One Vast Winter Count: The Native American West before Lewis and Clark

By Smith, F. Todd | The Arkansas Historical Quarterly, Autumn 2004 | Go to article overview

One Vast Winter Count: The Native American West before Lewis and Clark


Smith, F. Todd, The Arkansas Historical Quarterly


One Vast Winter Count: The Native American West before Lewis and Clark. By Colin G. Calloway. (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2003. Pp. xvii, 631. Series editor's preface, acknowledgments, note on terminology, prologue, illustrations, maps, epilogue, notes, bibliography, index. $39.95.)

This impressive book is the first of the six-volume History of the American West Series planned by the University of Nebraska Press. To write the volume on Native Americans before 1803, the series editors wisely chose Colin G. Calloway, who has published two ground-breaking monographs on Indian history, The American Revolution in Indian Country: Crisis and Diversity in Native American Communities (1995) and New Worlds for All: Indians, Europeans, and the Remaking of America (1997), as well as two documentary collections that attempt to understand how the West was lost from the natives' point of view. The editors originally asked Calloway to write the history of Indians west of the Mississippi River from the beginning of the sixteenth century to the end of the nineteenth century, but the author brilliantly chose to expand his study to include Native Americans west of the Appalachians and to begin with the pre-Columbian era and end in 1800. In doing so, Calloway has succeeded in showing how Indians created their own impressive world prior to the arrival of Europeans and how the tribes reacted to the Spaniards, Frenchmen, and Englishmen who came among them after 1500. The author has exhaustively researched the topic, combining relevant published primary sources with the latest scholarship in the field to produce a monumental study that obliterates the notion that the history of the American West began in 1804. Rather, as Calloway notes, "Lewis and Clark did not bring the West into U.S. history, they brought the United States into western history" (p. 2).

Calloway has expertly organized the book into three sections. The first section deals with the West before 1500, and the author presents this era-one that is often difficult for historians to portray-in an interesting and understandable manner. He pays close attention to the various advanced societies that emerged after the adoption of corn agriculture. Calloway analyzes demographics, economics, social structures, and religions to demonstrate how trade networks tied many of these native groups together before the European intrusion. …

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