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Historical Glossary

There are 17 entries in this glossary.
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Yakima Indians

This group, speakers of one of the Sahaptin languages, was closely related to the Nez Perce Indians and was the largest Indian nation in the upper Columbia River valley. They incorporated the horse into their culture after 1735, and experienced regular contact with Anglo-Americans after 1845. In 1855 leading Yakimas conceded possession of land outside certain bounds to the US and agreed to let whites cross their territory, but this agreement stirred great discontent among many villages and led to the Yakima wars. They now have a reservation in Yakima and Klickitat counties, Wash., at Toppenish.

Yakima wars

In September 1855, angry over recent treaty concessions to whites, Yakima Indians killed six miners, murdered their US agent, and forbade whites to enter their lands. On 6–9 October, 500 Yakimas defeated 100 soldiers from Fort Dalles, Wash., killed 5 and wounded 17, and captured their howitzer. Indians on Puget Sound then began hostilities; they attacked Seattle on 26 January 1856 with Yakima help. By 11 July, fighting had ended east of the Cascades. On 17 July, Oreg. volunteers defeated 300 Indians in the Grand Ronde Valley. The presence of 500 US regulars in Yakima territory caused fighting to peter out by autumn 1856, but without a formal Yakima capitulation. Fighting resumed on 17 May 1858, when 1,000 Yakimas and other Indians defeated 164 US soldiers. Colonel William Wright's 600 US troops defeated Kamiakin's 4,000 warriors on 1 September at the battle of Four Lakes (killing 60 Indians without a single loss) and ended the war on 5 September by defeating 700 warriors at the battle of Spokane Plain. By hanging 16 hostiles as examples and forcing all Indians on to reservations, Wright ended large-scale resistance to white settlement in the Columbia basin.

Yalta conference

Between 4 and 11 February 1945, Winston Churchill, Joseph Stalin, and Franklin D. Roosevelt discussed the war against Japan and the political status of eastern Europe after World War II. In return for a Russian promise to declare war on Japan, it was agreed that Russia would gain control of the Kurile Islands, the lower half of Sakhalin Island, the right to occupy northern Korea, a military lease for the harbor at Port Arthur in Manchuria, and recognition of Outer Mongolia as a Soviet satellite. The Allies also agreed that Ukraine and Byelorussia would be seated as independent nations in the future United Nations. The Allies declared that postwar governments in eastern Europe would beorganized by free and secret elections that excluded only non-democratic (i.e. Fascist) elements. By not establishing exact guidelines for restoring elective democracy in liberated areas, the conference enabled Russia to interpret the Yalta agreements on its own terms and establish totalitarian regimes in eastern Europe.

Yamasee Indians

This nation, speakers of one of the Muskogean languages, occupied southeastern Ga. and northern Fla. in the 1590s, when Spanish missions were founded among them. In 1684–5—when they numbered about 1,200—the Yamasee destroyed the missions, resettled along the Savannah River, began trading deerskins with S.C. merchants, and later were English allies in the Tuscarora War. By 1715, having been alienated from the English by degrading mistreatment from fur traders, they orchestrated a general assault on S.C. in the Yamasee War, but were badly defeated the next year. They fled to Fla., where the Spanish welcomed them and let them launch attacks on the English. S.C. militia suppressed the Yamasee raids in the Anglo-Spanish War of 1727–8. Within a century, the survivors had lost their cultural identity by merging with Creek or Seminole Indians.

Yamasee War

On 15 April 1715, Yamasee Indians, Creek Indians, and nearby tribes killed and plundered 160 fur traders and then attacked S.C. settlements within 12 miles of Charles Town. The English managed to harvest winter food supplies while a counteroffensive by 600 S.C. whites, 100 Va. volunteers, and 500 slaves drove back the enemy. In 1716 the Yamasees were deserted by their Indian allies and attacked by Cherokee Indians. Having lost many enslaved and killed, the tribe resettled in Fla. Serious fighting ended in mid-1716. Minor raiding continued, but subsided after the Creeks made peace on 15 November 1717. The Yamasee War established white dominance on the S.C. frontier, which stayed at peace until the Cherokee War.


This term was Dutch slang for an Englishman, and may have derived from Jan Kees (John Cheese). From 1700 to 1860, it was used exclusively when speaking of New Englanders. Only in the Civil War did it come to refer to all northerners. During World War I, it entered common European usage as a synonym for all Anglo-Americans—to the mortification of southerners.

Yates v. United States

On 17 June 1957, the Supreme Court restricted the scope of the Smith Act by modifying Dennis et al v. United States. The Court held that in order to convict a person of advocating violent overthrow of the government, the government must prove that the defendant committed overt subversive acts, and neither acted as a passive follower nor espoused abstract principles. The ruling's strict standards for convicting Communists and others with seditious ideologies discouraged the US from actively using the Smith Act to prosecute sedition.

Yazoo land claims

On 7 January 1795, the Ga. legislature sold four land companies 35,000,000 acres of the Yazoo River watershed (in Ga. and Ala.) for $400,000. In 1796 a newly elected legislature repudiated the sale, which had been influenced by bribery and corruption, but not before the land companies had sold shares to innocent parties. When Ga. ceded its western lands to the US in 1802, the land companies and third-party purchasers demanded compensation for their losses and their claims blocked settlement of the Yazoo region. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison wanted the federal government to honor the various parties' claims, but their efforts were denounced by John Randolph as a scheme to enrich corrupt speculators sitting in Congress. The Supreme Court ruled on the case in Fletcher v. Peck. In 1814, with Randolph temporarily in private life, the US resolved the controversy by awarding $4,200,000 to the speculators and other claimants.

yellow journalism

This was a style of reporting events that pandered to a vulgar taste for lurid, sensational news as a means of outselling a competitor's newspapers. It emphasized emotional, simplistic arguments over reasoned, objective analysis. Its pioneers were Joseph Pulitzer's New York World and William Randolph Hearst's New York Journal. (Its name derived from a Journal cartoon figure called the “Yellow Kid.”) Its most notorious abuse was the deliberate inflaming of war fever after the USS Maine's sinking, which helped spark the Spanish-American War.

Yellow Peril

From 1880 to 1910, hysteria developed in the western US over unrestricted Chinese and Japanese immigration. Newspapers warned of a “yellow peril” that would lower living standards, spawn crime, and leave Anglo-Americans a minority on the Pacific coast. This anxiety coincided with apprehension over Japan's victory in the Russo-Japanese War (1905). These concerns resulted in riots against Asian laborers, the Chinese Exclusion Act, the Gentlemen's Agreements (see Japanese immigration) and the Great White Fleet's voyage.

Yellow Tavern, battle of

On 11 May 1864, Major General Philip Sheridan's 10,000 USA cavalry defeated Major General J. E. B. Stuart's 4,500 CSA cavalry and killed Stuart, whose death cost the Confederacy its best cavalry leader.

yellow-dog contract

This was a labor contract that enabled employers to fire a worker who joined a labor union. The Erdman Act, National Industrial Recovery Act and National Labor Relations Act either banned them or provided other guarantees for union organization.

Yick Wo v. Hopkins

In 1886 the Supreme Court unanimously extended the Fourteenth Amendment's protections to all persons in the country, including noncitizens. The ruling followed logically from Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company, given on the same day, which declared corporations to be legal persons.

Yorktown, battle of

On 6 October 1781, George Washington commenced besieging Lieutenant General Charles Cornwallis's army at Yorktown with 7,980 Continentals, 3,150 militia, 7,800 French soldiers, and a French naval force with 1,000 sailors offshore. Trapped without hope of naval evacuation since the battle of Chesapeake Capes, Cornwallis surrendered at 2:00 p.m. on 17 October. US losses: 24 killed, 65 wounded. French losses: 60 killed, 192 wounded. British losses: 156 killed, 8,081 captured (including 326 wounded), 214 artillery pieces, and 24 naval transports. Yorktown was the war's last major battle; it led Lord North's government to resign and forced Britain to concede US independence.

Young America movement

This was an intellectualized celebration of US patriotism, enlisting journalists and politicians in extravagant praise of the country's institutions in the 1840s. Its spokesmen embraced manifest destiny as a positive force in the west's civilization and economic development. The movement's proponents viewed the Constitution as inspiring revolts against despotism (such as the revolutions of 1848 in Europe) and becoming the model for an enlightened democratization of the world.

Youngstown Sheet and Tube Company v. Sawyer

On 2 June 1952, the Supreme Court ruled (6–3) that President Harry S Truman had exceeded his authority in seizing the country's steel mills to preclude a strike during the Korean War. The justices held that the president's power as commander in chief did not justify the action, which required legislative approval from Congress.

Yuchi Indians

This Siouan language group lived in east Tenn. when first contacted by Hernán de Soto in 1540. Yuchi bands later dispersed; some integrated with the Shawnee and Cherokee, but most relocated to Ga. and Ala., where they allied with the Creek. Some joined the Seminole in Fla. by 1810. They never received recognition as an independent nation by the United States, and after 1830 they were removed with their affiliated tribes to Okla. where their descendants live on the reservations of other tribes. The Yuchi declined from about 2,500 in 1650, to 1,100 in 1830, and 216 in 1930.

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