loose-fitting deerskin leggings.
Moccasins had soles made from thick, tough buffalo hide with soft deerskin uppers. The Comanche men wore nothing on the upper body except in the winter, when they wore warm, heavy robes made from buffalo hides or occasionally, bear , wolf , or coyote skins with knee-length buffalo-hide boots. Young boys usually went without clothes except in cold weather. When they reached the age of eight or nine, they began to wear the clothing of a Comanche adult.
In the 19th century, men used woven cloth to replace the buckskin breechcloths, and the men began wearing loose-fitting buckskin shirts. The women decorated their shirts, leggings and moccasins with fringes made of deer-skin, animal fur, and human hair. They also decorated their shirts and leggings with patterns and shapes formed with beads and scraps of material.
Comanche women wore long deerskin dresses. The dresses had a flared skirt and wide, long sleeves, and were trimmed with buckskin fringes along the sleeves and hem. Beads and pieces of metal were attached in geometric patterns. Comanche women wore buckskin moccasins with buffalo soles. In the winter they, too, wore warm buffalo robes and tall, fur-lined buffalo-hide boots.
Unlike the boys, young girls did not go without clothes. As soon as they were able to walk, they were dressed in breechcloths. By the age of twelve or thirteen, they adopted the clothes of Comanche women. Comanche people took pride in their hair, which was worn long and rarely cut. They arranged their hair with porcupine quill brushes, greased it and parted it in the center from the forehead to the back of the neck.
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They painted the scalp along the parting with yellow, red, or white clay or other colors. They wore their hair in two long braids tied with leather thongs or colored cloth, and sometimes wrapped with beaver fur. They also braided a strand of hair from the top of their head. This slender braid, called a scalp lock, was decorated with colored scraps of cloth and beads, and a single feather. Comanche men rarely wore anything on their heads.
Only after they moved onto a reservation late in the 19th century did Comanche men begin to wear the typical Plains headdress.
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If the winter was severely cold, they might wear a brimless, woolly buffalo hide hat. When they went to war, some warriors wore a headdress made from a buffalo's scalp. Warriors cut away most of the hide and flesh from a buffalo head, leaving only a portion of the woolly hair and the horns. This type of woolly, horned buffalo hat was worn only by the Comanche. Comanche women did not let their hair grow as long as the men did. Young women might wear their hair long and braided, but women parted their hair in the middle and kept it short.
Like the men, they painted their scalp along the parting with bright paint. Comanche men usually had pierced ears with hanging earrings made from pieces of shell or loops of brass or silver wire. A female relative would pierce the outer edge of the ear with six or eight holes. The men also tattooed their face, arms, and chest with geometric designs, and painted their face and body. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy. More Like This. More Copies In Prospector. Loading Prospector Copies Table of Contents. Health and nutrition. Loading Excerpt LC Subjects.
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