The Contested Plains: Indians, Goldseekers, and the Rush to Colorado

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9780700608911: The Contested Plains: Indians, Goldseekers, and the Rush to Colorado

Deftly retracing a pivotal chapter in one of America's most dramatic stories, Elliott West chronicles the struggles, triumphs and defeats of both Indians and whites as they pursued their clashing dreams of greatness in the heart of the continent. "The Contested Plains" recounts the rise of the Native American horse culture, white Americans' discovery and pursuit of gold in the Rocky Mountains, and the wrenching changes and bitter conflicts that ensued. After centuries of many peoples fashioning many cultures on the plains, the Cheyennes and other tribes found in the horse the power to create a heroic way of life that dominated one of the world's great grasslands. Then the discovery of gold challenged that way of life and led finally to the infamous massacre at Sand Creek and the Indian Wars of the late 1860s. Illuminating both the ancient and more recent history of the plains and eastern Rocky Mountains, West weaves together a brilliant tapestry interlaced with environmental, social and military history. He treats the "frontier" not as a morally loaded term - either in the traditional celebratory sense or the more recent critical sense - but as a powerfully unsettling "process" that shattered an old world. He shows how Indians, goldseekers, haulers, merchants, ranchers and farmers all contributed to and in turn were consumed by this process, even as the plains themselves were utterly transformed by the clash of cultures and competing visions. Exciting and engaging, "The Contested Plains" is the first book to examine the Colorado gold rush as the key event in the modern transformation of the central great plains. It also exemplifies a kind of history that respects more fully our rich and ambiguous past - a past in which there are many actors but no simple lessons.

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From the Back Cover:

Winner of the Francis Parkman Prize, the Pen Center West Award, the Ray Allen Billington Prize, the Caughey Western History Prize, the Western Writers of America Spur Award, and the Caroline Bancroft Prize

"An interpretive triumph, full of fresh insights into well-worn topics. For all-round excellence in the full sweep of the western story, West occupies the pinnacle. A truly fine book."--Robert M. Utley, author of The Lance and the Shield: The Life and Times of Sitting Bull

"In Elliott West's company, the exploration of history becomes an adventure, a journey with surprises and unexpected insights sufficient to shake the most comfortable and settled of assumptions."--Patricia Nelson Limerick, author of Legacy of Conquest

"A haunting history and a wonderful piece of storytelling. Rarely have historical figures been so deeply human, so funny and tragic, as they are in this stunning, clear-eyed and yet deeply empathetic book."--Richard White, author of It's Your Misfortune and None of My Own

About the Author:

Elliot West, professor of history at the University of Arkansas, is the author of The Way to the West: Essays on the Central Plains and Growing Up with the Country: Childhood on the Far-Western Frontier, both of which received the Western Heritage Award for the best nonfiction book on the American West.

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