The California, Great Basin and Plateau culture region encompasses the western states and is surrounded by the Northwest, Subarctic, Plains and Southwest cultures.CaliforniaThe California region boasts a wide variety of climates and geographical features, rivaling any other area of comparable dimensions. Along the Pacific Coast, they hunted fish and sea mammals by boat. They pounded the hard nuts with stones and washed out the bitter taste with water.The Pomo crafted what were arguably the finest baskets in all of indigenous America. Their mothers wore hats that resembled bowl-shape baskets.The California natives lived in communities numbering up to 2,000 with dwellings arrayed in groups. More than 100 languages flourished in California before European contact; most are gone today.Great BasinBetween the Rockies and the Sierra Nevada mountain ranges of California lies an arid and sparsely populated land largely consisting of desert. Water and food were hard to come by in most of the area.Included in the Great Basin culture area are the Tubatulabal and the Owens Valley Paiute of eastern California and the Paiute, southern Shoshone and western Ute in the Great Basin of Nevada and Utah, among others.The area was generally too dry for farming and there were relatively few animals to hunt. A few tribes ate boiled or roasted grasshoppers.Given that food was scarce, they had to stay on the move to find it. They heaped earth over the house in winter.The inhabitants of the California and Intermountain regions used shells as currency, which eased trade among their several societies.The PlateauIn eastern Oregon and Washington, southern Alberta and British Columbia, northern Idaho and western Montana, mountains are draped with evergreen forests and the valleys are grassy. The summers are hot, and the winters are long and cold.A pattern of life similar to Great Basin peoples existed on the Plateau, but it was enhanced by annual runs of salmon up the Columbia River, other rivers and tributaries. In the meadows, they pulled up camas (edible bulbs) and other nutrient-rich tubers and roots. They dried salmon and camas for winter consumption.People lived in villages made of partly sunken circular dwellings in the cold months and camped in grass mat houses in the warm months. Market villages existed where trekkers from the Plains and the Pacific Coast congregated, purchased dried food and bartered for other items.In approximately 1740, the Plateau natives began to trade with the Plains natives for horses, which brought significant change—they were then able to travel much faster in search of food. These tribes included the Bannock, Colville, Umatilla, Flathead, Kutenai, Nez Percé, northern Shoshone and Yakama. Many lived in tipis.Seed-gathering and trading were common among inhabitants of all three regions. Altogether some 85 major native groups and numerous subgroups lived in these regions up to the 1850s.
See Indian Wars Time Table.
Native American Cultural Regions map
See also Lewis and Clark Expedition.
The Civil War and the Far West
The Civil War and the American conquest of the West were two of the most important events that changed the United States in the nineteenth century however, they are often treated and taught separately in history texts and classrooms. This separate categorization is hardly surprising since, in terms of geography, the majority of the Civil War took place in the southern and border states, with little military engagement in the trans-Mississippi West that occupies the focus of most western history specialists. 1 But is also odd, given the importance of the West to American politics and identity in the decades leading up to 1861. The expansion of slavery figured prominently in the power struggles for control over western territory in the first half of the nineteenth century determining the free or slave status of incoming states and federal territorial possessions was central of the Missouri Compromise (1832) and the Compromise of 1850, the two biggest political bargains that diffused the nations heated slavery debates in the antebellum period. Westerners also witnessed these political struggles produce outright violence, including the Bloody Kansas border war (1854 1861), before war turned national. Despite the close relationship between the West and the slavery politics that produced the Civil War, once historians reach the secession crisis, which began in the wake of Abraham Lincolns 1860 election, the West disappears from the main historical narrative.
New Scholarship on the Civil War and the West
Historians have recently begun a renewed effort to explicitly articulate the ways in which we might think about the Civil War and the West together, building on an earlier literature that limited the Civil War in the Far West to histories of military conflict, particularly the New Mexico Campaign (1862) and the Battle of Glorieta Pass. Anthologies like the University of California Presss Civil War Wests demonstrate the sheer diversity of scholarship a Civil War West framework can produce and join together. These collections of essays also illuminate broader themes that can help us think about East and West together how the Civil War period raised questions about the nature and form of citizenship, witnessed many kinds of violent conflict on and off formal battlefields, and set in motion military, economic, and political events that continued well after the war officially ended. Histories that explore these themes are helping to reorient the major narratives of not only the Civil War, but will also expand our conceptions of Reconstruction practices and policies, revealing the national scope and impact of the Civil War and its consequences, as well as the periods international significance.
Suggested Reading: Civil War West
- Ward M. McAfee, Californias House Divided, Civil War History33:2 (1987), pg. 115-130
- Adam Arenson and Andrew R. Graybill, eds., Civil War Wests: Testing the Limits of the United States (Oakland, University of California Press, 2015).
- Virginia Scharff, ed., Empire and Liberty: The Civil War and the West (Oakland, University of California Press, 2015).
* If you are near Autry National Center of the American West in Los Angeles, CA, check out their complimentary museum exhibition, Empire and Liberty, which explores the causes and legacies of the American Civil War from the vantage point of Westward expansion, on view until January 3, 2016. 2
The Civil War West in the Classroom
Bringing the Civil War West into the classroom can be approached from a number of directions, to which the wide-ranging variety of recent scholarship attests. Prompting students think about the Civil War and western expansion together not only introduces them a current and growing subject of historical inquiry, but also helps them appreciate the truly national impact of the war. Adding the Far West into a Civil War narrative, however, should not merely take the form of extra-curricular add-ons as historians have warned, brief excursions into less traversed territory do not really disrupted or reroute what have long been the main thoroughfares of study and writing. 3 In keeping with the purpose and spirit of the new scholarship that combines the West and the Civil War, teachers will be best served by purposefully integrating western perspectives and sources into the larger narratives of the desired curriculum where possible.
Primary Sources: 4
- (Sept. 27, 1861), The War of the Rebellion: Official RecordsSeries I, Vol L, Part 1, pp. 635-641
- , Mar. 16. Arizona Ordinance of Secession in Ordinances of Secession and Other Documents, 1860 861, ed. Albert Bushnell Hard and Edward Channing (Ebook: American History Leaflet: Colonial and Constitutional No. 12, 2011) , Arizona Historical Society.
- Asbury Harpending, The great diamond hoax and other stirring incidents in the life of Asbury Harpending (1913)
Dreams of Empire
Among the ways western Civil War sources expand our views of the conflict, they offer important insights into the Confederate perspective and worldview, revealing the scope and nature of the Confederacys dreams for its future beyond the defeat of Union forces. With origins in various efforts to expand their proslavery order throughout the Atlantic in the 1850s, Confederates envisioned and attempted to create a transcontinental empire throughout the Southwest throughout the war.
Suggested Reading: Proslavery Expansionism
- Matthew Karp, The World Slaveholders Craved: Proslavery Internationalism in the 1850s in The World of the Revolutionary American Republic: Land Labor and the Conflict for a Continent, ed. Andrew Shankman (New York: Routledge, 2014), 414 432.
- Walter Johnson, River of Dark Dreams: Slavery and Empire in the Cotton Kingdom (Boston, Belknap Press, 2013). Chapters 11 13 in particular form the books study of proslavery imperialism.
- Leonard L. Richards, The California Gold Rush and the Coming of the Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2007). Chapter 8 and the Epilogue are particularly relevant.
- Kevin Waite, Californias Forgotten Proslavery Past, History News Network, July 6, 2014.
- David Blight, A Southern World View: The Old South and Proslavery Ideology Lecture, YaleCourses – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yRfByLRO5xs
In a letter to Secretary of War and former Senator from Pennsylvania, Simon Cameron, Brigadier-General Edwin Sumner described the Confederacys plans for the Far West in 1861: 5
The machinations of secession forces who are now straining every nerve, using every device, pulling every cord with might and main to circumvent the supports of our glorious Union, and incorporating the States of Nuevo Leon, Coahuila, Chihuahua, Durango, and Sonora, Mexico into the Government of the Confederate States of the South. For this purpose Jeff. Davis, the rebel chief, has dispatched secret agents to the governors of the States above enumerated to induce them to secede and joining the standard of the seceshers.
General Sumner believed more loyal and competent men should replace the governors of New Mexico Territory and Arizona, territory the restless eye of Jeff. Davis [was] particularly bent on, as they were doing little to stymie Confederate schemes for the demolition of a free Republic and the erection in its stead of a military slavery, extending empire. 6 Sumners letter not only describes the importance of the Far West for Union military planning, but also the Confederacys fight for Arizona territory in terms of its international vision of a proslavery republic.
Proposed map of division of the Arizona and New Mexico Territories by the Confederacy during the Civil War.
Arizona Territory was not just the passive subject of Confederate imperialists designs. In March 1861, residents passed an ordinance of secession by convention after federal forces withdrew from the territory. Although only a Confederate possession for a brief period of time (ending July 1862), the Ordinance reveals the pressing concerns of the people of Arizona Territory: the need for protection from Indian raids and attacks, continued mail service, and the ties of southern identity. Interestingly, the document makes no explicit mention of slavery. Have students compare the Arizona Territorys Ordinance of Secession with another states declaration of secession (South Carolinas Declaration of the Immediate Causes which Induce and Justify Secession is a prime example). What are the concerns articulated in each document? Where do they overlap or diverge? What does each document tell us about the pressing realities of life in each place?
Confederate Plans for California
California also experienced the push-and-pull of proslavery and free labor forces in the mid-nineteenth century. The California Gold Rush brought the free or slave labor question to the fore. While miners wanted to prevent the competition slave labor posed, southerners had different ideas Jefferson Davis argued African slaves were better adapted to working in the mines of California than the European races. 7 Even after California joined the Union as a free state in 1850, proslavery advocates did not give up their plans to join California with the South. In 1861, once the Civil War began, a number of secessionist plots arose, including the effort to found a Pacific Republic with Oregon, allied with the Confederacy.
Asbury Harpendings lively biography, The Great Diamond Hoax and Other Stirring Episodes in the Life of Asbury Harpending, provides a first-hand account of southern sympathizers conspiratorial efforts to create the Pacific Republic, as well as Harpendings brief stint as a Confederate privateer in the San Francisco Bay, attempting to raid Union cargo ships. A Kentuckian by birth, Harpending ran away as a teen to join s proslavery filibustering mission to Nicaragua in 1854. Caught by federal authorities before leaving the United States, Harpending traveled to California instead. Involved in a number of confederate conspiracies designed to join California with the secessionist South, as well as a part-time pirate, Harpending himself declared, It would have been hard to find a more reckless secessionist. 8 Harpendings narrative, an entertaining read on its own, helps students connect the expansionist proslavery projects of the 1850s with secessionist efforts in the West, while the variety of conspiracies Harpending participated in attest to the importance of California to secessionist visionaries. 9
The Impact of a Western Approach to the Civil War
Approaching the Civil War from the West offers fresh and relevant ways to think about the most important event in nineteenth century America. Teachers can build in western history to their Civil War units on a number of thematic orientations: slavery expansionism, southern imperialism, American continental empire, the role of regionalism, and the meaning of citizenship in the nineteenth century. But we need not bring the two estimable subjects into the classroom simply as a side-note. As historians seek to reorient the traditional Civil War narrative, teachers at all levels can play their part by integrating western sources into their Civil War curriculum and to help their students think about the conflicts international reach and national impact.
Extra Activity: The Civil War and the Far West on the International Stage
In 1863, William McKendree Gwin, a doctor and one of Californias first senators, as well as a proslavery advocate, travelled to France to gain Napoleon IIIs support for a settlement project in Sonora, Mexico designed to attract pro-Confederacy Californians and launch a Mexican gold rush. 10 In 1865, General Ulysses S. Grant and Major-General Irvine McDowell, commander of the Department of the Pacific, wrote one another discussing the threat Gwin posed to the preservation of the United States. Using the linked primary sources below, students can review Grant and McDowells correspondence and assessment of the situation. Paired with Kevin Waites article on Gwins Sonora settlement scheme, students can see how historians mobilize primary sources to craft historical narratives, gaining an understanding of another chapter of the history of the Civil War in the West, as well as the craft of historical writing.
THE FAR WEST VILLAGE
''W AY out west of Hudson Street'' is how Greenwich Villagers, viewing the world from their expensive little Bohemia, used to think of the cheaper dockside quarter to the west.
Now that area has emerged as the dramatically expanding residential quarter of the 1980's. Moving beyond Bohemia into $100,000-a-year-and-up chic, it is variously known as the New West Village, the West West Village, the Real West Village or the Far West Village.
With a suitably westward-ho drive and a sort of West Coast innovativeness, it has pushed past its 19th-century red-brick and brownstone houses to adapt unlikely terrain to human habitation. Prospectors for unconventional housing at almost any price find open living spaces and the rakish bulks of reclaimed warehouses and coldstorage plants alongside cobblestoned, Greek Revival quaintness. Traditional apartment houses, none truly high-rise, are outnumbered by sturdy, 100-year-old ''tenements'' refurbished to attract the young and prosperous, even as Irish or Italian oldtimers still lean on pillows to watch the world from upper windows.
''The big push is already on to get high-rises along the river,'' one real estate broker said. The linchpin of the developing community is the imminent $50 million conversion of the 10-story former Federal Archives Building, the area's largest structure and vacant since 1974. The high-ceilinged, block-square Romanesque landmark, bounded by Christopher, Barrow, Washington and Greenwich Streets, will be a 350-apartment cooperative, with retail and community space.
From truck-clotted West Street on the river, the Far West Village runs inland only three crosstown blocks across Washington Street, Greenwich Street and Hudson (the southern extension of Eighth Avenue) - or, in some minds, to Bleecker for one five-block stretch between Christopher and Bank Streets. Southward from its north boundary at West 14th Street, the area extends 15 or 18 blocks - to Morton or West Houston, depending on who is counting.
To stem the decline of jobs, nonresidential zoning has been stiffened in the area's north and south extremities: the Gansevoort wholesale-meat district, just below 14th Street, and the ''graphic arts and trucking district,'' which meanders below Morton Street toward Houston. MANY of the ''private'' houses go back to the 1840s, soon after the a rea was turned from farmland into lots, and the Greenwich Village H istoric District extends westward to the middle of Washington S treet. Nearly all the houses have been divided into apartments ( duplexes, floor-throughs or smaller), generally by owner-occupants, o r are jointly owned.
Two or three decades ago, when many houses had declined into rooming houses but pier operations were already withering, creeping blight seemed to destine the whole area to urban renewal by bulldozer and high-rise development. Activists led by Jane Jacobs, the writer on urban planning, beat back that threat, and community vigilance and economic conditions have since led to a ''renewal'' more in the area's own image. But residents peer into the not-quite-settled question of the Westway, the proposed six-lane highway along the Hudson River from the Battery to 42d Street, as if into a crystal ball, even while disagreeing on what they see.
''You can't talk West Village without talking Westway - the whole future hangs on it,'' says James Shaw, chairman of the West Village Committee. The road would run underground the length of the West Village, with landfill creating new residential and park property in the river. The only ''parks'' now are two play-and-sitting areas at Abingdon Square and two sports courts, far north and far south.
Served remotely or scantily by subway and bus, the Far West Village has remained, except for Christopher Street, a sort of backwater, without Greenwich Village's tour buses, walking tours and weekend hordes. But the Far West cherishes its peculiar surprises: A clapboard cottage moved to its own lawn at Greenwich and Charles Streets, dwarfed by buildings that, at nine or 10 stories, are tall for the area. The Amos Farm, a nursery plot and garden store on Hudson at 10th Street that still carries the name of an original farm in the area. A sunbathing pier at the foot of Morton Street that is moorage for ''the Greenwich Village Navy'' - two Board of Education training ships.A defunct elevated railroad spur that appears to run right through three of the newest conversions on West Street.
In 1970, 6,400 people lived in the entire area west of Hudson. The 1980 census counted just under 8,000, by now a thoroughly out-of-date total. Sixteen percent were from black, Hispanic or other minorities.
Although the area has a large homosexual population, it also attracts young, two-paycheck heterosexual couples. Less than onefourth of the 1980 households were '⟺milies'' (married couples with or without children and single parents with children). The entire child population was 635 and 2,700 adults lived alone.
The median age for the whole area was 33, but 668 persons were over 65, with 400 of them living north of Bank Street and many still protected by rent control.
Public schools are nearby P.S. 3 on Hudson Street, which offers an arts-centered 'ɺlternative'' curriculum, and P.S. 41, the main Greenwich Village school on West 11th and Avenue of the Americas. With 800 pupils, P.S. 41 has 74 percent reading at or above grade level, 112th among the city's 627 elementary schools. P.S. 3, with 325 pupils, ranks 147th with a 70 percent score. Private schools include the Village Community School, St. Luke's and the West Village Nursery School.
Thus far, retail business has not increased in proportion to the new population, and it is still a fair sprint to Bleecker Street's gourmet and ethnic food shops, boutiques, hardware stores, decorators and antique shops. Movies are also a long trek away, but the lively theater west of Seventh Avenue includes the Lucille Lortel (formerly Theater de Lys), Cherry Lane, Actors Playhouse, Circle Repertory, Perry Street and others (including the Herbert Berghof Studio).
The West Village plethora of restaurants is edging farther west, with uptowners attracted to perhaps the Village Green, La Ripaille or The Heavenly Host (complete with harpsichord) on Hudson, Hornblower's on Horatio, K.O.'s or Trattoria da Alfredo on Bank. The old working-class bars have been 'ɽiscovered,'' in the earlier tradition of the White Horse on Hudson, and even the waterfront dives are getting fancier - and more expensive.
While burglaries in the area have dropped below last year's first three months, robberies are up 70 percent while holding steady in the rest of the Sixth Precinct. Officer Thomas Knobel, noting that ''the population doubles on weekends,'' said most of the trouble was around the homosexual bars and the piers between 11 A.M. and 5 A.M. Urging residents to ''stay off West Street at night,'' he said the precinct was ''trying to clean up'' the conditions there. THE spectacular increase in housing has come mainly through c onversion of commercial and manufacturing buildings to living lofts a nd apartments. Mark Blau, one of the new breed of conversion s pecialists (he turned a former stable on Horatio Street into a d istinctive co-op), puts the number west of Hudson at ''maybe 2,000 c ompleted already with, you could safely say, thousands more in the p ipeline.''
The old Federal House of Detention on West Street has become a loft co-op. The former Sixth Precinct stationhouse is an apartment house called Le Gendarme. Printing House Square was a printing company. Recycled warehouses include Shephard House, the Romanesque (rents from $850 for a studio to $2,895 for the penthouse), the Towers and Waywest, where a two-bedroom ground-floor apartment goes for $160,000 with $245 maintenance. Manhattan Refrigerating Company, which served the meat-market district, is now the 300-unit West Coast rental apartments (studios, $900 1-bedroom, $1,200) - and developers with faith in future zoning relaxation are jockeying for position in the meat district itself.
''To find co-ops here under $100,000 is really tough,'' said David Puchkoff, Waywest's owner. Said Mr. Blau, ''In this area you're talking about $100 per square foot for a basic, open-plan co-op purchase and maybe $150 to $160 per square foot for completely finished, with good kitchens and baths.''
''Townhouse prices here are pretty much holding at $400,000 to $600,000 but few good ones are on the market,'' said Mary Johnson, a real estate broker. ''Interestingly enough,'' said Patricia Mason, another broker, ''none has gone over $1 million yet - but they will.'' Calling $450,000 to $500,000 ''really the starting point for brownstones,'' she said she had 'ɺ tiny little one for $290,000.''
Typical rents for apartments in houses are $600 to $750 for studios, $900 to $1,400 for one-bedrooms and $1,400 to $2,000 for two-bedrooms.
How Basques Became Synonymous With Sheepherders in the American West
Basque residents in the Jordan Valley in Malheur County, Oregon. Courtesy of the Oregon Historical Society’s Research Library, photo by Pascual Eiguren.
by Iker Saitua | July 10, 2019
One enduring myth of the American West is that people of Basque origins or ancestry came to dominate sheepherding because of the skills they brought with them from the old country.
The real story is less about sheep and more about migration, desperation—and money.
In the 1850s, some Basque families, including the Altubes and the Garats, arrived in California as its mining economy expanded. These early Basques had previously fled to South America during the problematic path of transition from the old regime to a liberal state in the early 19th century. But during the gold rush, these Basques set out again, eager to join the economic exploitation of California’s land and resources. Some stayed in the West, starting business ventures in livestock ranching and related products to feed the new state’s expanding population. Today, some Basque-Americans who inherited their immigrant fathers’ or even grandfathers’ stock businesses are still raising meat on the hoof.
Still, the original Basque immigrants were not experienced sheepherders. Perhaps some had tended a few sheep in the Basque Country, but certainly none had worked as open-range sheepherders before they immigrated to the United States. Basque immigrants took on this work because it paid relatively well—largely because it was considered undesirable—and did not require special skills or a command of the English language.
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By the early 1870s, California land prices and population were increasing, and the Basque stockmen moved eastward to marginal lands in the Great Basin, which the transcontinental railroad had just connected to all the major markets. In northeastern Nevada, for example, land for grazing was still plentiful and cheap. There, in Elko County, Bernardo and Pedro Altube from Oñati, a town in the province of Gipuzkoa in Basque Country, formed the partnership called Spanish Ranch. By the late 1880s, though their numbers were relatively few, a small Basque immigrant community had created an ethnic economic niche based largely on the open-range sheep industry, paving the way for further Basque immigrants by giving them employment as ranch hands.
By the 1890s, the early Basque herders were making the pattern of the “agricultural ladder” work for them and subsequent newcomers. Basque arrivals would begin by herding as wage workers—though some were compensated in lambs. Receiving their wage in lambs enabled many to operate mixed sheep bands (of both owners’ and sheepherders’ lambs), create their own sheep operations (oftentimes forming partnerships), and purchase land and property. By the early 20th century, Basque-owned sheep operations were ubiquitous in the West.
The omnipresence of Basque herders helped create a stereotype of those immigrants as having innate skills with sheep. But it wasn’t only their abilities, but also how they fit into American concepts of racial hierarchy that contributed to this myth. By the early 20th century, Basques were often depicted by non-Basque ranchers as good sheepherders who were racially superior to other non-white ethnic groups. In September 1903, the Colorado Rocky Ford Enterprise asserted that “the class of men … in demand for herding the sheep were known as Basques or ‘Bascos’ … They naturally take to the life of solitude, as they and their ancestors have been employed in a similar occupation in the Pyrennees [sic] Mountains for many years past.” This myth, based on the false premise that Basques had been sheepherders back home, came to define Basque-Americans for many Americans.
Despite the positives of the myth, the omnipresence of Basques sparked a backlash. By the 1890s, Basque herders roaming freely on public domain lands with several thousand head of sheep were perceived by the older livestock operators as a growing menace to established ranching. They were also seen as potential environmental villains by the American Conservation Movement that would form a major aspect of Progressive reform politics in the first decade of the 20th century.
When Congress and the President moved to establish forest reserves and eventually national forests in the late 19th century, issues of rangeland governance made the presence of Basque itinerant sheepherders central to local and national debates. And those arguments turned Basques into scapegoats.
Conservationists claimed that transient sheepherders were detrimental to agricultural development because they did little to build up the land. By this argument, the Basques should not be favored at the expense of the regular occupants, large or small. Local ranch owners and the small-town business communities, which depended on the prosperity of the ranges, complained to state and federal representatives. Resentment against these transients led to the occasional roughing up of sheepherders or the killing of their dogs. And most local U.S. Forest Service officials defended the idea of keeping many Basque herders out of the national forests in favor of those who had stronger ties to the local business communities. Forest rangers, in reports to their supervisors recommending the exclusion of sheep in the national forests, typically portrayed Basques as “furtive” and selfish destroyers of the environment.
In 1910, Basque immigrant Pete Jauregui built The Star Hotel in 1910 in Elko, Nevada. Courtesy of the Northeastern Nevada Museum.
This photograph of The Star Hotel was taken in 1959. The hotel is still open today. Courtesy of Northeastern Nevada Museum.
During the years before World War I, a rising wave of anti-immigrant sentiment made acceptance and integration of the Basques even more difficult. But through the 1910s, more settled Basque communities, widely dispersed throughout the West, continued to attract further emigration of Basques. These communities, often working together, developed better collective strategies to help newcomers in the transition to living in the U.S. For example, Basque-owned boarding houses offered immigrants housing, employment, social protection, and other kinds of assistance, like health care and mail service. Such boarding houses also offered to the public some traditional foods and liquors at a reasonable price through on-site bars, paving the way for closer relations between Basques and non-Basques.
As the 20th century advanced, the reputations of sheepherding and Basque culture improved. Some old Basque boarding houses were turned into Basque restaurants, which today are among the most popular ethnic businesses in the American West. For many people, these establishments—and the myth of the Basques’ special relationship to sheep—are all that remain of a far more complex history.
Iker Saitua is a historian at the University of California, Riverside, and the University of the Basque Country. He is author of Basque Immigrants and Nevada’s Sheep Industry: Geopolitics and the Making of an Agricultural Workforce, 1880-1954.
Prehistory of the Far West: Homes of Vanished Peoples
Prehistory of the Far West: Homes of Vanished Peoples. By L. S. Cressman. Salt Lake City, Utah: University of Utah Press, 1977. Bibliography. Illustrations. Index. Maps. Tables. 247 pages. $15.00.
Reviewed by Diane Everett-Barbolla, Instructor of Anthropology and Archeology, San Diego Mesa College Director of the Presidio Entranceway Excavation Project Co-Director Bancroft Ranch House Excavations (1974) Archeological Consultant for Hirsch and Company.
Cressman’s purpose is three-fold: to assemble existing data on the prehistoric cultural development of the region between the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Coast, to assess the question of priority of development of coastal and inland regions especially the North Pacific Coast region, and to evaluate the contributions of linguistic, anthropometric, genetic and archeological studies to the question of Far West aboriginal migrations. It is a formidable task and one generally well done. If Cressman has a bias, it is that the prehistorian should also be a humanist and “seek his reward in exploration of the psychological characteristics of his people” (pp. 88). The book is personal, nostalgic, and retrospective on a career of nearly fifty years. This bias occasionally makes Cressman gentle when evaluating his data.
Cressman begins by discussing the functional interrelationship of environment, biology and culture in determining human adaptation. From British Columbia to San Diego, Cressman describes the variety of the land and its geologic history. The chapter is a long, complex, highly technical review of chronological problems which rightly points out that our cherished absolute C14 dating system may not be so absolute. Cressman is uncomfortable with dates older that 15,000 years ago for the peopling of the New World. He mentions the controversial Texas Street and Scripps Campus sites in San Diego, Santa Rosa Island, as well as less controversial sites in Mexico, Idaho and Oregon. He refers in a footnote to the Calico Hills site near Barstow, and the dating of the Del Mar Man by amino acid racemization. But dates 50,000 years old or older do not appeal to him, and are mentioned only briefly if at all.
Cressman does a good job of reviewing the literature on the skeletal and genetic characteristics of the people in an effort to reach a conclusion about the nature of “Indian types” and decides that there is no “type”. He seems to regard such discussion as having little merit due to fragmentary evidence and more specifically to the fact of their accomplishments. (pp. 88) What the people did is more important than who they were or what they looked like. Even linguistic study (glottochronology) is regarded as “disciplined speculation” and in need of more analysis. All are subordinate to subsistence and technology. Culture as an adaptive mechanism receives Cressman’s greatest attention and when he describes what the people of the Far West did, he is thorough.
Cressman discusses the desert Region and Southern California Coast and is generally critical. He rejects the San Dieguito I, II, III, subdivision, feels the Harris Site is an inadequate type-site, is dubious of the millingstone criteria used to distinguish La Jolla from San Dieguito, regards the subdividing of the La Jolla culture into phases of questionable value and sees the sin of “taxonomic overscrupulousness” (pp. 180) manifest. Anyone who studies the literature may empathize with this observation.
The question of priority of cultural development and relations between the Islands and mainland of Southern California leads him to conclude that both grew out of a common base. But he avoids saying whether that base is Island or mainland. He opts instead for “coastal” (pgs. 186-187). Cressman was unaware of current work on San Clemente Island by L. M. Axford of Mesa College. C14 dates include two over 8,000 (personal communication). These dates certainly challenge his La Jolla, Santa Barbara, Channel Island sequence but don’t yet resolve the priority question.
Of Cressman’s three tasks he is strongest on assembling the cultural data, uncertain about the coastal-island priority question, and submissive to his humanistic bias in evaluating the linguistic, anthropometric and genetic evidences.
The Prehistory of the Far West: Homes of Vanished Peoples is not designed for classroom use but is a good reference for the early cultural history of the Far West.
This article discusses the implications of recent research along the Pacific Coast of North America—which has pushed the antiquity of maritime adaptations in Canada, the United States, and Mexico back into the terminal Pleistocene—for understanding the origins of Paleoindian peoples in North America's Far West. It focuses primarily on technological evidence for the peopling of western North America, in the form of distinctive stemmed projectile points found in early sites around the Pacific Rim, a projectile technology quite different from the fluted points of the Clovis and Folsom traditions. Results suggest that the Pacific Coast was at the epicenter of Paleoindian origins and may link the initial colonization of the Americas to one of the most significant maritime migrations in human history.
Jon Erlandson is Professor of Anthropology, University of Oregon.
Todd J. Braje is Assistant Professor of Anthropology, San Diego State University.
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FAR-West – A History
Prior to the founding of Folk Alliance Region – West, the states that are now part of FAR-West (California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Arizona, Idaho, Hawaii, and Alaska) were part of the Southwest region of Folk Alliance. SWERFA always meets in Texas, so the annual meetings were very far away geographically from the Pacific Coast states. It made a great deal of sense to split off the far western states into a separate region.
FAR-West was founded by a group of people who primarily lived in the greater Los Angeles area. We met on a monthly basis for about a year to address the issues, set some basic goals, write and approve bylaws, and do all the ground work to get FARWest up and running.
The “idea” of FAR-West sprang into Bruce Kaplan’s head at the January 19, 2002 Living Tradition concert, when Bruce and Claudia Russell opened for Harvey Reid. Phyllis Barney, who was then executive director of Folk Alliance discussed the idea in an email to Bruce & Claudia, Howard & Roz Larman, Elaine Weissman and Steve Dulson, where she thanked Bruce for suggesting a meeting about this and mentioned that she and Elaine had also been discussing the idea.
The earliest actual meeting minutes in the FAR-West archives are from a Founding Committee meeting on May 18, 2002. 19 people attended that first meeting. Between May of 2002 and April of 2003, there were at least nine Founding Committee meetings, most of which were held at the California Traditional Music Society (CTMS) headquarters in Encino, CA. The July 27, 2002 meeting was held at the Warner Center Marriott Hotel, where we ended up hosting our first annual conference. We actually have some photos from that meeting in the FAR-West archives.
From going through the minutes of those meetings, the people who attended the Founding Committee meetings most regularly were:
Clark & Elaine Weissman (CTMS and FAI)
Bruce Kaplan & Claudia Russell (musicians)
Howard & Roz Larman (FolkScene)
Russ & Julie Paris (Russ & Julie’s House Concerts)
Steve & Michele Dulson (The Living Tradition)
Steve & Leda Shapiro (FolkWorks)
Nick Smith (Caltech Folk Music Society)
Mary Katherine Aldin (Alive & Picking)
There were also a couple of others including Amy Weyland (Santa Monica Folk Song Club) and Chris Warber (CTMS) who attended many of the early meetings. Phyllis Barney, executive director of FAI also attended at least a meeting or two, including the first one. Cathy Radcliffe drove up from San Diego at least a couple of times. Others who attended at least one meeting included Renee Bodie, Cree Clover, Caroline Aiken, Wendy Waldman, Mandi Martin, Connie Allen and Kathy Qualey. Clark Weissman and Russ Paris wrote the original bylaws, based on the bylaws of Folk Alliance International, which was then called the North American Folk Music and Dance Alliance. (Clark & Elaine Weissman were the founders of both Folk Alliance International and the California Traditional Music Society.)
Because we needed officers approved before we could qualify for 501(c)(3) status, we elected a temporary Board: Bruce Kaplan was the “President” of the Founding Committee and ran our meetings. Steve Dulson was VP, Clark Weissman was Treasurer, and Amy Weyland was Secretary.
Steve Dulson came up with the FAR-West acronym. FAR-West stands for “Folk Alliance Region – West,” which is why the “FAR” is in all caps. Cathy Radcliffe designed our original logo.
After a good year of work, FAR-West had its official start with a meeting (and showcase concert) on April 5, 2003 at The Coffee Gallery Backstage in Altadena, CA. This was the date that our bylaws were ratified and our first official Board of Directors was elected. This was followed up by an Informational Meeting (and showcase concert) at The Freight & Salvage in Berkeley, CA on October 4, 2003.
The April 5, 2003 meeting at the Coffee Gallery Backstage was attended by about 35 people, though I’ve been unable to track down the minutes from the meeting to get an exact figure. This meeting did add a number of new faces to the mix including Bob Stane, Paul Tumolo, Bruce Hayden, Susan Mumma, Eric Lowen, Susie Glaze, Kelly McCune, Kim Acuna, Doug Tucker, Juliet Wyers, and Susanne Millsaps. At this meeting Bruce Kaplan was elected President, Steve Dulson was elected Vice President, and Connie Allen became Treasurer, taking over from Clark Weissman. Juliet Wyers was our first secretary. According to Steve, it was at the February 2004 FAI conference that Bruce and Steve switched jobs, Steve Dulson becoming president — a job he would hold for seven years.
After the April 5, 2003 meeting at the Coffee Gallery Backstage, there was a concert with performances by: Caren Armstrong, Border Radio, Chuck McCabe, Christina Ortega, Claudia Russell, Rick Shea & Brantly Kearns, Ian Whitcomb and Joyce Woodson.
One of the initial concerns of the founders was that we wanted FAR-West to be truly a REGIONAL chapter of Folk Alliance… and we wanted to be sure that it wasn’t viewed strictly as a Los Angeles based organization. (This after our experience with SWRFA being centered in Kerrville, TX.) Thus, we looked for Board Members outside the Southern California region and found them in quality people like Susan Mumma in Alaska and Susanne Millsaps in Utah (among others). We also decided that our regional conference should move around the whole region, so that everyone would be included.
There was a timing issue in getting FAR-West up and running, because we wanted to take advantage of the fact that the Folk Alliance annual conference was in San Diego in February 2004. Initial hopes to host a conference prior to the San Diego event were cancelled because we felt that we couldn’t organize fast enough and that we would be in competition with Folk Alliance. So the decision was made to use the San Diego Folk Alliance conference as a springboard to the first FAR-West conference.
After a couple of false starts and date changes, the first FAR-West conference was held October 29-31, 2004 at the Warner Center Marriott in Woodland Hills, CA — in the Los Angeles area. The location was picked because the majority of the core group of people who started FAR-West were in the Southern California area, so it was easier for us to do our first conference in L.A. After the first conference, it was determined that we should further “consolidate and grow our base” by having the second conference in the same location. Our second conference was held October 28-30, 2005 again in Woodland Hills.
After the second conference, there was considerable debate among the FAR-West Board of Directors about where to have the third conference. Only 125-150 people attended our first conference. Less than 200 people attended our second conference. Some people suggested that we were not yet ready to start moving around the region yet — that we were still too new at this and that we were not yet ready to reach out more directly to other parts of our region. It was also felt that we had barely tapped L.A.’s large music scene. Other’s felt that it was important that FAR-West start moving around the region as soon as possible so that we didn’t develop a reputation of being strictly a Los Angeles based organization.
A rough plan was agreed to by the Board that we would move the conferences around the region starting with our 2006 conference, but that we would try to get back to the Southern California area about once every third or fourth year. The intended rotation was (1) Southern California, (2) Northern California, (3) Pacific Northwest (WA or OR), and (4) other, maybe half the time.
In addition to our annual conferences, we have also had smaller one-day events in various locations — particularly in areas where we hoped to host a future conference — as an effort to increase the visibility of FAR-West.
Our third annual conference was held November 17-19, 2006 at the Sacramento Marriott Rancho Cordova in Sacramento, CA. And our fourth annual conference was held November 2-4, 2007 at the Hilton Vancouver Washington near Portland, Oregon. Attendance at those conferences was roughly 400 in 2006 and 450 in 2007. Both were great successes.
The 2008 FAR-West conference was held at the Phoenix Marriott Mesa Hotel & Convention Center in Mesa, AZ. 311 people attended. The 2009 conference was at the Hyatt Regency Irvine in Irvine, CA – attendance: 406. The 2010 conference was at the Santa Clara Convention Center and Hyatt Regency in Santa Clara, CA – attendance: 339. The 2011 conference was at the Hilton Eugene & Conference Center and the John G. Shedd Institute for the Arts in Eugene, OR – attendance: 319. The 2012 conference was at again at the Hyatt in Irvine, CA. Attendance in 2012 was 294.
Prior to the 2012 conference, it was decided that FAR-West could save money by negotiating 2-year contracts with our hosting hotels. In addition, we could further develop a base of volunteers and attendees by staying in one area for a second year. Therefore the 2012 and 2013 conferences were both at the Hyatt in Irvine, CA while the 2014 and 2015 conferences are at the Oakland Marriott City Center in Oakland, CA. The 2016 and 2017 conferences were held at the Hyatt Regency in Bellevue, WA. The 2018 and 2019 conferences will be held at the Warner Center Marriott in Woodland Hills, CA, and the 2020 and 2021 conferences will be held at the DoubleTree Hotel in San Jose, CA.
One other thing that was very important to the Founding Committee was that FAR-West be as all-inclusive, supportive, and accepting as possible. We agreed that the term “folk” should be as broad and diverse as possible.
The President’s position has been by Steve Dulson, Steve Brogden, Mark Kaufman and now Janet Dukes. The Treasurer’s position moved from Connie Allen to Susan Mumma to Julie Paris and now to Ronnie Weinberger. Steve Dulson was the conference coordinator for the First Annual FAR-West Conference and handled that position four different times (2004, 2005, 2006 & 2009). Others who have handled this important role have included Mary Katherine Aldin (2005), Renee Bodie (2007 & 2008), Bev Barnett (2010), Chico Schwall & Dick Weissman (2011), Steve Brogden (2012), Julie Paris (2012 & 2013), Jeanette Lundgren & John Croizat (2014 & 2015), Jeanette Lundgren & Mark Kaufman (2016) and Jeanette Lundgren & Janet Dukes (2017). Jeanette Lundgren was conference coordinator in 2018 and 2019.
When our board member Susanne Millsaps passed away in October 2006, the Board created the Susanne Millsaps Memorial Coffee House room, which has been a fixture of our conferences ever since. This is an in-the-round showcase that has given our conference attendees a great networking and showcase opportunity.
After founding committee member Howard Larman passed away April 21, 2007, an anonymous sponsor started the Howard Larman Scholarship Fund to help financially challenged artists attend the FAR-West conferences. Since that time, several dozen musicians have been helped to attend a conference thanks to this fund. We have had a couple of benefit concert fundraisers for this scholarship fund over the years. On the passing of his wife, Roz, the fund was renamed the Roz & Howard Larman Scholarship Fund.
The “Best of the West” award was created shortly after our first conference when the Board decided to honor people who have made a significant contribution to the folk arts in the western states. Russ Paris was the one who framed and proposed the idea. The first annual “Best of the West” award was presented at the second annual FAR-West conference and has become a highlight of our conferences.
FAR-West looks forward to our second decade of serving the folk and acoustic music community on the west coast.
FAR-West is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation incorporated in the state of California.
The following pages have three (3) appendix lists
1. An alphabetical listing of all the people who have served on the FAR-West
Board of Directors along with the years in which they served.
2. A chronological listing of all of the FAR-West Annual Conference Coordinators
and the locations of each conference.
3. A chronological listing of all of the FAR-West “Best of the West” Award
Alphabetical list of past and present FAR-West Board of Directors members along with the years in which they served. Pres = President VP = Vice President Treas = Treasurer Sec = Secretary
Kim Acuna ,
Connie Allen ’03 Treas, Treas
Carey Appel ’15, ’16, ’17, ’18 Sec, VP, Pres, Pres,
Bev Barnett , , VP,
Marlynn Block Co-Treas, Treasurer,
Renee Bodie , VP, VP, VP
Cindy Bottomley , Sec, Sec
Steve Brogden , VP, Pres, Pres, Pres, Pres, ’15, ’16, ‘17
Gaby Castro , ,
Lisa Cowden , ,
Nancy K Dillon ‘19, , ,
Steve Dulson ’03 VP, Pres, Pres, Pres, Pres, Pres, Pres, Pres, VP, VP, VP, ’14, ‘19, , ,
Janet Dukes , ’14 Sec, ’15 Sec, ’16 Sec, ’17 Sec, ’18 Pres, Pres, , ,
Steve Garvan ’17, ’18, 19, , ,
Susie Glaze , , , ’18, ’19 Sec, VP, VP
Vicki Green ’16, ’17, ’18, ‘19
Bruce Hayden , , , , , , , , ,
Michael Howard ’17, ’18, ,
Bruce Kaplan ’03 Pres, VP, VP, ,
Mark Kaufman , , ’14 VP, ’15 Pres, ’16 Pres, ’17 Pres
Peter Krantz , ’14, ’15, ’16, ’17, ’18, 19, , ,
Eric Lowen , , , 07,
Jeanette Lundgren , , , , ’14, ’15 VP, ’16 VP, ’17 VP, ’18 VP, ‘19, Sec, Sec,
Steven McClintock ,
Carolyn Mill ‘15
Susanne Millsaps , ,
Mary Anne Moorman ’17, ’18, ‘19, , ,
Susan Mumma Treas, Treas, Treas, ,
Julie Paris Treas, Treas, Treas, Treas, Treas, Treas, ’14 Treas
Russ Paris Sec, Sec, Sec
Marni Rachmiel , , , , , ’14, ’15, ’16, ’17, ’18, ‘19,
Arielle Silver ,
Nick Smith , , , , Sec, Sec, Sec
James Lee Stanley ‘15
Karen Sullivan ,
Reese Tanimura , ,
Joel Tepp ’14, ’15, ’16, ’17, ’18, ‘19, , ,
Paul Tumolo ,
Wendy Waldman , ,
Wes Weddell ’15, ’16, ’17
Bill Wence , ,
Ronnie Weinberger ’15 Treas, ’16 Treas, ’17 Treas, ’18 Treas, ’19 Treas, Co-Treas, Treas Consultant
Juliet Wyers ’03 Sec, Sec
John Roy Zat , ’14, ‘15
Julie Zipperer Dec , , ,
FAR-West Conference Coordinators and Locations:
2004 – Steve Dulson (Woodland Hills, CA)
2005 – Steve Dulson & Mary Katherine Aldin (Woodland Hills, CA)
2006 – Steve Dulson (Sacramento, CA)
2007 – Renee Bodie (Portland, OR / Vancouver, WA)
2008 – Renee Bodie (Phoenix, AZ)
2009 – Steve Dulson (Irvine, CA)
2010 – Bev Barnett (Santa Clara, CA)
2011 – Chico Schwall & Dick Weissman (Eugene, OR)
2012 – Julie Paris & Steve Brogden (Irvine, CA)
2013 – Julie Paris (Irvine, CA)
2014 – Jeanette Lundgren & John Croizat (Oakland, CA)
2015 – Jeanette Lundgren & John Croizat (Oakland, CA)
2016 – Jeanette Lundgren & Mark Kaufman (Bellevue, WA)
2017 – Jeanette Lundgren & Janet Dukes (Bellevue, WA)
2018 – Jeanette Lundgren (Woodland Hills, CA)
2019 – Jeanette Lundgren (Woodland Hills, CA)
2020 – Virtual AGM
2021 – Virtual Conference
FAR-West “Best of the West” Award Winners:
Lowen & Navarro
Howard & Roz Larman – Folkscene
U. Utah Phillips
Steve Baker – Freight & Salvage
Clark & Elaine Weissman – California Traditional Music Society and Folk Alliance International Founders
The Kingston Trio
Mike McCormick – Whistling Swan Productions
Bob Stane – Ice House / Coffee Gallery Backstage
Faith Petric (Lifetime Achievement Award)
Cloud Moss – Kate Wolf Memorial Festival
Phil and Vivian Williams
Chris Strachwitz – Arhoolie Records
Ed Pearl – The Ash Grove Foundation
Cassandra Flipper – Bread & Roses
Russ & Julie Paris
Penny Nichols (Lifetime Achievement Award)
Peter McCracken & the Centrum Foundation
Seattle Folklore Society (Organizational Achievement Award)
Peter Langston & Janet Peterson (Puget Sound Guitar Workshop)
Sisters Folk Festival (Organizational Achievement Award)
Bob & Espie Riskin (McCabes)
The Guacamole Fund (Lifetime Achievement in Community Service Award)
The Wild West era, a period of myth-making cowboys, gunslingers, and saloon madames, actually lasted only 30 years
The Wild West provides some of the most enduring tenets of American mythology, perpetuated by film legends from Bronco Billy to Clint Eastwood. And no wonder: the lawlessness of the time provided plenty of drama, and the lonely windswept territories, mountainous and arid, provided the cinematic backdrop. The image is indelible: A lonely cowboy clopping across the plains. Cue the Ennio Morricone soundtrack. Ironically, the era that has provided more than 100 years’ worth of celluloid fantasies lasted only 30 years.
In fact, the era known as the Wild West, or the American Frontier, began after the Civil War in 1865 and ended around 1895. The American imperative of Manifest Destiny dictated that the country expand to “overspread the continent allotted by Providence for the free development of our yearly multiplying millions,” as John L. O’Sullivan wrote in the July-August 1845 edition of the United States Magazine and Democratic Review.
The frontier area west of the Mississippi River during the late 1800s included the territories of Dakota, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Idaho, Montana, Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Colorado. The untamed territories were noted for their lawlessness, which gave rise to wild, rowdy, unrestrained, disorderly, and unruly behavior—which is what made for such great stories in print and on screen. But while much of the culture that is attributed to the Wild West was just normal colonial culture in many parts of America at different times, it became ingrained in people’s imaginations.
The cowboy, the quintessential symbol of the American frontier, circa 1887
“That experience seemed to be regarded as defining uniquely American characteristics and values — traditionally, individualism, self-reliance and an instinctive commitment to democracy,” as David Hamilton Murdoch wrote in The American West: The Invention of a Myth.
Naturally, Hollywood glamorized the truth. Cowboys were illiterate and worked hard, dirty jobs. They weren’t even called “cowboys,” instead they were cattlemen. They wore one set of clothes until they turned into rags, didn’t bathe, or brush their teeth. (Few Americans did at all until an ingenious ad campaign popularized tooth-brushing in 1915.) The truth is, nobody wore Clint Eastwood’s flat-brimmed cowboy hat: it wasn’t practical and furthermore, it was too expensive. There were always men (a few desperate women were virtually captive in sad prostitution and nearly starved), but they came from all over the planet: In Wyoming alone, with a population of 10,000 people, there were at least 56 nationalities, including Germans, Irish, Italians, Swedes, Norwegians, Finns, Chinese, Russians, and Slovakians. Another truth was that the Native Americans who had populated the area and were pushed out were not savage killers but mostly peaceable and friendly, and notably cleaner than the settlers.
Map of the Santa Fe Trail
And for some more myth-busting: One of the most defining scenes of the Wild West era—the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral—lasted only 30 seconds and didn’t take place at the O.K. Corral at all. The famous gunfight occurred at about 3:00 P.M. on Wednesday, October 26, 1881, in Tombstone, Arizona Territory. The shooting occurred near the current intersection of Third Street and Fremont Street, which is actually behind the corral. Deputy Marshall Wyatt Earp and his brothers Virgil Earp and Morgan Earp, with the support of Doc Holliday, confronted the Clanton Gang of outlaws and cowboys, ironically over the issue of gun control. Billy Clanton and gang members Tom McLaury and Frank McLaury were shot down and killed but Ike Clanton and Billy Claiborne escaped. Virgil Earp and Morgan Earp were wounded, but Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday were unharmed.
O.K. Corral after a fire in 1882
As for the cowboy’s entrance into celluloid history, Bronco Billy Anderson is widely credited as being the first cowboy matinee idol. He starred in the classic 1903 silent black-and-white film The Great Train Robbery. Efficiently cast, he played three roles: tenderfoot dancer, shot passenger, and most memorably, bandit. Advertised as “a faithful duplication of the genuine ‘Hold Ups’ made famous by various outlaw bands in the far West,” the film was a primitive 10-minute one-reeler, but it launched the Wild West film genre that continues to this day.
Western Countries 2021
The Western world, also known as the Occident or the West, has been shaped by several definitions, some geographic and some formed by other factors. To Europeans, the Western world used to be a literal geographical term, separating Europe from the Middle East, South Asia, Southeast Asia, North Africa, and the Far East. This is no longer used as a primary definition since Australia and New Zealand geographically in the East but are Western countries.
The concept of the West is from the Greco-Roman civilization in Europe and the advent of Christianity. The Western world has been influenced by the traditions of the Renaissance, the Protestant Reformation, and the Age of Enlightenment and was shaped by the colonialism of the 15th-20th centuries. This mass exportation of culture to the rest of the world was known as Westernization.
By the mid-20th century, Western culture was widespread throughout the world with the help of mass media, such as television, film, radio, and music. The term "Western culture" is used broadly to refer to traditions, social norms, religious beliefs, technologies, and political systems. Because the culture is so widespread today, the term "Western world" has a cultural, economic, and political definition.
The cultural definition, known as the Latin West, broadly refers to all of the countries shaped by Western Christianity (Catholic and Protestant churches), have similar cultural and ethical values, and use the Latin alphabet.
The political definition is known as the Cold War West. These countries had democratic, capitalist governments after World War II and were aligned against the USSR. The common defining factor in these countries is against communism. They were referred to as "First World countries".
The third definition is the economic definition, known as the Rich West. This is a narrower definition that includes European-settled countries with GDPs per capita over US$10,000. This does not include many Central and South American countries included in the other definitions but includes former communist countries that were excluded from the political definition.
Trail Blazer Of The Far West
In December of the year 1826 Captain William Cunningham, master of the ship Courier out of Boston, recorded with unstinting admiration a singular event in the quiet California port of San Diego where the Courier had called to trade. “There has arrived at this place,” he wrote, “Capt. Jedediah Smith with a company of hunters, from St. Louis, on the Missouri… . Does it not seem incredible that a party of fourteen men, depending entirely upon their rifles and traps for subsistence, will explore this vast continent, and call themselves happy when they can obtain the tail of a beaver to dine upon?”
The Captain had witnessed the completion of the first overland journey to California from the distant American frontier, led by a fellow Yankee just twentyseven years old. This in itself was a solid achievement, but Jed Smith contributed much else worthy of note during his nine-year western odyssey. In addition to pioneering the way to California, he opened the historic gateway to the Far West—South Pass, in Wyoming filled in an immense geographic void with the discovery of the arid vastness of the Great Basin grasped the existence of the Sierra Nevada mountain barrier to California and made the initial crossing of that imposing range and, finally, was the first white man to traverse virtually the entire length of America’s Pacific coast, from southern California to the Columbia River in Oregon. All of this he accomplished before he was thirty.
By almost any standard, Jedediah Smith, not John C. Frémont, ought to be remembered today as the West’s “Pathfinder.” Yet for some reason—perhaps the irony of history, or perhaps simply his incredibly bad luck—his name never quite became impressed upon the American consciousness. Only in the last few decades have the dedicated researches of western historians, particularly Maurice Sullivan and Dale Morgan, restored Jedediah Strong Smith to something like his rightful place: alone with Lewis and Clark in the first rank of America’s explorers.
Luck was with him at first. Arriving in St. Louis early in 1822 at the age of twenty-three, Jed Smith sought a career in the mountains at precisely the moment when the long-restrained American assautt on the western fur trade burst loose. As far back as 1807 Manuel Lisa had tried to tap the rich beaver country of the upper Missouri River, only to be driven out within a few years by the vicious Blackfeet Indians. Others had sought the prize, among them John Jacob Astor. “Our enterprise is grand, and deserves success,” Astor wrote, but Great Britain gobbled up his Pacific outpost, Astoria, in the War of 1812. Now, in the 1820’s, the postwar depression had subsided, venture capital was again available, and the Blackfeet showed signs of being amenable to trade.
If the time was ripe, the competition was also prepared. In 1821 the giants of the British fur trade, the North West Company and the Hudson’s Bay Company, had ended their long, ruinous warfare and merged. In addition to this Hudson’s Bay monopoly, the American challengers faced the fact that virtually nothing was known of what lay on the far side of the Rockies.
The map makers of 1820 depended on a misty web of myth and legend to fill the great blank between the Rockies and the Pacific. There was supposed to be a huge inland sea called Timpanogos about which the Franciscan explorers Escalante and Domingue/ had written back in 1776. The maps further supposed, in various combinations, a series of major westward-flowing rivers: the Timpanogos, the Multnomah, the Los Mongos, and, most enduring, the fabled Buenaventura. It was a certainty that the headwaters of the Missouri and the rivers of the far Northwest contained beaver in quantity. Why not the valleys of these mighty rivers farther south? The hardhanded, resourceful Americans intended to find out.
Jed Smith was later to write of his motives for showing up in St. Louis that important year of 1822: “I started into the mountains with the determination of becoming a first-rate hunter, of making myself thoroughly acquainted with the character and habits of the Indians, of tracing out the sources of the Columbia River, and following it to its mouth”—to which he added, since he was a New England Yankee at heart—“and of making the whole profitable to me.”
Smith was born in 1799 of deeply religious New England parents in the Susquehanna Valley at what is now Bainbridge, New York. The family drifted westward to Erie County, Pennsylvania, where a local doctor took a liking to the boy, helped him with an education, and introduced him to the published narrative of the Lewis and Clark expedition. The family was soon on the move again, to Ohio’s Western Reserve. Coming of age, Jedediah Smith struck out for the frontier.
William H. Ashley, the lieutenant governor of Missouri, was eager for a share in the fur-trade riches. In partnership with a veteran trader named Andrew Henry, Ashley advertised in the St. Louis Missouri Gazette for “Enterprising Young Men” who would be hired “to ascend the river Missouri to its source, there to be employed for one, two or three years.” Smith quickly signed on. The young hunter spent his first mountain winter (1822-23) with one of Henry’s trapping parties high up the Missouri, in present-day Montana. He quickly made his mark, and in the spring Henry dispatched him as an “express” to tell Ashley to bring up more horses. It was with Ashley that Smith was first brushed by violent death.
Pulling up the Missouri with supplies, the party stopped to trade for horses with the Arikaras. Instead of trade they got bullets. Smith and the shore party were pinned down on an exposed sand spit under a murderous fire, and before they could escape twelve were dead and eleven wounded, two of them mortally. Trapper Hugh Glass undertook the melancholy task of writing to one victim’s parents: “My painful duty it is to tell you of the death of yr Son wh befell at the hands of the Indians 2d of June in the early morning… . Mr. Smith, a young man of our company, made a powerful prayer wh moved us all greatly, and I am persuaded John died in peace.”
Jed Smith hastened upriver to Henry’s outpost with the news of the disaster, then returned to serve in a punitive military expedition against the Arikaras. Ashley’s losses had been considerable, but at least the Missouri artery was open again.
For the fall beaver hunt, Smith, now a veteran at twenty-four, was given his first command. It was a party of exceptional quality, including Thomas Fitzpatrick, Jim Clyman, William Sublette, Thomas Eddie, and Edward Rose, all of whom became famous mountain men in their own right. They set off west from the Missouri toward the Dakota Badlands and the Black Hills, breaking a new trail to the mountains. At one point, after the party had nearly succumbed for want of water, Smith was attacked by the mountain man’s dreaded enemy, a grizzly bear. Clyman left a vivid description of the encounter:
Grissly did not hesitate a moment but sprang on the cap t taking him by the head first pitc[h]ing sprawling on the earth … breaking several of his ribs and cutting his head badly… . the bear had taken nearly all his head in his cap[a]cious mouth close to his left eye on one side and clos to his right ear on the other and laid the skull bare to near the crown of the head… . one of his ears was torn from his head out to the outer rim …
The bear was killed, and under Smith’s cool direction Clyman somehow stitched up the gaping wounds, even saving the ear. His doctoring done, the redoubtable Clyman remarked that “this gave us a lisson on the charcter of the grissly Baare which we did not forget.”
The trappers forged on into the Rockies, taking beaver and wintering with a tribe of friendly Crow Indians on the Wind River in present-day Wyoming. On the spring hunt of 1824 they found a practical way west through the Divide via the wide gap that became famous as South Pass, and set about trapping the beaver-rich Green River valley. Instructing Fitzpatrick to report these developments to Ashley, Smith and six of his men plunged deep into the mountains to the northwest. Exactly where they trapped is not known, but suddenly, in September, 1824, they appeared in the middle of what the Hudson’s Bay Company liked to consider its own private preserve.
The company had devised an admirably direct method of keeping its American competitors out of the Oregon country, the ownership of which was a matter of dispute between England and the United States: it simply trapped to extinction as many beaver streams as could be reached. Alexander Ross, Hudson’s Bay agent, was on such a mission in the Snake River region when Smith made contact with one of his parties of Indian trappers. This band of transplanted Iroquois, quavering from a skirmish with the Snakes, offered its beaver pelts for safe conduct to Ross’ base. As a Yankee, Smith promptly snapped up this bargain.
Ross remembered it as “That damn’d all cursed day” when his Iroquois showed up under convoy of the smug Americans. Smith wintered at the company’s Flathead Post in northwestern Montana, absorbing every detail of the British operations. When he and his men finally departed in the spring of 1825 to seek out Ashley, a British diarist tartly remarked, “One Jedidiah S. Smith is at the head of them, a sly cunning Yankey.”
Fitzpatrick’s report of South Pass and the rich Green River valley persuaded Ashley to try to recoup his losses. He made the difficult march to the Green River, arriving in April, 1825, and set about trapping—but under a new system. His instructions read, “The place of deposite as aforesaid, will be The place of rendavoze for all our parties on or before the 10th July next …” Thus was born the effective rendezvous system that became the cornerstone of the American fur trade. No longer need the mountain man make the annual trek to civilization with his furs. Now supply caravans would come to him, buy his pelts, and sell to him in return—at astronomical prices—the powder, lead, and traps, the staples and trade goods he needed to be selfsufficient the year round. The rendezvous became a wild carnival of gambling, races, monumental drunks, cavorting Indians, wenching, and storytelling, and the average trapper left it hung-over and broke to return to his lonely beaver streams.
Smith was at that first rendezvous (quiet by later standards) where the logistics of the new practice were worked out. Andrew Henry had passed from the trade, and Ashley needed a new partner to represent him in the mountains. The obvious choice was Smith, and the bargain was struck. The new partners took their $50,000 haul of furs back to St. Louis in October of 1825.
In less than a month the junior partner was off again for the mountains, where he had a busy fall hunt ranging through the present states of Wyoming, Utah, and Idaho. When he next met Ashley at the summer rendezvous of 1826 at Cache Valley, northeast of Great Salt Lake, Smith, William Sublette, and David E. Jackson bought out Ashley. Jedediah Smith, after just four years in the mountains, became the senior partner of the firm that now dominated the American fur trade. He was twenty-seven.
The new partners realized that the beaver streams of the interior Rockies were becoming well enough known so that their productive future was limited. But there were still those legendary rivers of the West, hopefully thick with beaver, shown on the maps. Leaving Sublette and Jackson to handle matters in the mountains, Smith turned his face southwest toward an unknown country.
In August of 1826 his party—the self-styled South West Expedition—rode south along the Sevier River and got into what Smith called “a Country of Starvation—Sandy plains and Rocky hills once in 20 30 or 40 m[iles] a little pond or Spring …” Striking the Colorado River at what is now Lake Mead, they followed it southward. On foot, their horses worn out, they finally reached a haven in the Mojave villages not far from today’s Needles, California. The expedition had so far found no beaver and no Buenaventura River coursing westward, and Smith determined to make for the coast.
It took two painful weeks to cross the barren, blazing Mojave Desert, but at length they gained California’s San Bernardino Valley, where a warm welcome was tendered them at San Gabriel Mission. Smith’s clerk, Harrison Rogers, described it: “great feasting among the men. … I was introduced to the 2 Priests over a glass of good old whiskey—and found them to be very Joval friendly gentlemen… . Plenty of good wine during supper, before the cloth was removed sigars was introduced… . Friendship and peace prevail with us and the Spanyards.”
Smith was called to San Diego to be questioned closely by the Mexican governor, who was not pleased to see these unexpected visitors from the American frontier. Backed by Captain Cunningham of the Courier and other Yankee sea captains in the port, Smith eventually convinced the governor that he sought only beaver. Ordered to leave as he had come, he retraced his route as far as the edge of the desert, and then, in the spring of 1827, headed north into the San Joaquin Valley. He still searched for the Buenaventura, hoping it would lead him to the summer rendezvous near Great Salt Lake.
He pushed northward some 350 miles, but the looming presence of the Sierra Nevada formed a constant barrier to the east. There was no Buenaventura River. The fifteen-man party and its equipage was too cumbersome to cross the icy, snow-covered range leaving most of his men behind to trap the waters of the Stanislaus River, Smith set out with two companions, Robert Evans and Silas Gobel.
They made the historic crossing of the Sierra, skirted Walker Lake, and struck out into central Nevada. On his map—the first ever to show this area with any accuracy—Smith recorded, “This plain is a waste of sand with a few detached mountains some of which are in the region of perpetual snow. … A few Indians are scattered over the plain, the most miserable objects in creation.”
Smith’s journal leaves a terrifying picture of the desert journey. “Ascending a high point of a hill,” he wrote,
I could discover nothing but sandy plains or dry Rocky hills … I durst not tell my men of the desolate prospect ahead … With our best exertion we pushed forward, walking as we had been for a long time over the soft sand… worn down with hunger and fatigue and burning with thirst increased by the blazing sands…it then seemed possible and even probable we might perish in the desert unheard of and unpitied.… My dreams were not of Gold or ambitious honors but of my distant quiet home, of murmuring brooks of Cooling Cascades.
Evans collapsed, and Smith and Gobel pressed on to find water. They were successful, and Smith returned with a kettlefull. “Putting the kettle to his mouth he did not take it away until he had drank all the water, of which there was at least 4 or 5 quarts and then asked me why I had not brought more.”
At last they sighted Great Salt Lake and passed along its southern shore. To cross the flooded Jordan River, Smith cobbled together a raft for their belongings. Holding the towrope in his teeth, he swam acroos: “It was with great difficulty that I was enabled to reach the shore, as I was verry much strangled.” On July 3, 1827, having covered well over 600 miles in six weeks, most of it on foot, the three men reached the rendezvous at Bear Lake, on the Utah-Idaho border. Smith laconically remarked that “my arrival caused a considerable bustle in camp, for myself and party had been given up as lost. A small Cannon brought up from St Louis was loaded and fired for a salute.”
Sublette and Jackson had done well, putting the new firm on a solid footing, but Jed Smith could not help remembering that most of his own party was stranded in California. Ten days after his arrival, he was headed southwest again with eighteen men. Generally following the route of the previous fall, they reached the Mojave Indian villages about August 15 but this time it was no haven.
During the year since Smith’s first visit, the Mojaves had tangled painfully with trappers from Taos, and as the Americans crossed the Colorado the vengeful Indians struck without warning. With eight survivors, Smith took refuge in a copse of cottonwoods, opened fire, and “the indians ran off like frightened sheep …” Nonetheless, the situation was critical. All the horses and provisions, except fifteen pounds of dried meat, were gone to defend themselves they had only their knives and five guns. There was no choice but to cross the desert on foot, and the indomitable Smith led them on.
“My men were much discouraged,” he wrote, “but I cheered and urged them forward as much as possible and it seemed a happy providence that lead us to the little spring in the edge of the Salt Plain …” They reached the San Bernardino Valley in late August, and immediately moved north to rejoin the party left on the Stanislaus, arriving just two days ahead of the September 20 deadline Smith had set for his return.
Nothing had gone right so far, and Jed Smith’s luck continued bad. Seeking supplies at San Jose Mission, he met with a reception in sharp contrast to the welcome of the previous fall at San Gabriel. Instead of offering supplies, the mission fathers clapped him into the guardhouse. Presently he was escorted to Monterey, where the thoroughly suspicious governor was disposed to ship him off to Mexico for judgment. After endless wrangling Smith signed a $30,000 bond pledging to leave the province, and was released.
If he had to depart California, Smith was determined not to go empty-handed. The beaver skins he and the California party had gathered were sold to a Yankee sea captain with the proceeds Smith bought 250 horses and mules, giving him a total of over 300. These he intended to drive to the mountain rendezvous hundreds of miles to the east, where he could sell them at something like a 400 per cent profit.
The previous year his California explorations had touched on the Sacramento River, and local rumor had it that its upper reaches angled northeast through the Sierra Nevada. Perhaps here was the Buenaventura at last, a navigable connection with the Columbia River system and a new route to the Rockies bypassing the deserts and salt plains. And perhaps, too, here was a practical route by which the firm of Smith, Jackson & Sublette could gain a Pacific outlet to the fabulously rich fur trade with the Orient … It was Astor’s old dream—all very tenuous, but the stakes were high enough to gamble for.
It was not in the cards. The Sacramento was not the Buenaventura after all, and the northern California wilderness, while rich in beaver, proved incredibly difficult to drive horses through. The clerk recorded that the company “had a serious time running up and down the mountain after horses through the thickets of brush and briars.” The winter rains were constant, the geography confusing, and there were “plenty of muskeatoes, large horse flies, and small knats to bite us and pester us” marauding Indians shot arrows into the herd, Smith was kicked by a mule and “hurt pretty bad,” and Rogers himself was seriously mauled by a grizzly. His entry for May 22, 1828, reads: “Oh! God, may it please the … to still guide, & protect us, through this wilderness of doubt & fear… . Oh! do not forsake us Lord, but be with us, and direct us through.” They struggled on northward, aiming for the Columbia.
On July 14 the nineteen-man party was at the Umpqua River, almost halfway up the Oregon coast, and Smith and two men went ahead to scout the route. Two days previously they had disciplined a Kelawatset chief for stealing an axe, but now Rogers, left in charge of the detachment and the horses, apparently felt secure because they were in well-ordered Hudson’s Bay territory. He freely admitted a large number of Kelawatset tribesmen to the camp—and the Indians murderously avenged the insult to their chief. Only one of the sixteen men escaped. Smith and his two companions and the lone survivor of the massacre managed to make their way on foot to the Hudson’s Bay Company base at Fort Vancouver on the Columbia, one hundred miles to the north.
The destitute Smith was welcomed by Dr. John McLoughlin, the benevolent dictator who ruled the Columbia district for the company. McLoughlin immediately dispatched an expedition to reinforce discipline and try to recover the goods of his erstwhile competitor. Smith went with them, and they gathered what they could—a few horses, part of the furs, a handful of guns and utensils, and, fortunately for history, the journals of Smith and Rogers. At the massacre site, according to a British observer, “a Sad Spectacle of Indian barbarity presented itself … the Skeletons of eleven of those Miserabl Sufferers lying bleaching in the Sun.”
The Hudson’s Bay Governor, George Simpson, generously gave Smith a fair price for his horses and skins and added a final, gracious note to the company’s record in the affair. He wrote Smith that “whatsoever we have done for you was induced by feelings of benevolence and humanity alone … the satisfaction we derive from these good offices, will repay the Honble Hudsons Bay Compy amply for any loss or inconvenience …” In return, Smith filled in Simpson on his extensive discoveries and made him a map that must have straightened out a prodigious amount of geographic confusion.
By August of 1829 Smith had rejoined his two partners in Montana, and during the next year they trapped with success the upper Missouri region and the Yellowstone and its tributaries. But Jed Smith had had his fill of the sudden death and desperate loneliness of the wilderness. His letters reveal a longing for family and friends, for the “distant quiet home” of his fevered dreams in the desert three years before in his deeply felt, almost mystical religious conviction, he grievously missed “the care of a Christian Church.” When Smith returned to St. Louis on October 7, 1830, a moderately wealthy man, he had been away from civilization almost exactly five years.
Knowing the American West better than any man alive, he began to prepare his invaluable journals and maps for publication. But, fatefully, he took time out to invest in and join a trading caravan to Santa Fe that left St. Louis in April, 1831. It should have been a routine journey, but the train went astray in the deadly, arid plain between the Arkansas and Cimarron rivers and ran short of water. As he had done countless times before, Smith set out alone to find some, and the final tragedy overtook him.
The story was later pieced together from the accounts of Indian traders. He found water, but was apparently surrounded by a Comanche war party. The violent, one-sided encounter at the lonely water hole was quickly over, but the Comanche chief died with him. The date was May 27, 1831, and Jed Smith was just thirty-two years old.
An anonymous eulogist wrote that “though he fell under the spears of the savages, and his body has glutted the prairie wolf, and none can tell where his bones are bleaching, he must not be forgotten.” But he was forgotten the denouement is as bitter as the climax. Unaccountably, no one stepped forward to preserve or publish his work, and the journals and letters and maps were either destroyed by fire or simply disappeared, to survive only in partial transcripts. Not until the 1840’s were his discoveries duplicated.
His biographer, Dale Morgan, writes that Smith “entered the West when it was still largely an unknown land when he left the mountains, the whole country had been printed on the living maps of his trappers’ minds.” He calls Smith “an authentic American hero,” and it is a judgment hard to fault.
He had the sort of wide-ranging, inquiring mind that marks all great explorers. His careful maps apparently had a wide circulation before disappearing, and cartographic scholars have found striking evidence of their influence on the map makers of the 1830’s and 1840’s. He even found time to send seeds gathered on his travels to a botanist—hardly the act of a businessman seeking only “to make the whole profitable.” “It may perhaps be a pleasure to a lady of the atlantic,” he wrote, “to gather cherries or currants from a shrub whose parent stock is now growing by the bank of a stream that flows unmarked by the eye of civilized man to the calm pacific.”
The exploits of this remarkable man have been recognized and authenticated at last, and it is unlikely that such a heroic image will ever tarnish. That seems only fair, somehow, for Jedediah Smith, so quickly forgotten in his own time, certainly deserves to be remembered in ours.