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

3.82 of 5 stars 3.82  ·  rating details  ·  141 ratings  ·  19 reviews
Although many books have been written about the Colorado gold rush, this one concentrates on assessing the cataclysmic changes that it brought to the Great Plains. In addition, rather than casting the story in the usual terms of heartless aggressors and hapless victims, it supplies a large and insightful interpretation that at once softens and increases our understanding o...more
Paperback, 422 pages
Published April 24th 1998 by University Press of Kansas (first published April 1998)
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Dartist
Jun 03, 2007 Dartist rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Western history buffs, people who live in the plains, Native Americans
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...more
Chris
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 G...more
Matt
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...more
John
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...more
Leslie
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.
Laurie Pope
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.
Shannon
Apr 06, 2007 Shannon rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: People who think they know how it went...
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.
Jeffery Conklin
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.
Matthew
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.
Patrick
Sep 26, 2007 Patrick marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: americanhistory
Recently acquired at the Friends of the Library bookstore for the San Pedro, CA library.
Doug
One of the great New Western Historians. great Person, Writer, and Teacher
Chris Kemp
Great book for the person who is interested in the history of the west.
Joshua
Amazing example of Western history by an aptly named author.
Cassie
I have to read this in my history class. BOOOOOOO!!!!
PEN Center USA
1999 PEN Center USA Award Winner for Creative Nonfiction
Shonda Wilson
Really good book, liked alot.
Jessica
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.
Laura
American history
Derek
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...more
Todd
Todd marked it as to-read
Jul 28, 2014
Cassidy
Cassidy marked it as to-read
Jun 24, 2014
Daniel
Daniel marked it as to-read
Jun 09, 2014
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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...more
More about Elliott West...
The Last Indian War: The Nez Perce Story (Pivotal Moments in American History) Growing Up with the Country: Childhood on the Far Western Frontier The Way to the West: Essays on the Central Plains (Calvin P. Horn Lectures in Western History and Culture) The Essential West: Collected Essays The Saloon on the Rocky Mountain Mining Frontier

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“A frustrated friend once told me that I couldn’t comment on a new traffic light at Maple and Arkansas without starting with the Magna Carta. Explanations do indeed seem to seep backward in all directions. The hard part is keeping them under control and giving them some focus.” 0 likes
“In Wright Morris's novel Plains Song, the narrator asks, "Is the past a story we are persuaded to believe, in the teeth of the life we endure in the present?" The question is always open. How we treat our world and each other grows from our vision of how we have come to where we are. Ultimately, of course, the issue is not survival but decency and common sense. Everything passes, the psalmist reminds us. No one escapes. The best we can hope is to learn a little from the speaking dead, to find in our deep past some help in acting wisely in the teeth of life.” 0 likes
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