Sunday, September 18, 2011

Western Expansion

The expansion westward was one of the most shameful periods of our history, it was also one of the greatest. Treatment of the Native Americans was deplorable as was the practice of hunting the buffalo to near extinction. When people started talking about expansion across the entire continent they used the term Manifest Destiny, to make it sound better. It also gave them the excuse they needed to take what ever they wanted along the way. Andrew Jackson used it to turn on the very tribes that had helped him win the Creek War. It was also part of the reasoning behind the war with Mexico in the 1840s that brought California, Texas and the rest of the Southwest into the U.S. On the positive side we managed to tame a continent. Men like Kit Carson, Jim Bridger, and a host of others went in search of their fortunes trapping beaver in the Rocky Mountains. Blazing trails along the way that would lead people all the way to the rich farm lands in Oregon, Washington and California. It spurred the rails to find way to cross the mountains and prairies. Many who never made it all the way ended up taming what some called the Great American Desert, turning it into the breadbasket of the world. Out of all of this we have crafted a mythology of what the people were like and have written story after story about them. Well the west wasn't what we see on the movies or even read in most of the books. It was more violent and less than we have believed. The people we have held up as heroes were sometimes very bad people, like Jessie James and Billy the Kid. Some of those we have defamed like Buffalo Bill were not as bad as they have been painted. It was the Texas cattleman Charlie Goodnight that started the preservation of the buffalo by building a herd on his own land. One thing is for certain they were strong physically, mentally and spiritually, they had to be simply to survive. It is one of the reasons that there have been so many who write about the West, both the Old West and modern.
Check out Phil Whitley's books Keechie and Granny Boo for a fictional look at the Creek culture.

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