Indians and the American West in the Twentieth Century

Indians and the American West in the Twentieth Century

Indians and the American West in the Twentieth Century

Indians and the American West in the Twentieth Century


"Parman brings fresh life to some well-worked topics, while illuminating lesser-known developments of the postwar period and contextualizing Indian concerns within broader governmental and social dynamics. Both specialists and general readers will appreciate his succinct, informed treatment of 'the Indian problem' in the United States." -- Gateway Heritage

"Parman's accomplishment lies in his ability to synthesize the saga of the numerous interactions among those seeking dominance.... Parman's balanced and comprehensive overview provides a handy guide to the subject for upper-division undergraduate and graduate collections." -- Choice

"Indians and the American West in the Twentieth Century is an important contribution to understanding the development of the West and provides a clear and impressive analysis of evolving government policy and programs that impacted directly on the resident Indian people." -- American Indian Culture and Research Journal

"This is an impressive effort that provides the reader with a balanced view of a subject that tends to become polemic." -- Books of the Southwest

"The well-written and analytical narrative is backed with thirty-nine pages of notes and bibliography, which provide an enormous complement and establish a firm foundation of scholarship." -- Nebraska History

"This book is an important contribution that manages to give the reader a bird's-eye view of the regularities of twentieth-century Indian history, while at the same time conveying the local twists, complexities, and ironies of that history and of any generalizations we would make about it.... should be read by all scholars in Native American studies and American minority history." -- Journal of American History

"Parman's thoughtful book will be of interest to students, scholars, and anyone remotely interested in Indian-white relations during the twentieth century." -- Pacific Historical Review

"An appraisal that is both clear and balanced." -- Margaret Connell Szasz, The University of New Mexico

"Parman delivers on his promise to present a 'balanced' and 'objective' summary, and his synthesis is clearly written and enjoyable to read. The book holds important lessons for westerners and midwesterners." -- The Annals of Iowa

"Parman has written a concise overview that synthesizes the development of the twentieth-century West and how that development impacted Indian nations." -- North Dakota History

A balanced and accessible overview of the last hundred years of Indian history in the American West. This even-handed and insightful account includes an assessment of the status of Native Americans in the West as the century comes to a close.


One of the basic goals in this work is to examine the relationship of Indian affairs to the development of the American West in the twentieth century. Anyone familiar with Indian history during this period has encountered evidence that western vested interests sought and often obtained Indian property, blocked needed protections, and dictated the activities of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The main object of westerners' interest in Indian affairs has centered on gaining Indian resources — land, minerals, water, timber, labor, etc. As the West developed after 1900, it changed from a region primarily devoted to farming, ranching, and production of raw or semi- processed goods to a mixed economy that fostered urban and industrial development. Obviously this transition led to a shift in what Indian resources whites regarded as valuable, but, more importantly, it changed the Indians' economic environment and created new opportunities and problems both on and off reservations.

I am not proposing an ironclad thesis of the West versus Indian resources. Indian-white relations are much too complex for such a simple thesis. The West, for example, has never possessed the political, economic, or philosophical unity needed to form a true regional consensus for dealing with Indians or much else except perhaps its strong hostility for federal controls. At best a kind of loose unity in economic and political matters has existed. In addition, the region's geographic diversities, its uneven economic development, and the marked differences in Indian cultures and reservation conditions frustrate any regional consensus. In more recent times, significant shifts in western public opinion and politics regarding Indians seems apparent. Instead of the traditional hostility toward Indians, some westerners since the mid-1950s have demonstrated considerable sympathy and concern. Indians have also learned how to manipulate the system. These changes doubtlessly account for the recent willingness of some western politicians to support Indian causes.

Federal intervention in such important areas as land reclamation, conservation, creation and operation of national parks and forests, regulation of grazing, and development of natural resources has been significant in the West because the region lacked capital and so much of it remains public domain. Such federal programs have also influenced Indian affairs in many ways. While western vested interests have usually dominated federal programs, both whites and Indians frequently found themselves helpless be-

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