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Take-Home Midterm Essay
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February 20, 2014
The American West has long held the imaginations and fascinations of Americans. Ask
someone what they think when they hear the term "the West", and they would likely say
cowboys and Indians, ranches, the open prairie, and covered wagons. Sure these things are part
of Western history and culture, but have you ever thought about it on a deeper level? Who were
the first groups of people to live in what is now America? Were Americans in the right to just
move west of the Mississippi River without any thought as to the fact that there might already be
people settled on the land? Is the way we remember events in the history of the west correct, or
do we have a flawed or even biased view of what really happened? We never give much thought
to these questions, we simply take the common view of events such as the battle at the Alamo,
and the Indian wars, and accept that as being the final say in what happened. It is my intention to
peel back the layers of three major pieces of the history of the American West, Cahokia, now
forgotten but at one time the largest city in ancient North America, and its fall from greatness;
the battle at the Alamo and why it is so romanticized; and the Dakota Wars, in which Dakota
tribes challenged Americans' idea of manifest destiny. How are some of these events never
mentioned in modern history lessons, while some have become larger than life?
Beginning with some of the earliest days of civilization within the Mississippi River
region, we first arrive upon the...