Editor’s note: Voters this year will elect the 45th president of the United States. This is the 14th in a series of 44 stories exploring past presidents’ attitudes toward Native Americans, challenges and triumphs regarding tribes, and the federal laws and Indian policies enacted during their terms in office.
[…] Also in 1854, Pierce signed the Kansas-Nebraska Act, organizing the Kansas and Nebraska territories—comprising parts of present-day Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming—and opening them to white settlers. The bill paved the way for a transcontinental railroad joining Chicago with California.
The biggest obstacle to the railroad, however, was more than 10,000 members of the Kickapoo, Delaware, Sac and Fox, Shawnee, Potawatomi, Kansas, Ottawa, Wyandot and Osage tribes. These residents had rights to the land guaranteed by treaties, yet the federal government was already chipping away at them. […]