Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Western Settlement and Native America

Native American Tribe: Chippewa
I have chosen a Native American website of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe.

This is a picture of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe and in the background is the building of it. This picture and the website indicates that this particular tribe are not facing any problems in contemporary American society, as it is a federally recognised tribe which help to promote and protect it's members as well as provide services to the tribal people.

The fact that there is a tribal website for the Chippewa tribe shows that it is well known, and still has people who associate with it too. This demonstrates their success as well as 21st Century America uses traditional Indian methods like wild rice making, which suggests that they have succeeded in the modern day by themselves, and have kept their values as well as passing it on to future generations. To this day people also use canoes and fish, both are traditionally associated with the Chippewa tribe, as this is what they would have had to do in order to live and survive, due to their location (mainly Minnesota).

Their identity is also recognised in the 21st Century because they have a website specifically for the Chippewa tribe, which also proves how successful they are, when many Native American tribes are becoming 'extinct' after each generation. The reason that the Chippewa tribe may not be facing any problems nowadays is because Minneapolis has one of the highest populations of Native Americans in the country, which would make their success a lot higher in Minnesota than other areas, as well as having many lakes such as Lake Superior which is a traditional environment for these native people in the Chippewa tribe where they would canoe and fish.

Red Lake Indian Reservation:

This is the only closed reservation in Minnesota, and the tribe has the right to limit who can visit or live in the reservation. This is really interesting as it shows that the Native American tribe isn't a minority group who have little control over preserving their cultures, traditions and heritage. The lake also covers over 1000+ miles in 9 counties in Minnesota, USA. This is interesting as the tribal government has full sovereignty over the reservation (apart from the federal government), which suggests that these people hold a fair amount of power, especially for a group which is considered a minority in the 21st Century.

However, because the website does offer support and many services this would also indicate that the Chippewa tribe are struggling in the 21st Century and need this support in order to make sure that they survive for generations to come. These services offer help for the tribal communities to be self-sufficient and to also promote their cultural identity, which must mean that it is becoming increasingly threatened by people outside of the tribe, and the website is one way to ensure that this doesn't happen.

The website itself has the appearance of Native America as it has images of typical Chippewa items such as the slippers and the river, which would be common in Minnesota. The background has a woodland effect to it which relates to the environment which these people would have lived in and potentially still do. The fact that there is a website makes it obvious that these tribes need to be recognised and need help and assistance in the 21st Century with keeping their values, cultures, identity and religion, despite the American society allowing them to identify as a Native American tribe called the Chippewa Tribe.

Grace La Traille 


Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Message re small group meeting: Native America

Please can you bring your copy of the readings for the Week 3 class on Native America.  We will discuss these in addition to your blog posts.

Monday, 26 January 2015

The Crossing of the Great Salt Lake Desert

The Crossing of the Great Salt Lake Desert by Jebediah Smith

The author of this diary, Jebediah Smith, is the leader of an expedition across the Great Salt Lake Deserts of western America. Perhaps more surprisingly is that in the first two entries he makes he neglects to mention any one else who's on the expedition other than himself other than one or two very unspecific mentions of 'we'. As the hardships they as a team, face increase, the author starts to mention them more, perhaps to evoke sympathy in the reader or perhaps because the people he was with became a priority as they ran out of food and water to the extent that they even had to leave one of their party behind in the hopes they could find water for him, I'm happy to report that they are successful but there was no guarantee and he seems to resign himself to losing his friend. It is evident from his attitude that death is common place on the salt lake desert of western America.

Smith often mentions the supply of food and water, as I previously mentioned hardships do fall on the travelers relatively soon on but not immediately. He begins with talking about his inability to catch to catch sufficient food and pretty soon after the frankly unsurprising fact that deserts are dry and there isn't any water for miles upon miles on end. It is really on a passing note that he mentions the horses they lost along the way as they die on their journey, he talks about salvaging the best cut of the meat the animals leave eating what they need that might and drying it out the remains for later which he continues to talk about eating, but only in passing; its evident that although i know horses hold great significance in this time and society what they don't have is individual significance, a horse is a horse there is no personality or even a name as far as I've seen allowed in the horses, which makes me wonder why in typical westerns that people seem attached enough to individual horses to kill others over it, but that's beside my point. Food and water alike was scarce for the majority of this this expedition, which is undesirable. The opposite however seems not to be true; when the travelers encounter a river that needs to be crossed, multiple horses and people are swept down stream.

Smith begins his first few entries by describing the path they took and descriptions of the scenery they encountered. This dwindles as he encounters more hardships as previously mentioned, this is understandable since other things became more important to him rather than their precise location and in some of his middle entries he barely mentions where he is directly, preferring to discuss the hardships the terrain was forcing upon them, whether that be lack of food, lack of water, exhaustion or excessive heat.

Native American are mentioned a couple of times in this account of travelling west, each time they are at least initially treated with cautiousness and fear and yet every time they responded with absolutely no threat and in the majority of cases they aided the travelers to such an extent that without the Native's help Smith and his men would have perished long before they reached their destination and I imagine this was true in nearly all frontier. Naturally this poses the question of why, if the natives were so crucial to the westward expansion, why were they so brutally transported and confined to reserves, Why the two parties couldn't simply find a way to wive together each sharing their wisdom rather than one imposing knowledge on the other who is mistaken for a lesser race? the answer I'm afraid is simply that the European settlers had a deadly combination of xenophobia and a sense of self righteousness which lead to the mass genocide of almost an entire race.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Alvin Coffey - A Black Pioneer.

Alvin Coffey was a hard-working man with an owner whom he took a trip with across the U.S from St. Louis, MO to California. Coffey drove oxen and throughout his writing does not mention any disliking towards his owner or the fact he was slave, all that is mentioned is that from his trips across country with his owner leads to him saving $7000 needed to buy freedom for himself and his family.

Coffey writes about the journey itself, discussing the length of time it took, the cattle they lost and the sacrifices they had to make on the journey. What I found intriguing was that at one point within his diary he speaks of killing an ox because it is injured and is 'bawling', he kills the ox using a double-barrelled shotgun.
'I said, “Let us go out and kill the ox for it is too bad to hear him bawl.” The wolves were eating him alive. None would go with me, so I got two double-barreled shot-guns which were loaded. I went out where he was. The wolves were not in sight, although I could hear them. I put one of the guns about five or six inches from the ox’s head and killed him with the first shot.'
This got me interested because he was trusted to handle and use a weapon without supervision. I do not yet know the ins-and-outs of the slave-trade and slave-ownership but I do believe it isn't very often that a slave would have been allowed to handle such a weapon, this being said it appears throughout the text that Coffey was treated more like an equal rather than property. 

Furthermore Coffey is able to write this memoir which shows reading and writing skills, and if this text hasn't been edited at all the writing is of quite a high standard. This is impressive for a slave who of his age and location was probably born into slavery, this means he received an education from his owner which is possibly why he was treated as more of an equal as seen previously. 

Another point to pick up on in Coffey's memoir is the fact that he always refers to the group as 'we' which furthers the point of equality he has within the group which included a doctor, his owner and other white men. Continuing on his diary begins with talk of how when they had recently left St. Louis they were receiving reports of 'people dying by the hundreds' in that area from Cholera, this being a place he had left his wife and children. Even still he didn't mention about his worry for his family and this is perhaps because he knew they would have been well looked after whilst he was away. 

To wrap this discussion up by saying just how well respected Coffey was. In his obituary (which can be found in the second source at the bottom of the page) it says Alvin Coffey was a noble man, ever generous to his unfortunate neighbor. Perfectly honest, he paid every debt he owed and was brave.” this was written by his pioneer-society members which would have consisted of many men he worked with regardless of race, meaning the respect Coffey got was not because he managed to buy out of slavery or because he made a name for himself, it was truly because he was a hard-working, noble and brave gentleman.

Source 1:
Source 2:
Source 3 (Image):

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Manifest Destiny

I have chosen a diary of the settlement of the Western USA by Oregon Pioneer Biographies.
(Link to the page: )

This image shows the trip of the Oregon Trail and the route of which the diary took, through the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains. Within the diary it does state that they were lost in the mountains for six months, so for these people it must have taken them a lot longer than usual, despite using the train.

Reminiscences of a Trip Across the Plains in '45
by Mrs. Burnett (nee Lucy Jane Hall)

"We started on our way with thirsty wagons and about fifty men" This shows that the settlement of the USA at this time was extremely popular, as so many people set off on the trip across the plains. This tells us that in the United States, the belief of manifest destiny, as the American settlers were destined to expand throughout the continent, westward, especially as with this diary, it isn't just a family, but many people including thirty wagons. However, the fact that a diary is being written whilst they are taking the trip across the plains, recording their life and the events that happen during this time, suggests that this was an unusual thing to do, and that many people didn't believe that American settlers were destined to expand throughout the continent, westward. 

"A wedding occurred..event was celebrated by a dance on the grass under the stars" This is interesting that this is included in the diary of the settlement of the Western USA, because it suggests that the lifestyle of this time was considered the norm, and acceptable to get married while on the move. This makes you consider that the movement West and the settlement of the Western USA was so important to the people during this time, that your lifestyle had to change, and you had to adapt to your current location, as you were always on the move, while trying to live your life. This may have had an impact on why the advancement of the settlement West got increasingly faster, as people were used to living in areas which they were not familiar with it's surroundings. However, as the diary states "captain of our train" meaning that the advancement West had already been going on for some time, as new technology was helping them to achieve their journey. 

"We are saved, we are saved! Thank God!..."for now I know the way"...He could locate the trail...from the stream." This is interesting as it demonstrates that the people relied on nature, wilderness and savagery in order to survive, get by and to help them in times of need, which is the complete opposite of what they were on route for (civilisation). So these people had not adapted completely to the West.However, the fact that they desperately needed water indicates that they were actually used to civilisation as they struggled to find a stream, which is considered Eastern which is where they have come from. 

"Indians made an attempt to attack our train" This shows that the journey was not easy, yet people still did it anyway. This emphasises the idea of manifest destiny. The diary proves that the people came across different people, as they made their way across the plains, and in this particular case, they were not afraid by the Indians, despite it being considered their territory, which reveals the determination of these people. 

"Many were sick and some died" The fact that people died on route indicates that it wasn't easy, and it must have meant a lot to them, if people were dying due to the bad conditions in places. This could have also contributed to the quick advancement, as if they didn't move quickly, there would be a danger of never making it at all. 

"if not all, would have perished." and "other Indians tied her clothes on their heads and swam across." It seems as though the Indians not only caused them problems earlier on, but they also helped them as well, especially when they got lost in the mountains for six weeks, This diary proves that different people experienced different things and had different ideas about the Indians. 

"When found we people were on the verge of starvation."  The title of the diary suggests that these people didn't and wasn't planning on staying West, as it is regarded as a trip rather than a journey. This idea is confusing as the diary comments on families, not just single men, which would indicate that they were going West for a long period of time.

This diary was probably written so that they could track how long it would take them, to record what they may see or to generally write about their lives on a daily basis, which included families and Indians, whilst moving West through the plains by train.

Grace La Traille


Monday, 19 January 2015

Where are today's posts?

Well done to Francesca and Grace for posting, where are the rest of the posts?

Marketing the American West


I chose this website because in its marketing of holidays in west America in the classical sense it also talks about other parts of the west that are not classically 'western' for example the snow capped mountains of Washington hardly compare to the burning heat often portrayed in the western valley in the media, similarly the cities of California can't compare to the 1800's aesthetic and yet these things are still marketed as the west and are still very popular tourist destinations.
Among the destinations found on the front page none are classically western; the closest I saw was to visit the grand canyon or the unspecified activities in Arizona or New Mexico, that promise 'something for everyone'.
When I followed that link through I soon found that indeed the traditional wild west is presented there but I cant help but notice how marginalized it is by comparison to what it once might have been judging by the sheer amount of western TV shows once on the air western holidays where you could experience the magnificent cowboy lifestyle would have been nearly all on offer and I doubt complaints due to a lack of option would have been a problem if any were ever raised.

I feel that what this website shows is that american attitudes to the west have not weakened rather changed focus, the other holidays in the American West that are on offer via this website are commonly written about and portrayed in the media today as wondrous places (i.e. Las Vegas, California, the grand canyon) like the wild west once was. It is a simple conclusion that american infatuation with the wild west imply is not what it once was however it is certainly not dead.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Marketing the American West

The American West:
I have chosen a holiday website called Western and Oriental. 

(Link to the websites pictures: ).

One of the holiday types is a ranch holiday where you can experience events of the American West, such as horse-riding in the desert, line-dancing and generally living like a cowboy. These holidays are around many parts of the U.S, including Arizona, Georgia, Texas, Kansas, Oregon, Oklahoma, Idaho, Montana, Colorado, Wyoming as well as Nevada, this allows you experience the American West in slightly different settings and weather conditions. This markets the American West because it advertises things that are traditionally recognised as being Western, and it makes people want to experience what life would be like if they were actually there. This shows that the American West is imagined as rural in America today, especially as the main picture on the website is of horses with mountains and hills in the background.

There are lots of different types of ranch holidays, but they all have similar things in all of them such as, the outdoor lifestyle like horse-riding, cattle driving and rodeo. The holiday is aimed at the American West in the 21st Century rather than in the past, as the ranch holidays also include white water rafting and mountain biking, which is an unusual thing to include if you are experiencing the American West, as cowboys wouldn't have done these things.

Having working ranch holidays tells us that the American West is seen as though working is considered fun and not that hard to do, because it is offering it to people who are on holiday and they want to make it as enjoyable as possible so they can get more customers to come back in the future.

The clothing in the images on the website is also the typical appearance of the 'Wild West', as there are cowboy hats, boots, shirts and jackets. This markets the American West as traditional as they are wearing things that are considered Western and is often what the American West is associated with.

The accommodation is also very basic which resembles what it would have been like actually living in the American West, which is having as little technology as possible, living in a rural setting with very little around you, whilst also working on the ranch and spending the evening with your family around a campfire, all of which the ranch holiday offers.

This website overall is a good example of marketing the American Western, as it has many images which allow you to quickly identify them as being American and Western, using clothing such as hats, transport such as horse and cart or just a horse and landscapes. However, it does make the American West seem as though it's an easy life to live, because you go on nice long treks in amazing surroundings, fishing in the sun and sitting around the campfire with your family, when the American West would also include shootouts and robberies, which the holiday website does not offer or have any images relating to that.

Grace La Traille


Tuesday, 13 January 2015


This group meets at 11.30 on Mondays in my office, TAB 206

First post

Post and analyse any example of any website which markets the American West – this can be a site selling historic or contemporary paintings or photographs, clothing, hats, boots, jewellery, vacations, land and housing property or anything else you can find to give us a snapshot of how the West is imagined in America today.