Indigenous People

Indigenous Shoshone people stand in front of skin tepees.
Indigenous Shoshone people stand in front of tepees.

National Photo Company Collection (Library of Congress)

The construction of the transcontinental railroad was a major engineering feat, but it came at a great cost to the Indigenous people who called the West home. The railroad cut through their traditional homelands, disrupted their way of life, and led to the loss of their land and resources.

The railroad was built on the lands of 15 tribal nations, and in some cases, treaties were not even negotiated before construction began. This led to conflict between the railroad workers and the Indigenous people, who saw their homes and livelihoods being destroyed. The railroad also accelerated the loss of Indigenous land and resources. Settlers moving west encroached on Indigenous lands and competed for resources. The U.S. government encouraged hunters to kill bison, which were a primary food source for many Indigenous people. This led to the near-extinction of the bison, which further devastated Indigenous communities.

Despite these hardships, Indigenous people have shown great resilience. Their descendants are still here today, and they continue to uphold their traditional beliefs and values. They have also fought for their rights and have made progress in gaining recognition and respect from the U.S. government. The transcontinental railroad is a reminder of the history of violence and oppression that Indigenous people have faced in the United States. It is also a testament to their strength and resilience.

Last updated: August 13, 2023

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