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Indian Wars

Spanish conquistadors, Plains tribes, Indian Wars, smallpox, western hemisphere

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Indian Wars, armed conflicts fought between native inhabitants of North America and white Europeans, often represented by government forces, during the period of exploration and settlement.

The wars were episodic and localized. In virtually every Indian war, some people fought against their traditional Native American enemies.

The Native Americans proved vulnerable to diseases previously unknown in the Americas, particularly smallpox, which decimated their population. Their traditional weapons were no match for European firearms, and they had difficulty obtaining effective weapons. The Plains tribes used horses skillfully in battle; these they captured—either from other Native Americans or from the wild herds that roamed the region after the introduction of the horse into the western hemisphere by the Spanish conquistadors.


Dizikes, John, Ph.D. Professor of American Studies, University of California at Santa Cruz. Author of Britain, Roosevelt, and the New Deal, 1932-1938 and Sportsmen and Gamesmen.

Washburn, Wilcomb E., Ph.D. Director, Office of American Studies, Smithsonian Institution. Author of The Indian in America and other books.

Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2009. © 1993-2008 Microsoft Corporation.

Article key phrases:

Spanish conquistadors, Plains tribes, Indian Wars, smallpox, western hemisphere, Indian war, Native Americans, armed conflicts, horses, people, battle, diseases, Americas, unknown, region, difficulty, wars

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