Navajo pictograph in Canyon de Chelly (photo by Miles Hecker, 2011). This depicts the Spanish Lt. Antonio Narbona's attack on a group of Navajo women, children, and elders in Canyon del Muerto in January 1805. Narbona and his forces killed 115 and took 33 people captive.
The American West conjures forth a range of iconic and mythical images for many people both in and beyond this nation. In popular imagination, independent-minded white pioneers settled the West and made it part of the United States. But this region that is now part of our nation has a much longer and more diverse story. It has a narrative peopled by many distinct indigenous peoples, Mexicans and Mexican Americans, Asians and Asian Americans, African Americans, and immigrants from European countries. The powerful federal government and monolithic corporations fueled by urban capital dominated the region in complex ways. However, the challenges faced by the various peoples who have called this region their home at one time or another still make this the quintessential American story. This course will cover the early history of the North American West, beginning with the ways indigenous peoples transformed this region into homelands and concluding with the nineteenth-century contestations over the lands, resources, and meanings of the West.
In this course, students will understand:
- The diversity of peoples who have called the North American West their home.
- The complex relationship people have had with the environment of the North American West.
- How frontier myths arose in the popular culture of this nation and what these myths tell us about US history.
- How diverse peoples remade the environments of the North American West as they transformed it into their home.
- The political struggles and economic arrangements that accompanied westward expansion and annexation.
- How settlement of the North American West reshaped the politics and economy of this nation.
- How the North American West has been connected to other national and transnational regions.
The complete digital copy of the syllabus is now available.