The Legacy of Conquest: The Unbroken Past of the American West

By Patricia Nelson Limerick | Go to book overview

Three
Denial and Dependence

DURING ANY WEEK, some Western politician or businessman will deliver a speech celebrating the ideal of regional independence. Westerners, the speaker will say, should be able to choose a goal and pursue it, free of restriction and obstacle. They should not have other people telling them what to do. If authority must be used, it should be their own authority imposed on those who try to block the path toward progress. In a one-to- one correspondence between nature and politics, the wide open spaces were meant to be the setting for a comparable wide open independence for Westerners. This independence, the speaker will assume, is the West's legitimate heritage from history.

In our era of global interdependence, that traditional speech seems to be out of place, for other people's actions affect our lives in an infinite number of ways. The repeated invocation of the Westerner's right to independence begins to sound anachronistic, opposed to the reality of a more complex time. In fact, the times were always complex. At any period in Western history, the rhetoric of Western independence was best taken with many grains of salt.

In 1884 Martin Maginnis, the delegate to Congress from Montana Territory, geared up for a classic denunciation of a travesty against Western independence. Territorial delegates

-78-

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The Legacy of Conquest: The Unbroken Past of the American West
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 2
  • Contents 7
  • Acknowkledgments 9
  • Introduction - Closing the Frontier and Opening Western History 17
  • Part 1 - The Conquerors 33
  • One - Empire of Innocence 35
  • Two - Property Values 55
  • Three - Denial and Dependence 78
  • Four - Uncertain Enterprises 97
  • Five - The Meeting Ground Of Past and Present 134
  • Part 2 - The Conquerors Meet Their Match 177
  • Six - The Persistence of Natives 179
  • Seven - America the Borderland 222
  • Eight - Racialism on the Run 259
  • Nine - Mankind the Manager 293
  • Ten - The Burdens of Western American History 322
  • Notes 351
  • Further Reading 369
  • Index 385
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