Cattle Industry Develops
Flooding Fort Berthold
After the American Civil War, while homesteaders built farms in the West and miners filed claims in remote mountains, cattle and sheep ranchers moved into the arid northern plains and the plateau country of eastern Oregon to raise food for the nation’s growing cities. While Native people were unhappy about the displacement of buffalo by stock animals, many tribal communities found ranching offered an attractive way to make a living. It preserved traditional gender roles and allowed for a seasonal round of herding activities.
Ranching attracted thousands of outsiders to the Indian country. These newcomers quickly exhausted the available public lands and pressed western tribes to open new areas for non-Indian ranching. These white ranchers urged federal authorities to permit them to graze their herds on what they saw as unused Indian lands and to build ambitious dam and irrigation projects. Indian communities along the Lewis and Clark route were often hardest hit by these changes. Many groups lost control over their land and water resources, or watched helplessly as federally-built dams inundated and destroyed their homes.