The West has figured in the American imagination under many guises: as the last best place on earth, a refuge, an escape, a land of opportunity, but also as a place of conquest and failure. Where Lewis and Clark saw great possibilities, Native cultures found disappointment and loss. This collection presents the diverse and often contradictory accounts that make up the mosaic of the nineteenth-century American West.
From Thomas Hart Benton’s famous speech in the Senate when he argued that non-white civilizations must fall before the western expansion of white Americans to Black Elk’s story of a way of life lost on the frozen ground at Wounded Knee, Gary Noy offers a representative sampling of the many Wests that historians have strug-gled to define for over a century. Distant Horizon chronicles the dusty world of the cowboy, the hard-scrabble existence of the farmer and the settler, and the miner’s vision of golden glory. It examines the independent nature of the explorer and mountain man and the sometimes heroic, sometimes cruel existence of the soldier. We hear the voices of those outside the mainstream of power—women and Westerners of color—and explore the most tragic element of Western history: the confinement, subjugation, and extermination of Native Americans. No other single volume provides as many readings on as many topics in the history of the American West.