This chapter covers the changes in transportation and technology that enabled white settlers to move into the trans-Mississippi West, an area previously labeled the “Great American Desert” and was occupied almost exclusively by Indians and Mexicans. Mining, commercial farming, and ranching brought in more settlers as homestead laws and railroad land advertising promoted the settlement of the Great Plains. Indian communities were under siege and the Indians were generally pushed onto reservations. As the primitive West disappeared, parts of it were preserved in national parks, paintings, written works, and photography, as well as in a stereotyped “Wild West.” Indian cultures were seriously affected by federal legislation such as the Dawes Severalty Act, but many tribes managed to endure and even rejuvenate themselves.
After reading this chapter you should be able to:
Explain how the Oklahoma Land Rush illustrated the effects of settlement on old and new communities in the trans-Mississippi West.
Describe the impact on and transformation of the Indian communities in the trans-Mississippi West.
Discuss the West as an internal empire, including the role of the federal government in its acquisition.
Summarize the impact of settlement on existing communities as well as the creation of new ones.
Outline various agricultural changes in the region, from the plains cattle industry to California truck farming, including effects on regions east of the Mississippi River.
Summarize the efforts to create images of the “primitive West” in writings, paintings, photography, natural parks, and in stereotyped images of the Wild West.