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

3.92  ·  Rating Details  ·  214 Ratings  ·  24 Reviews
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 i
Paperback, 422 pages
Published April 24th 1998 by University Press of Kansas (first published April 1998)
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Apr 26, 2016 Matt rated it really liked it
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
Jun 03, 2007 Dartist rated it really liked it
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
Mar 16, 2010 Chris rated it really liked it
Shelves: us-19th-century
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
Thomas Isern
Oct 13, 2015 Thomas Isern rated it it was amazing
Shelves: great-plains
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 ...more
David Hill
Dec 28, 2015 David Hill rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Taylor Garner
May 09, 2011 Taylor Garner rated it it was ok
Sep 09, 2010 John rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 03, 2014 Derek rated it liked it
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
Feb 09, 2015 Daniel rated it really liked it
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.
Nov 24, 2015 Paul rated it liked it
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.
Aug 15, 2007 Leslie rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 03, 2013 Laurie Pope rated it really liked it
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.
Apr 06, 2007 Shannon rated it really liked it
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.
May 18, 2014 Jeffery rated it really liked it
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.
Feb 05, 2009 Matthew rated it it was amazing
Shelves: historical
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.
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.
Jan 15, 2009 Doug rated it it was amazing
One of the great New Western Historians. great Person, Writer, and Teacher
Chris Kemp
Jan 10, 2009 Chris Kemp rated it really liked it
Great book for the person who is interested in the history of the west.
Apr 08, 2012 Joshua rated it it was amazing
Amazing example of Western history by an aptly named author.
Sep 11, 2011 Cassie rated it did not like it
I have to read this in my history class. BOOOOOOO!!!!
PEN Center USA
Aug 01, 2011 PEN Center USA rated it it was amazing
1999 PEN Center USA Award Winner for Creative Nonfiction
Shonda Wilson
Mar 20, 2013 Shonda Wilson rated it really liked it
Really good book, liked alot.
Jessi Marie
Sep 21, 2012 Jessi Marie rated it liked it
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.
American history
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Jul 22, 2016
Austin.Caley rated it liked it
Jul 19, 2016
Vicki Osborne
Vicki Osborne marked it as to-read
Jul 17, 2016
Lucie Cardwell
Lucie Cardwell marked it as to-read
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Frank D. Flemming
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Jul 15, 2016
Chad marked it as to-read
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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
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“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.” 1 likes
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