In the first half of the 19th century thousands of Americans left their homes in the East and travelled westwards. Some of them were going to California where gold deposits had been discovered, some others were going to settle in the Oregon country where they could find fertile land and pleasant climate.
Few migrants travelled alone. Most went in parties with a guide who knew where to find water and grass for the animals. The first large party went over the Oregon trail in 1843. There were 200 families (about 1,000 persons) and they travelled in 120 covered wagons. They had almost 800 cattle and 700 oxen.
Pioneers used oxen to carry their wagons because Indians did not know how to use these animals and therefore they would not steal them. Moreover, oxen would be very useful to pioneers when they reached Oregon and began farming.
The migrants moved like an army; they camped; at night arranging their wagons in a circle to defend themselves and their cattle from the Indians. It was hard to avoid the Indians as caravans travelled slowly and kicked up enough dust to he seen for miles.
Some Indian tribes were very fierce and hated the Whites as, on their way to Oregon, they killed many buffalo that the Indians lived on.
The Indian chief Colorow said: Colorow owns this country. Buffalo are Indian cattle. White man’s cattle eat all grass. Buffalo die, no food. No hunting, no meat, no robes.