more about our featured books:
American West Table of Contents
Native American Perspectives
Part I: Exploring the Wilderness
from The Mountains of California
by John Muir
The founder of the Sierra Club celebrates the beauty of Yosemite Valley.
The Migrations of the Hopi
by Frank Waters
Hopi elders relate ancient traditions about the legendary wanderings
of their clans from the ancestral homeland in the Southwest.
from The Journey of Coronado
by Pedro de Castañeda
Searching for the Seven Cities of Cibola, legendary Indian cities of
fabulous wealth, Coronado's men are amazed by the vastness of the Great
The Expedition of Lewis and Clark
by Thomas Jefferson and Meriwether Lewis
Jefferson's letter of instruction to Lewis, the expedition's journal,
and Lewis's first report on his return present the goals and accomplishments
of this critical step in opening the West to American settlement.
by John Bradbury
John Colter, one of the earliest of the mountain men is forced to literally
run for his life after being captured by Indians.
Living with the Indians
by James P. Beckwourth
In his autobiography, an African-American mountain man describes how
he was adopted by Crow Indians.
by Isabella Bird
An Englishwoman travelling in the Rockies meets one of the last of the
Part II: Establishing Communities
- Photo Album: Encountering the West
by Guadalupe Vallejo
A member of an old Spanish family presents an affectionate picture of
life on the missions and ranches during the period when the Spanish
and Mexicans governed California.
by Frances Cook Lipscomb Van Zandt
An Americans who settles in the Lone Star Republic during its brief
existence describes her life there.
The Donner Party
by Patrick Breen
The tragic story of a group of emigrants trapped by winter in the Sierra
Nevadas is glimpsed in a diary kept by one of the survivors.
The Mormon Migration
by Brigham Young
In his journal, the leader of the Mormon pioneers describes their journey
to the Valley of the Great Salt Lake.
A Woman's Trip Across the Plains in 1848
by Catherine Haun
A woman who traveled from Iowa to the California gold fields recalls
Gunfight at the O.K. Corral
From The Tombstone Epitaph and inquest testimony
A local newspaper and eyewitnesses present differing accounts of the
most famous shootout in frontier history.
African Americans in Oklahoma Territory
by Booker T. Washington
A famous educator visits one of the all-black communities established
in the West in the 1880s.
Part III: Making a Living
- Photo Album: Homes and Families
Mining in California
by Louisa Clappe
In a letter to her sister back home, a woman provides an account of
the early days of the California Gold Rush.
by Joseph G. McCoy
The work of the cowboy is described by one of the pioneers of the cattle
- Late 1860s-1882
From Grenville Dodge's How We Built the Railroad, An English-Chinese
Phrase Book, and the Chinese Exclusion Act
Three documents convey the problems encountered by Chinese immigrants
to the West in the late 1800s.
- Late 1870s
Destruction of the Buffalo
by Frank H. Mayer
A former buffalo hunter recalls how he and the others in his trade "killed
the golden goose."
Farming on the Great Plains
by Hamlin Garland
A writer describes the joys and sorrows of his youth on a frontier farm.
Part IV: Preserving a Heritage
- Photo Album: Westerners at Work
Letters and Notes on the North American Indians
by George Catlin
A painter who sought to "rescue from oblivion" the appearance and customs
of the Native Americans, records his observations and experiences gathered
during travels in the West.
from A Century of Dishonor
by Helen Hunt Jackson
A writer presents her famous indictment of a long history of mistreatment
of the Indians by the government and white settlers in the West.
The Conservation of Natural Resources
by Theodore Roosevelt
In a message to Congress, the President reports on the success of his
The Indian View of Nature
by Luther Standing Bear
A Lakota Sioux leader explores the differences between the Indian and
white views of nature.
Part V: Interpreting the Past
- Photo Album: A Vanishing World
The Significance of the Frontier in American History
by Frederick Jackson Turner
A historian presents his landmark thesis that the experience of the
frontier had fundamentally shaped American political institutions, society,
from The Great Plains
by Walter Prescott Webb
A historian details specific effects of the landscape and climate of
the Great Plains on respect for law, political outlook, and the attitudes
A Saga of Families
by Kathleen Neils Conzen
A historian examines themes of "family, kinship, and community" in My
Darling Clementine, Ford's classic film version of the gunfight at the
- Photo Album: The Wild West