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Deftly retracing a pivotal chapter in one of America's most dramatic stories, Elliott West chronicles the struggles, triumphs, and defeats of both Indians and whites as they pursued their clashing dreams of greatness in the heart of the continent.
The Contested Plains recounts the rise of the Native American horse culture, white Americans' discovery and pursuit of gold in the Rocky Mountains, and the wrenching changes and bitter conflicts that ensued. After centuries of many peoples fashioning many cultures on the plains, the Cheyennes and other tribes found in the horse the power to create a heroic way of life that dominated one of the world's great grasslands. Then the discovery of gold challenged that way of life and led finally to the infamous massacre at Sand Creek and the Indian Wars of the late 1860s.
Illuminating both the ancient and more recent history of the plains and eastern Rocky Mountains, West weaves together a brilliant tapestry interlaced with environmental, social, and military history. He treats the "frontier" not as a morally loaded term—either in the traditional celebratory sense or the more recent critical sense—but as a powerfully unsettling process that shattered an old world. He shows how Indians, goldseekers, haulers, merchants, ranchers, and farmers all contributed to and in turn were consumed by this process, even as the plains themselves were uttlerly transformed by the clash of cultures and competing visions.
Exciting and enormously engaging, The Contested Plains is the first book to examine the Colorado gold rush as the key event in the modern transformation of the central great plains. It also exemplifies a kind of history that respects more fully our rich and ambiguous past—a past in which there are many actors but no simple lessons.
List of Illustrations
1. Prologue: A Scrap and a Panic
Part One: Visions
2. The Old World
3. Frontiers and Visions
4. The Called Out People
Part Two: Gold Rush
5. The Gold
6. The Gathering
7. The Rush
Part Three: Power
8. Path of Empire
9. On the Road to a Flourishing Mountain State
10. The People of the Centre
11. The Miseries of Failure
12. Epilogue: Stories in the Teeth of Life
Posted January 18, 2001
I like this book. Natural resources (described as energy for animals, etc.) along with Indian and settler imaginative uses for them were the driving factors in the development of the plains of Colorado, Kansas, and Nebraska. Not at all politically correct, the book takes a serious look at the how and why of this important event in the history of the west. Starting with ancient peoples that lived off the land, the text describes how succeeding cultures utilized the plains for economic and social benefit. The author expertly establishes that conflicts between groups were inevitable given the limited natural resources the plains had to offer. Greed verses nobility with a little environmentalism thrown in for good measure, is a simplistic and fundamentally shortsighted approach to understanding what happened. A thought provoking book and excellent resource for readers wanting an objective account of the settlement of the plains.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.