16. The Contested Plains: Indians, Goldseekers, and the Rush to Colorado by Elliott West
“This book will change the way the history of the West is taught and understood forever.” —Publishers Weekly
In his 1998 book, Elliot West tells the history of Native Americans and their battles with the incoming white settlers. West highlights the environmental, social, military, and political ramifications of these events in our history, weaving together the threads of society at that time. West discusses the California Gold Rush as a key event in American history, Native American history, and the reformation of the Great Plains. In the 1800’s, thousands of people rushed to California in search of gold, which drastically changed the course of the tribes of people living there and the environment itself.
Through his storytelling and integration of facts and history, West weaves together an important part of this countries past. His book has received high praise across the board. Glenda Riley from the American Historical Review writes, “In a way, Elliot West tells a familiar tale: that of Indians, goldseekers, and the ensuing conflict. But in this case, West is the first to assess the cataclysmic changes that the Colorado gold rush brought to the Great Plains. In addition, rather than casting the story in the usual terms of heartless aggressors and hapless victims, West supplies a large and insightful interpretation that at once softens and increases our understanding of the Anglo disruption of Plains Indian cultures. To understand where western history is now, and is likely to go in the future, one must read this book.”
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 more fully our rich and ambiguous past—a past in which there are many actors but no simple lessons.
The Contested Plains by Elliot West won the Caroline Bancroft Prize, Caughey Award, PEN Center USA West Literary Award in Research Nonfiction, Francis Parkman Prize, and the Ray Allen Billington Prize Choice Outstanding Title.