Where were railroads constructed in relation to Native American reservations?

With the concept of “Manifest Destiny,” Americans were interested in expanding westward to the Pacific Ocean. Traveling to the West was a long and arduous experience that railroads could shorten and simplify. Railroad construction in the American West by necessity infringed on Native American territory and created unrest and uneasy relations between the Native American peoples and the railroad builders.
Purpose: In this assignment, you will explore and explain the argument either for OR against this expansion/infringement by using both the information from Chapter 17 and your analysis of the maps listed below. You’ll present your argument via a slide presentation format such as Google slides or Powerpoint (but make sure to save and submit as a PDF). This assignment will build your research, analytical, and both visual presentation skills. Be sure to read the Working with Maps page as well as the Sample Analysis Using Maps for a guide on how to analyze the maps.
Adopt the position of EITHER a railroad magnate OR a Native American representative. If you are the railroad magnate, explain why laying track through Native American territory in the American West is a good idea. If you are the Native American representative, explain why railroad construction should not go through Native American territory in the American West. Remember, your focus here is on Indian Removal and Westward Expansion AFTER the Civil War, not prior (i.e., not the Trail of Tears or the cotton plantation economy).
Build a 3-5 slide presentation that clearly states the case for your position. You may write in character as a person from the 19th century, but this is not required. See the Starting Your Presentation page and the Women’s Suffrage Sample Presentation for help in how to structure your presentation.
For purposes of this assignment, the American West is defined as all territory west of the Mississippi River.
Click on the links/maps to go the Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States. There you will be able to increase the size of the maps and toggle between an atlas (flat) version and a georectified (rounded) version (both atlas and georectified versions are provided). Take screenshots of the maps (or parts of maps) that are relevant to your argument and include them in your presentation to better illustrate your point.
IMPORTANT: make sure to save and upload your presentation as a PDF, so that everyone can see it.
The following focus questions are intended to stimulate your thinking on the topic and help build your argument. They do not need to be directly or specifically answered in your presentation. Instead, see if you can answer them by studying the maps linked above – they will help you read and analyze the maps.
What territory did Native Americans possess in the American West?
Was Native American territory necessarily in the path of railroads?
Where were Native American reservations in the West?
Where were railroads constructed in relation to Native American reservations?
Did railroad construction and Native American territory change over time? If so, how?
Did railroad interests and Native American interests collide? If so, when?
What conclusions do you draw about the reality of Native American territory and railroad construction?
Was railroad construction beneficial to Native Americans?
Grading Criteria:
Your ability to use information from the maps to support your argument.
Your slides are clear and well-organized.
You’ve uploaded both your slides to the dropbox by the due date.