“When the Great Father at Washington sent us his chief soldier to ask for a path through our hunting grounds, a way for his iron road to the mountains and the western sea, we were told that they wished merely to pass through our country, not to tarry among us, but to seek for gold in the far west. Our old chiefs thought to show their friendship and good will, when they allowed this dangerous snake in our midst. They promised to protect the wayfarers. Yet before the ashes of the council fire are cold, the Great Father is building his forts among us. You have heard the sound of the white soldier's ax upon the Little Piney. His presence here is an insult and a threat. It is an insult to the spirits of our ancestors. Are we then to give up their sacred graves to be plowed for corn? Dakotas, I am for war!” (Red Cloud)
Even before the American Revolution, Americans traveled west. From the narrow strip of the 13 colonies, across the Appalachians, ever westward they journeyed, and by the end of the 19th century the United States of America stretched from sea to shining sea.
Of course, just because the names on the borders changed, it did not tame the land or its previous residents. Americans desired California and Oregon, going to war for one and nearly going to war for the other. Once acquired, it now fell to the salt of the earth to settle these claimed lands and everything in between. To do this meant crossing terrain unused to the heavy traffic of Westerners on the move.
Though Indian trails followed rivers, hills, and valleys across the plains, Westerners often needed to create new paths capable of handling the heaver traffic and bulky covered wagons. At the same time, safety often required avoiding the natives.