The Contested West 1870-1900
The term "West" and its meaning have shifted throughout the decades of American history. Prior to
the Gold Rush of 1849, in which California became the primary focus, the West for settlers lay beyond the
Appalachian Mountains. However, by the 1860s, the term "West" referred to the land across the Mississippi
River, from the Great Plains to the Pacific Ocean. With its rich natural resources and fertile soil, the West
became contested terrain, as Native Americans struggled to preserve their sovereignty and cultural identity,
and as Anglos, Mexicans, Chinese, Jews, Blacks, Scandinavians, the Polish, Russians, Hungarians,
Canadians and Turks competed for the promise of land and riches.
As Ray Allen Billington argued, in
America's Frontier Heritage
(1966), the frontiersmen can be
classified into two types: those who came to use the soil and those who came to subdue the soil. Patricia
Nelson Limerick, in
Legacy of Conquest,
(1987) stated that the West is a region marked by a legacy of
person's loss." Lastly, Gerald D. Nash, (1981) in
Creating the West,
noted that the interpretation of Western
migration can be organized into four perceptions: the West as a frontier, as a region, as urban civilization
and as a myth.
As I noted during the lecture, the West was settled by various people from the global community.
However, recent scholarship has suggested that the West was not just a male phenomenon. Brenda K.
Domesticating the West,
(2005), argued that women redefined themselves as leaders of a new
western environment through community activism, volunteerism and political participation. Elizabeth
(Tappan) became the president of the local chapter of the Women's Christian Temperance Union and later,
in 1902, the local chapter historian of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
(Possible Paper Topics!)
How did the slaughter of bison contribute to Plains Indian's removal to reservations?
buffalo was a vital source of food and fuel to groups such as the Sioux and the Kiowa. In addition, the
buffalo was a key element for indigenous culture and religious life. Westward expansion destroyed the
buffalo, as the railroads sponsored kills. Without the buffalo, Native American prospects for independence
rapidly decline, forcing the indigenous populations to move onto reservations.
How did industrial technology change mining in Nevada?