Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

Fall 1999


Published in Great Plains Research 9 (Fall 1999): 343-55. Copyright © 1999 The Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Used by permission.


This essay suggests that there is a discrepancy between historical accounts of the "natural" state of the Great Plains by European explorers and the likely strong influence of the North American Indians resident in the area. The preconceived notion of the "Great American Wilderness" appears to have obscured the explorers' perceptions of the many ways in which the indigenous peoples had manipulated and influenced both the vegetation and the abundance of animal life in the Plains. Clearly, this challenge of the "total wilderness" paradigm has major implications for future restorations in the Great Plains.