Seeing the Elephant: The Many Voices of the Oregon Trail

Seeing the Elephant: The Many Voices of the Oregon Trail

Seeing the Elephant: The Many Voices of the Oregon Trail

Seeing the Elephant: The Many Voices of the Oregon Trail

Synopsis

"The target audience for this book is middle and high school students. However, its information will appeals to a far broader audience..... A useful introduction to trail travel and associated incidents."- Journal of the West

"[A] little gem of a book."- Overland Journal

Theirs has been called America's single largest voluntary, historical migration. From the late 1830's to the mid-1870's- a span of just over forty years- nearly half a million ordinary folk left farms and families, friends, and all that was familiar and turned their faces west to Oregon, to California, to the valley of the Great Salt Lake, and to the gold fields of Montana. All "saw the elephant" along the Oregon Trail. Whether viewed from the perspective of Manifest Destiny or through the vision-dreams of tribal elders, this mass overland migration to the "Land of Milk and Honey" forever changed our nation and forever altered the way Americans saw themselves. The clash of cultures and beliefs that followed left its mark upon the American spirit as indelibly as the Oregon Trail rutted the land over which it crossed. Seeing the Elephant lets the people of the Trail speak for themselves and their times. Drawn from first-hand accounts in diaries, journals, and letters and interpreted by the author of the much acclaimed Sacagawea Speaks, their voices ring true. From Narcissa Whitman, who made an amazing trek into the unknown in 1836, through Lucy Alice Ide, who proclaimed her own modern passage in 1878, each voice of Seeing the Elephant is infused with character and instruction- and the immediacy that comes only from living history. Seeing the Elephant leaps from our nation's historic archives into the imagination. Timelines, maps, photographs, and historical illustrations enable readers young and old to trace Trail migration chronologically and geographically.

Excerpt

“What they dreamed, we live. What they lived, we dream.”

T. K. WHIPPLE, 1931

Commemoration of the Oregon Trail

THEIRS has been called America’s single largest voluntary, historical migration. Emigrants. Pioneers. Nearly half a million of them left farms and families, friends, and all that was familiar in the States to point their faces west: west to Oregon, west to California, west to the valley of the Great Salt Lake. All traveled the Oregon Trail. These were ordinary folk, just like you and me. By following their dreams and aspirations—by doing the best they knew how to do—they made history.

Whether viewed through the official policy of Manifest Destiny or through vision-dreams of tribal elders, their overland migration to the Land of Milk and Honey forever changed this nation. For all their imperfections, strengths, weaknesses, peculiarities, and prejudices, pioneers created a heroic image of American identity that exists to this day. In the forty short years covered by this book, the Oregon Trail left its indelible mark upon the American spirit as surely as it rutted the land over which it crossed.

Wagon trains—microsocieties traveling by wheel, heel, and hoof— brought out the best and worst in its members over their four- to fivemonth journeys. As the States were left behind, men, women, and children began to experience the adventure, and ordeal, of their lifetimes. The Oregon Trail was unlike anything they had ever seen or dealt with before. It would tax their discipline, their ingenuity, their perseverance and patience with every footfall, every lurch of the wagon. It would taunt their fears, magnify their sorrows, and inflame their prejudices. Day after mind-numbing . . .

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