"Traveling Through Indian Countries"
Sarah Keyes, University of California, Berkeley
Contemporary maps of the overland trail tend to lay the routes across present-day state borders. Embracing these anachronistic boundaries deflects attention from the defining feature of the overland trail, namely, that Euro-Americans journeyed through lands occupied and controlled by American Indians. This paper corrects the erasure of indigenous peoples and borders from the overland trail and contends that, above all else, indigenous peoples and boundaries defined the trail experience. Historians have typically argued that the trailís significance lies in the vast distance Euro-Americans traveled (nearly 2000 miles). Yet, if we measure the trail in terms of indigenous nations and borders, rather than miles, we see a very different type of landscape, and, potentially, a very different central significance of one of the most iconic Euro-American events of the nineteenth century.
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