History, Department of


Date of this Version



Montana: The Magazine of Western History, Vol. 40, No. 4, The Centennial West: Art and Architecture (Autumn, 1990), pp. 60-65


Published by Montana Historical Society


Americans have never really known what to do with the Great Plains. The future of this huge area stretching from Texas to Montana--roughly 20 percent of the contiguous forty-eight states--has been debated for more than a century, even before the term "Great Plains" itself had come into common usage. In 1878, for example, John Wesley Powell argued in his Report on the Lands of the Arid Regions of the United States that fundamental changes had to be made in the American land system in order to bring government policy into conformity with environmental realities in the Great Plains and other parts of the American West.