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A map showing the Louisiana Purchase

Louisiana Purchase: What Europeans were claiming

Before the Louisiana purchase

In 1800 AD, Native Americans still controlled most of North America. But SpainFranceBritain and the United States were busy fighting over who got to conquer it.

Mandan and malaria
Shawnee and smallpox
The American Revolution
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Native Americans and Spain

Spain was trying to conquer the land along the West Coast and the Southwest, and Florida. But most of that land was still independent under the Californians, the Navajo, the Pueblo, the Apache, the Ute, the Paiute, and other native people. Spain, Britain and the United States were arguing over who should control the Pacific Northwest. But most of it was really still under the Chinook, the Nez Perce, the Shoshone, and other native people.

Chinook and salmon
Nez Perce and smallpox
Shoshone fight back
What was going on in Spain?

A map showing Native people

Who was really living there (simplified)

Native Americans and France

France wanted to control the middle of North America: the Mississippi Valley and the Great Plains. But again most of that land was still under the Sioux, the Cree, the Shawnee and the Creek. In fact, the Shawnee, under Tecumseh, were fighting a big war for their land.

Sioux on the Plains
Cree and smallpox
The Creek people
France under Napoleon 

Native Americans and Britain

Britain claimed the whole northern part of North America. But really the InuitBlackfootAlgonquin, and Cree were still pretty much independent there as well.

Inuit and Canadian history
Blackfoot get horses
Algonquin and Iroquois
Cree and colonization
Britain – Walpole and Pitt

Hidatsa (Mandan) people swimming (1833)

Hidatsa (Mandan) people swimming (1833)

Native Americans and the United States

In the East, the newly created United States of America really did control most of the East Coast except for Florida, and also most of the Midwest. But there were still areas really controlled by the Cree, the Shawnee, the Cherokee, and the Algonquin.

The United States expands
The Cherokee Trail of Tears

Why did Napoleon sell the Louisiana Territory?

France was involved in a big war with BritainRussiaAustria, and Sweden. France needed money to pay their army. In 1803, Napoleon, the emperor of France, decided to sell France’s part of North America to the United States.

Cheyenne with horses (Cheyenne painting on bison hide, 1800s)

Cheyenne with horses (Cheyenne painting on bison hide, 1800s)

How much was the Louisiana purchase price?

Napoleon wanted 15 million dollars for the Louisiana Territory. (That would be a lot more in today’s dollars, but it was still a total bargain.) Thomas Jefferson, the President of the United States, agreed to buy the land. The Louisiana Purchase made the United States twice as big as it had been before, at least on paper. But Native Americans still really controlled most of the land.

More about the Louisiana Purchase – Lewis and Clark

Bibliography and further reading about North American history:


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