How the West was really won

  • Savages & Scoundrels: The Untold Story of America's Road to Empire through Indian Territory

 

Savages & Scoundrels: The Untold Story of America’s Road to Empire through Indian Territory
Paul VanDevelder   
352 pages, hardcover: $26.
Yale University Press, 2009.

Paul VanDevelder, author of Coyote Warrior, digs deeper into the rotten core of the American experience in his new book, Savages & Scoundrels: The Untold Story of America's Road to Empire through Indian Territory.

Louise Holding Eagle, a young farm wife, returned home from shopping in May 1951 to discover that her farm in the rich bottomlands of the Upper Missouri River was gone, flooded by a new reservoir. The Holding Eagles were one of hundreds of Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara families whose lives were turned upside down by the Garrison Dam project. Primarily built to control the Big Muddy's often-deadly spring runoff, the dam was also sold to North Dakota farmers as a way to irrigate their desiccated farmlands.

But the dam spelled the end of the world for the tribes who had called the bottomlands home. And it never did deliver water to the parched Northern Great Plains.

The skullduggery involved in the dam's construction is just the springboard for VanDevelder's tale of how unscrupulous men imposed their own visions of Paradise upon the land's legal owners, the Indian tribes.

VanDevelder becomes a forensic historian of sorts as he traces the deadly course of the twin diseases of imperialism and colonialism, which nearly wiped out thriving Native civilizations. Of the 371 ratified treaties -- and the uncounted treaties that Congress never ratified -- VanDevelder examines one in particular: the Treaty of Fort Laramie, enacted in 1851. The treaty guaranteed the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara 12 million acres of land and settled the claims of 10 other tribes. But it slowly dissolved under the pressure of political expediency, until the final taking for the ill-fated Garrison Dam project.

A complete overhaul of the national story is long overdue, says VanDevelder. "The original and ‘official' American narrative that we're all familiar with -- the version presented in textbooks approved by Baptist-controlled school boards in Texas -- isn't going to stand simply because that so-called history is a perversion of what happened on this continent in the last four hundred years," VanDevelder notes in an e-mail.

Savages & Scoundrels illustrates how easily "scoundrels" can seduce a nation founded on the rights of all peoples, leading it to return to old habits of colonialism, environmental exploitation and imperialism. We are all still paying the price.

High Country News Classifieds
  • PLANNED GIVING OFFICER
    National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), the nation's oldest and largest national parks nonprofit advocacy organization seeks a Planned Giving Officer. Do you find energy in...
  • DEPUTY DIRECTOR
    The Methow Valley Citizens Council has a distinguished history of advocating for progressive land use and environmental values in the Methow Valley and Okanogan County...
  • ACTING INDIGENOUS AFFAIRS DESK EDITOR
    High Country News is seeking an Acting Indigenous Affairs Editor to oversee the work of our award-winning Indigenous Affairs Desk while our editor is on...
  • GRANTS PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    The Cinnabar Foundation seeks an enthusiastic, team-oriented and knowledgeable Grants Program Director to work from their home in Montana. Established in 1983, the Cinnabar Foundation...
  • ARTEMIS PROGRAM MANAGER
    The Artemis Program Manager will work with National Wildlife Federation sporting and public lands staff to change this dynamic, continue to build upon our successful...
  • ALASKA SEA KAYAK BUSINESS FOR SALE
    Well-known and successful sea kayak, raft, hike, camp guiding & water taxi service. Sale includes everything needed to run the business, including office & gear...
  • MEMBERSHIP AND EVENTS PROGRAM COORDINATOR
    Great Old Broads for Wilderness seeks a detail-oriented and enthusiastic Membership and Events Coordinator to join our small, but mighty-fun team to oversee our membership...
  • PROGRAM DEVELOPMENT FACILITATOR
    ABOUT THE HIGH DESERT MUSEUM Since opening in 1982, HIGH DESERT MUSEUM has brought together wildlife, culture, art and natural resources to promote an understanding...
  • LAND STEWARD, ARAVAIPA
    Steward will live on-site in housing provided by TNC and maintains preserve areas frequented by the visiting public and performs land management activities. The Land...
  • DEVELOPMENT WRITER
    Who We Are: The Nature Conservancy's mission is to protect the lands and waters upon which all life depends. As a science-based organization, we create...
  • CONNECTIVITY SCIENCE COORDINATOR
    Position type: Full time, exempt Location: Bozeman preferred; remote negotiable Compensation: $48,000 - $52,000 Benefits: Major medical insurance, up to 5% match on a 401k,...
  • EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT
    ArenaLife is looking for an Executive Assistant who wants to work in a fast-paced, exciting, and growing organization. We are looking for someone to support...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Mountain Lion Foundation is seeking an Executive Director. Please see our website for further information - mountainlion.org/job-openings
  • WASHINGTON DC REPRESENTATIVE
    Position Status: Full-time, exempt Location: Washington, DC Position Reports to: Program Director The Western Organization of Resource Councils (WORC) is seeking a Washington, DC Representative...
  • REGIONAL CAMPAIGN ORGANIZER
    Position Title: Regional Campaign Organizers (2 positions) Position Status: Full-time, exempt Location: Preferred Billings, MT; remote location within WORC's region (in or near Grand Junction...
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    Driggs, ID based non-profit. Full time. Full job description available at tvtap.org. Submit cover letter and resume to [email protected]
  • ENVIRONMENTAL AND CONSTRUCTION GEOPHYSICS
    - We find groundwater, buried debris and assist with new construction projects for a fraction of drilling costs.
  • SPRING MOUNTAINS SOLAR OFF GRID MOUNTAIN HOME
    Located 50 miles northwest of Las Vegas, Nevada in the pine forest of Lee Canyon at 8000 feet elevation. One of a kind property surrounded...
  • MAJOR GIFTS MANAGER - MOUNTAIN WEST, THE CONSERVATION FUND
    Cultivate, solicit and steward a portfolio of 75-125 donors.
  • NATURE'S BEST IN ARAVAIPA CANYON
    10 acre private oasis in one of Arizona's beautiful canyons. Fully furnished, 2123 sq ft architectural custom-built contemporary home with spectacular views and many extras....