Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version



Published in Great Plains Quarterly 6:1 (Winter 1986). Copyright © 1986 Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


In the past twenty years or so the Western American Indians and their conflicts with the white man have become the object of serious historical inquiry. The policies pursued by the United States government have received searching scrutiny, and the study of white men's attitudes toward Indians has become almost a field in itself. The literate public has become aware as never before of the consequences for the Indians of white frontier expansion. What has been needed for some time is a synthesis of the wide range of work being done in the field. Robert Utley is, of course, a long-time scholar in the field. In The Last Days of the Sioux Nation, Frontiersmen in Blue, and Frontier Regulars he has provided what are now standard treatments of the "Ghost Dance" and the military aspect of Indian-white relations. Now he has demonstrated his grasp of the whole field. Instead of the conventional period 1865-1890, he takes the whole stretch of time from the United States' leap to the Pacific in the 1840s to Wounded Knee. At the beginning of the period most Indians west of the Mississippi, though aware of a white presence, still lived in more or less traditional ways. At the end, virtually all were confined on reservations, subject to the will of the federal government.