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History >> US Geography >> US State History

Nebraska

State History

Native Americans

People have inhabited the land of Nebraska for thousands of years. When the Europeans first arrived there were several tribes of Native Americans that lived throughout the state. In the west were the nomadic tribes of the Cheyenne and the Lakota Sioux peoples. They lived in tepees and moved constantly following the bison herds that were the source of their food, clothing, and shelter. In the east lived the tribes of the Omaha, Pawnee, and the Otoe. They lived in more permanent lodges made from earth and sod. They hunted buffalo, but farmed much of their food planting crops of corn, beans, and squash.


Pioneers traveling through Nebraska
Pioneers Crossing the Plains of Nebraska
by C.C.A. Christensen

Europeans Arrive

The first European to arrive in Nebraska was likely Spanish explorer Francisco de Coronado in 1541. He claimed the land for Spain. It was over 100 years later, in 1682, that another explorer, Frenchman Robert Cavelier, claimed the land for France. Over the next century, the land would be claimed and fought over by the French, Spanish, and British.

Louisiana Purchase

In 1800, France controlled a large area of land west of the Mississippi River. In 1803, the United States purchased this area, including Nebraska, from the French as part of the Louisiana Purchase. American explorers Lewis and Clark traveled through Nebraska in 1804, mapping their trip and reporting back about the flat plains and large herds of bison they saw in Nebraska.

Settling the Land

The United States established Fort Atkinson in Nebraska in 1819. It was the first army post built west of the Mississippi river. In 1823, a small fur trading post was built on the Missouri River. It became Bellevue, the oldest city in Nebraska and the first permanent settlement.

Starting in the 1840s people began to travel through Nebraska on their way west using the Oregon Trail. At that time, much of Nebraska was set aside for Native Americans as part of Indian Territory. However, some people ignored the law and settled the land.


Homesteaders in Nebraska
Homesteaders by Unknown

Becoming a State

In 1854, the Nebraska Territory was created by the Kansas-Nebraska Act. People really began to move to Nebraska in the 1860s when the Homestead Acts allowed people to get free land in the area. Also, new railroads crossing the territory made it much easier for people to travel there. On March 1, 1867 Nebraska was admitted to the Union as the 37th state. The capital city was moved to Lancaster, which was renamed to Lincoln in honor of Abraham Lincoln.

As more settlers moved in, the Native Americans were pushed out. Conflicts increased until the late 1800s when most of the Cheyenne and Sioux were forced to move to Indian Territory in Oklahoma. Nebraska thrived as cattle ranchers moved in and farmers cultivated the land. However, natural disasters such as droughts, blizzards, and swarms of grasshoppers did not make life easy for the settlers.


The city of Omaha today
Omaha, Nebraska by Iulus Ascanius

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Works Cited

History >> US Geography >> US State History





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