American Frontier and Western Issues: A Historiographical Review

By Roger L. Nichols | Go to book overview

9
Historians and Indians

ROGER L. NICHOLS

Throughout American history, the pioneer advance into frontier regions has meant different things to the various groups and individuals who experienced this process. Some looked hungrily to the West for opportunity. A few allowed the tide of settlement to sweep them along to new circumstances, while still others virtually ignored these events. Often overlooked in discussions of triumphant settlement was the fact that the resident Indians experienced the frontier movement as often as did the intruding white pioneers. For the tribal people, the frontier experience brought some economic opportunity, as well as social and political development. More often, however, it meant painful physical uprooting, epidemic disease, rapid and often overwhelming economic changes, and frequent social disintegration. The occupation of North America by the Europeans produced a new world for Indians and whites alike, one that differed substantially for these two peoples.

Despite their modest numbers and frequent exclusion from American society, Native Americans continue to receive more attention than any racial or ethnic minority in the country except blacks. The fascination that historians and ethnologists have for Indian people has resulted in a veritable flood of articles, books, and papers. Although they recognized that Indians and relations with them were of major significance to many aspects of frontier settlement, historians developed their interpretations slowly. At the beginning of this century, they still depicted Native Americans as dangerous savages, another obstacle in the physical environment. Such views changed gradually to the present recognition of Indians as an ethnic minority seeking just treatment within a pluralistic society. Clearly both the historical events and the current position of Native Americans within the general society pose continuing challenges to existing patterns of historical analysis.

Scholars have gathered vast data about Indians and demonstrated a willingness to strive toward fairness and understanding, yet their studies have generated few

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American Frontier and Western Issues: A Historiographical Review
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vi
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • Notes 6
  • 2 - The Environment and the Frontier 7
  • Notes 21
  • 3 - Economic Development of the American West 27
  • Notes 42
  • 4 - Agriculture and Livestock Production 51
  • Notes 60
  • 5 - Frontier Urbanization 69
  • Notes 82
  • 6 - Frontier and Western Transportation 89
  • Notes 104
  • 7 - Mining Frontiers 109
  • Notes 124
  • 8 - Frontier Social History 131
  • Notes 144
  • 9 - Historians and Indians 149
  • Notes 169
  • 10 - Frontier Women 179
  • Notes 194
  • 11 - Ethnic Groups and the Frontier 199
  • Notes 211
  • 12 - Foreign Affairs and Expansion 217
  • Notes 229
  • 13 - Territorial Government 235
  • Notes 244
  • 14 - The Frontier Army 253
  • Notes 264
  • Sources and Repositories for Frontier and Western History 275
  • Index 279
  • About the Contributors 301
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