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

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 dre

  • Title: The Contested Plains: Indians, Goldseekers, and the Rush to Colorado
  • Author: Elliott West
  • ISBN: 9780700610297
  • Page: 443
  • Format: Paperback
  • 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 tDeftly 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 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 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 enormously 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 fully our rich and ambiguous past a past in which there are many actors but no simple lessons.

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    About “Elliott West

    • Elliott West

      Elliott West received his B.A from the University of Texas 1967 and his Ph.D from the University of Colorado 1971 He joined the U of A faculty in 1979 Two of his books, Growing Up With the Country Childhood on the Far Western Frontier 1989 and The Way to the West Essays on the Central Plains 1995 received the Western Heritage Award The Contested Plains Indians, Goldseekers, and the Rush to Colorado 1998 received five awards including the Francis Parkman Prize and PEN Center Award His most recent book is The Last Indian War The Nez Perce Story 2009.In 1995 West was awarded the U of A Teacher of the Year and the Carnegie Foundation s Arkansas Professor of the Year In 2001 he received the Baum Faculty Teaching Award, and in 2009 he was one of three finalists for the Robert Foster Cherry Award recognizing the outstanding teacher in the nation.

    397 thoughts on “The Contested Plains: Indians, Goldseekers, and the Rush to Colorado

    • It's hard to find great, or even good, books about the American West. There are a few good authors working this realm, such as Robert Utley, but most popular histories focus on one of a few well-known topics - namely George Custer and his blazing death. The balance of books in the "American Indian" section at Barnes & Noble are comprised of polemics, which combine cultural defensiveness with political axes to crush objective (or even semi-objective) history into dust. The Contested Plains, w [...]

    • This is an extended review of this excellent, award-winning book from one of the top historians in the United States.From a European perspective, the Spaniard Francisco Coronado and his men were the first to discover the Great Plains of North America. Leaving Tiguex Pueblo on the Rio Grande River in 1541, Coronado traveled through what are now Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas before returning to New Spain, looking for great cities that would yield gold and other riches. “He was looking for the Azte [...]

    • Elliot West offers a highly readable narrative of the Colorado gold rush of 1859 and the violence that soon followed. This is West’s fifth book and, as evident by the six awards it received, it is his best known. Like the New West historians, he does not frame his account in terms of white pioneers to whom Indians were merely an obstacle in their own heroic struggle. Neither does he treat Plains Indians as the victims of white conquest. West avoids both paths by fixing his gaze on the Central [...]

    • West's history is an engaging, well-researched, and troubling read. Initially planning on writing about the Colorado Gold Rush (which, coming from CA, I never heard about, but it actually drew more people than our '49er version), West found the more compelling story to lie along the route across the prairie and plains states to Colorado. This region was the homeland of several Native American tribes, who had occupied the region for centuries (though some more recently than others--how often do n [...]

    • What a thoughtful book. I love the sentence in the introduction where the author’s friend tells him he can write about the traffic light on the corner without starting at the Magna Carta. Elliott West throws a mountain of backstory into this book, but it all works. To understand the enormity and complexity of the changes made by the settlement of the Plains and Colorado by white settlers in the 1850s and 1860s, it might not be necessary to go back 12,000 years, but it certainly does enhance th [...]

    • This book took me almost a year to read, it is as rich a fudgy chocolate brownie, nobody can eat a whole pan of brownies in a single sitting, but each bite is so delicious. This book of course is first and foremost an account of the history of Colorado through the 1870s, culminating with the destruction of and the subjugation of the plains Indians that we whites found here when we invaded. But, it is also a rich description of how different people can see their homeland and the way of life that [...]

    • Interesting. The early years of the Colorado Gold Rush. Focused on Denver and the Plains and the needs and desires of the white folks flooding the area which had recently become a home for nomadic horse riding Indians. The battle for resources as one group tries to survive and the other has a strong desire for the golden stuff. It was no picnic getting to Colorado, the nearest jumping off spot was about 600 miles away. The frontier gradually expanded as people came west. The California Gold Rush [...]

    • A wonderful history book on a minor-looking topic, but researched and described in great human and emotional detail. I enjoyed reading the author's framing of the 1860s on the Plains in terms of of "reimagining landscapes", sources of energy and conflict over resources. A very good book that I would recommend to anyone who wants to experience the frontier through a mix of contemporary testimony and 20th century educated hindsight.

    • Thorough if maybe a little repetitive, Elliott West's The Contested Plains: Indians, Goldseekers, & the Rush to Colorado examines the 1858-59 Colorado gold rush by grounding his thesis on the exploitation of resources and energy, a theory that should be familiar to anyone who has read the more popular texts by Michael Pollan or Jared Diamond. West examines the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountain Front Range as areas that have been used and re-imagined by generations of humans, from the very [...]

    • I really enjoyed this, and I felt like it did its job without prattling on too much, or cutting important elements out of the narrative. The author knows that Americans tend to act like the history of the Great Plains started with westward expansion and the first contacts with Indians along the western frontier. The point of this book is that we really have two cultures that arose to exploit the plains: one Native American culture that arose and grew very powerful once horses were introduced in [...]

    • This book nominally covers the period from the start of the Colorado gold rush to the Sand Creek Massacre, roughly 1858 to 1864. The first chapter introduces us to the native plains peoples before the arrival of the Spaniards (and the horse), going back as far as 12,000 years ago and the last chapter ties up some loose ends into the 20th century.The key to West's telling of the story is the quest for energy and power. The plains bask in the energy of the sun, which grows prairie grass. This ener [...]

    • Just re-read this work in preparation for a seminar discussion. Funny how after a few years, you bring different senses to the book. In particular, this time, the theme of imagination stands out. Imagination as the basis for human agency, imagination as the motivation to modify the environment, imagination as the inspiration for great things, imagination as the root of so many difficulties. Then I get to thinking how closely akin this is to the old-fashioned idealistic theory of History, and I w [...]

    • The story is an important one in the history of westward expansion in America. I found the book to be not very well organized. The author didn't do a very good job of keeping the story in chronological order, which ended up confusing me at some points in the book. It would have been helpful to have better maps throughout the book so as to help give the reader a better visual of the massive landscape that is described in the book.

    • West's description of Plains landscapes and their effects on movement and settlement patterns is fascinating. The author challenges notions of an empty, static region by demonstrating how the Plains have been both a stopping place and a funnel to other regions for centuries. In describing the impact of vast expanses of sky and grass on newcomers, West captures the awe and tinge of fear that many modern readers have likely felt while driving through the region on a sunny summer day.

    • I am reading this book for a class on Colorado history. It is very revealing and points out that the Euro American view of the West was far different than the reality. I have spent a lot of time thinking about what I have read, not just for my paper I will have to write but the impact of history on future generations and the fact that our current government fails to look back as we move forward.

    • What haven't I learned from this book? It is quite dense but really engaging. I find myself needing and wanting to reread it again. It tells a straightforward story from many perspectives leaving out a lot of judgement, condescention and all that other stuff that often comes from historians.

    • A good but tuff read, written at the not quite academic level this book requires careful and not light hearted reading. I read it over the course of a whole year, just a chapter or two between other lighter reads.

    • A good book that shows the move west from St. Louis in the 19th century to Colorado once gold was discovered through the eyes on both Americans and Natives.

    • Very well done and interesting, but could have used a little editing. The author states his case well, but is somewhat repetitive. Probably 3.5 stars.

    • a slow read but a good read. one of those authors that will use 10 words when 5 will do. very thorough recommend to anyone that is interested in western American history

    • This was that book that made me realize what I was trying to say in my thesis. It thus occupies a warm and fuzzy place in my heart. Also, it is mind-blowingly good.

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