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Elliott West is a historian, author, and professor specializing in the history of the American West. Look for his book "Continental Reckoning: The American West in the Age of Expansion" available now.https://history.uark.edu/directory/faculty.php?uid=ewest
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Andrés Reséndez, A Land So Strange: The Epic Journey of Cabeza de Vaca
Elliott West, The Last Indian War: The Nez Perce Story
Pekka Hamalainen, The Comanche Empire
Hello. Thanks for doing this. Really appreciate it. You're quite welcome. I really enjoyed you on the Meat Eater podcast and that's why I reached out and I started reading your, the book on the Nez Perce and then I picked this up as well, Continental Reckoning. That is, that's a hell of a book. That's a big book. That's a big book. How long did it take you to write this? The writing probably eight to 10 years, the research and so forth, more than 20 years. Yeah. Wow. Yeah. A long time. So this is a lifetime of work. Continental Reckoning, the American West in the age of expansion, one of the most fascinating subjects I think in the history of the human race. I mean, it is just such, it's such an amazing story and such a tragic story and such a crazy story of the amount of change that took place over a relatively short period of time. Yeah. 30 years. Yeah. And how little most people really understand about the actual history of the Native Americans and that. One of the things that was most fascinating about the Meat Eater podcast was that at the time that Lewis and Clark had come to America, a hundred years before that, there had been Native Americans that had traveled to France. That's right. And met with the King. That's right. Yep. Yep. Yep. That's right. 1720s, there was a group of Native people from Kansas, Missouri area, and they had been accorded by the French because the French wanted to expand their fur trade into that area, up the Missouri River. And the Spanish had recently suffered a terrible military defeat there in sort of what's today Eastern, Eastern Nebraska. So, so the French sent this guy named Etienne Bourgmont to make contact. He already had contact there. In fact, he had a son by one of the women in the Missouri tribe. Made contact, made some friends, made some allies, courted them. And then to sort of seal the deal, he took back a delegation of about six Indians. Now this is from Eastern Nebraska. Which tribe was this? There were several tribes. The Missouri tribe, the Illinois tribe, I think some Osage. And they were, he then took them back from there down the Mississippi, down to New Orleans, and then over across the Atlantic to Le Havre. And then they went by coach from there to Paris. And they spent several months there in Paris being fitted by King Louis XV visiting the Paris Opera, which they said was a great place full of sorcerers. Sorcerers. Sorcerers. Why did they describe it as sorcerers? I think they figured these people were just sort of transformed for their eyes. You know, they just became somebody else. They're great actors, of course. I think that was it. They saw this thing called the puppet show on a Pot Neuf bridge. And they said this place was inhabited by small dwarfs. They loved it. They were taken to the Cour des Fonts de Bleu. They showed their expertise at hunting by riding bareback in the Bois de Boulogne, the Royal Woods, naked and bareback shooting pheasants. Had a great time. One of them, a woman who was in fact the woman who had born Bergman's child, she married a sergeant in Notre Dame. They had a wonderful time. And the men liked just about everything except the men, the other men, the French men. They said they were sort of effeminate and sissy. They said they smelled like alligators. Alligators? Interesting. Yeah. But this was 1720s. So that's, what, 80 years or something before Lewis and Clark even made it out to that area. That is so fascinating. Now, what was the language barrier? How did they communicate? Well, there were, Bergman himself had lived for years among the Indians and was an expert on the Missouri River. So he was a Frenchman who came over, enlisted in the army, deserted, sort of went native and became a Cour des Bois, a French mountain man. Took up with the Indians, had this child by this woman. So he knew the language just quite well. And there were other, remember these Indians, as you can tell in the story, were very cosmopolitan, very sophisticated. They knew English or some of them did. So I think the point to remember is that this, long before our image of Americans coming into this area, there was all sorts of contact between native peoples and Europeans, all sorts of exchanges. It was really a mixed world, a world that was far more complex, far more interesting, in my opinion, than the usual way that we remember it. To put it into perspective, it's hard for us in 2023 to look back at this time period and really have a context for it. But to put it into perspective, so first Europeans arrive here essentially in the 1400s, right? Yes. The very first. The very first, very late 1400s. So this is 200 plus years after that. That's right. So we're essentially talking about us thinking about the 1820s. Yeah. Right? That's right. So there was hundreds of years of Europeans slowly making their way across the continental United States. That's right. Spanish coming up from the south, of course. Cabeza de Vaca. Cabeza de Vaca, 1520s. The French coming in quite early up to the, what's today the northeast, eastern Canada. That had been going on, of course, a long time before the English began their very slow and timid expansion into the, beyond the Appalachians. It's interesting because if you ask the general public about the expansion, they seem to put it into the time period of the 1800s. That's right. But there was so much more going on, hundreds of years of that, which is hard for us to imagine. Again, it's like us thinking that the 1800s, like 1823 was just yesterday. It wasn't. Right. A long time ago. So there's hundreds of years. Before that. Yeah. That's right. And that had been going on slowly, sort of a slow simmer of these two, of these cultures, the cultures coming together, you know. And so the many ways in which the Indians were far more sophisticated and well traveled, far traveled, than the Americans who were coming in there. We think, you know, our national myth has it that when Lewis and Clark, this is in 1804, 1806, Lewis and Clark make their way up the Missouri River into the West, that that's sort of the start of the history of the West. Before that, Lewis's famous quote as they left the Mandan villages in 1805 says, we're heading up, he compared himself to Columbus. They said, we're heading into this place where the foot of civilized man has never trodden. Not true. Not true. No. Well, to the best of their knowledge, well, which is interesting also, right? The amount of information that was available back then. It was so difficult to find out what was going on. Well, sure. Just like today, you know, information is power. Right. And you don't want to let your imperial rivals know what's out there. You don't want them to know what you know. Right. These sort of state secrets. So have you read the Cabeza de Baca book, A Strange New Land? Yes, I have. A Land So Strange? A Land So Strange. Andres Resendez. Which is a fascinating book because they essentially document the spread of disease without meaning to do it because that is really where it all started from. A lot of it did, yeah. It's a wonderful book, yeah. It's an amazing book. And, you know, they talk about culture. They talk about the Mayas. And you know, there's always been this confusion as to what happened to the Mayas. But it's probably the same exact thing that happened to 90 plus percent of the Native Americans that contacted smallpox. Maybe the Mayas declined a good bit before that. But who knows? It's very hard to say. But certainly disease was a very important factor in the conquest of Native peoples and the conquest by Europeans of North America and South America, yeah. Is it clearly established that Cabeza de Baca was one of the first Europeans to make it to the continental United States? Or was it possible that others had made it before that but we don't have record of it? He was the first to move in to encounter what we know today as the Southwest. He was part of a shipwrecked expedition on the Texas coast. And he and a few others, including a black African slave, Esteban Stephen, they were the ones who made their way, first enslaved by the Indians, and then they gradually made their way across the Southwest up to what is today Arizona, like the Zunis, and then made their way southward into Mexico. Fabulous journey. What a story. It's an insane story. And if you look at the history of the human race across the planet, it's one of the most transformative stories in such a short amount of time where everything changed so rapidly because it coincides with the Industrial Revolution and all these things happen and then you have massive cities appearing in these places where there was nothing before. Yeah. That's a bit later. Yeah, but it's all over this period of a few hundred years, which is such a transformative time period. That's right. It's sort of a, I think of it as kind of a curve of change or a graph, right? We've got to remember all kinds of changes up and down, up and down, long before the Europeans came. You know, the rise and fall of civilizations, fantastic stories about that. So there's that. But then the Europeans come into this area and that line just goes straight up. And it keeps accelerating. It keeps accelerating. So it's important to remember that change has been going on for 15,000 years in what's today the United States. Interesting changes that I think people don't recognize nearly enough and they ought to. But the pace of that change accelerates at this really astonishing degree. Well they keep pushing back the date of modern humans in North America as well. It used to be Clovis first and then the discovery of these 22,000 year old footprints. White Sands, yeah. Now they don't even know. I mean, maybe there's some stuff that we haven't found that predates that considerably. I suspect there is. That's one of these questions that we thought we had answered. As usual, we hadn't. And that question has been very vigorously argued recently. All sorts of new discoveries in places that we didn't know there were people before until fairly recently, like the Amazon. All of a sudden we are finding these sites in the Amazon. We have no idea who these people were. They don't seem to be culturally related to others in South America. Where did they come from? When did they get there? Yeah, I've discussed this many times with Graham Hancock. And one of the things that he has brought up recently is the use of LIDAR. Through this use of LIDAR they found these grids and what appears to be irrigation systems and streets and structures and foundations and all of it unexplained. And all of it was essentially covered by vast rainforest. Right. Yep. Until fairly recently. It's really only the last two or three generations that we've begun to even poke our way into that place to begin to feel this out. Theodore Roosevelt's granddaughter, incidentally, was one of the key figures in investigating this. Really? An anthropologist, yeah. She was? Really? Interesting. Do you think that with the Amazon that we're looking at disease there as well, that it's probably European settlers came and or... You mean to explain the... I doubt that. You doubt it? These go away. Those ruins seem to go way, way, way back. I mean thousands of years before the Europeans show up. So there's no explanation for the decline? Like maybe some other diseases or something like that? We don't know. We don't know a whole lot about what diseases were here before the Europeans. But I don't know. I suspect if you look at any civilization it rises, peaks, collapses. One of the more interesting things that we found was that when you look at the rise of syphilis in Europe, that some are connecting at least some forms of syphilis to European settlers who had come to America and then gone back to Europe and brought syphilis with them. Yep. That too is being argued about right now. But right now the evidence is quite clear. And we're talking about venereal syphilis now. The syphilis can also be a kind of a skin infection. That was there before. But the first documented cases of syphilis, the last time I checked, a very suspicious time versus this place. It was in Spain in 1493. You know, that's pretty close. It's right there. It seems circumstantially pretty clear that, you know, Columbus's folks brought that back. Another thing, it was also absolutely devastating, which suggests that this is a new disease. It was not one that we had begun to, you know, we've been around for any length of time. Terrible effects, fatal, you know, insanity, fatalities. So that seems pretty clear. There's also evidence of syphilitic bone damage among native peoples going way back in North America. So I think it's pretty safe to say that. Well, we've talked about it before in the show, but it's really interesting that that's the origin of the term bigwig. Really? Did you know about that? No. Okay, great. I'm going to tell you something. I don't know if you could find out who these French royals were, but there was these French royals who contacted syphilis. They started losing their hair. And so they started wearing these, they put these beautiful wigs on. And the more money you had, the bigger your wig was. And it became, because the syphilis had just run rampant through this population, so many people were losing their hair and they would get these holes in their face, sores. It was really horrific. So these are the gentlemen, Samuel, how do you say his name? Papys? How would you say that? Peeps. Peeps. Peeps. So at the time hair loss was a one-way ticket to public embarrassment. Long hair was a trendy status symbol and a bald dome could stain any reputation. Well, Samuel Peeps' brother acquired syphilis. The diarist wrote, if my brother lives, he will not be able to show his head, which would be a very great shame to me. Hair was that big of a deal. So the syphilis outbreak sparked a surge in wig making. Victims hid their baldness as well as their bloody sores that scored, scoured their faces with wigs made of horse, goat or human hair. Perukes were also coated with powder, scented with lavender or orange to hide any funky aromas. Although common wigs were not exactly stylish, they were a shameful necessity. That changed in 1655 when the King of France started losing his hair. And so these guys started wearing wigs and everybody started wearing wigs and the bigger your wig was, the more famous and rich and established you were. So the term big wigs. So you're a big wig. Yeah, isn't that wild? That's a wonderful story. Because I mean, I heard about that when I was a kid. Oh, he's a big wig. That had made it to the 1980s. Yep, absolutely. I think you and I should look into this. Nah, I'm good. I like being involved. Me too. It's comfortable. It's so easy. You just shape your head yourself. I enjoy it. That's me. And I have a good shaped head so I'm lucky. Some people have some funky heads. So you got a good head, too. Thank you so much. So that is part of the story is this exchange of disease and the lack of immunity and how much of a devastating effect this had on the North Americans who did encounter the Europeans. That's right. That's right. And that's very well established now. we're coming to understand that in a more sophisticated way now. For instance it's not quite the it's not quite true that Indians had no immunity to it or that we that our immunity protected us when we went there. More typically a case of these diseases like smallpox for example if you got it as a child it's like measles today you know or mumps you know or chicken pox you know you want your kids to get those because then they're immune and later on it's a much more devastating disease if you get it as an adult as a grown-up. Do we know why? You know I'm not I'm not at all sure I think it's because it when you're young like that you can deal with it more effectively I'm not sure but it is the case especially viruses like smallpox you know you're then you then gain lifetime immunity so what probably was going on was that smallpox was so common in Europe that the Europeans who came over here had likely had it when they were kids. So they it wasn't that they had genetic immunity to it. Right. They had previous exposure. Right. Also the fact that especially later on when time passes the greater mortality rate among Indians was because of the general degeneration of their condition just like when we see in COVID you know people who were the poorest and people who are have the least medical care people who are they're the ones who are most vulnerable. The oldest. Yeah. And the ones with mortality or comorbidities. Yeah but what's absolutely incontestable is that the effect of diseases on Indian peoples was absolutely catastrophic and it goes a long way toward explaining how the Europeans were able to take control of the continent as quickly as quickly as they did. Yeah there's some estimations that 90% of the Native Americans died from disease. That's right. It's a well the population declined by as much as 90 or even 94 percent. Disease is an important factor but you know think of it now when if smallpox hits an Indian village let's say and the Dakotas it kills unlike other diseases the smallpox is sort of democratic in the sense that it kills all ages. Right. It kills the most productive. It kills the hunters. It kills the mothers who are nursing their children. So these secondary effects of that kind of loss. What would happen if if Austin Texas lost 40% of its people? Mmm. You know the other 60% may survive but not for long. You know the whole system everything collapses so it's a it's an absolutely devastating effect when you have those kinds of those kinds of epidemics. So you have this kind of epidemic and then you have this rush of human beings that have come over from Europe and have they come over what was the primary motivation for them coming over here? Was it to seek a better life? Was it gold mining? Silver mining? What was the the first initial wave? There are various answers various answers that keep in mind these are all initially at least imperial interprocess you know it wasn't just Frenchman coming over it was the French government trying to establish an empire there that they could profit from. The Spanish same thing. Now when the English came over theirs was a combination of governmental ambition and a business enterprise but in any case this is all being directed you know by others in Europe for their own ends. Not the ones who were coming over you know but they were there they were trying to do it for their own for their own purposes. Then that raises the question who so the ones who came over you know why were they there? And I think that the most common answer is the one you suggest better lives. I think I remember you know in Europe especially place like England land was very scarce so the possibility of something being born into the peasantry or being born you know on the lower ranks the possibility of them acquiring land was beyond remote and then somebody says okay if you'll just go across the Atlantic we'll give you land. We'll give you a new start. And that's a that's very seductive. It's fascinating because that pessimism seems to still be prevalent in a lot of English people. This pessimism as far as like your ability to improve your lifestyle. Yeah. You know I've many English friends that have come over here and say the attitude of in America is that like you can you can go out and you can forge your own path you could do things but in England there's this like yeah it's very they're very dismissive of that. Yeah. I think that's about there's something to that yeah. Yeah. There is that sort of American spirit. The kind of people that would take that kind of chance to get on a boat and go across the ocean with no photographs to look at I mean what did they have a sketch that someone a story a tale a pile of gold that someone had brought back? Well they had they had accounts they had lies being told to them. A lot of lies. A lot of lies. But you know. What were the big lies? The big lies? Oh that you know you would you probably prosper instantly there was a very healthy place right you had a great place to raise a family right the usual ones but these are again there were promoters there were Imperial promoters there were private promoters here the first English colonies Jamestown and then Plymouth and then Massachusetts Bay those are all businesses you know there were corporations yeah it was like Walmart establishing a colony on the moon or something so they're promoting it they're trying to persuade people to go over there to develop it to raise tobacco you know to give them to give them their profits so huge promotional scheme. Mmm-hmm. Yeah just the kind of human that did that really sort of establishes the ethic of what it means to be an American because these are wild risk-taking people and these are the people that essentially first established America I mean these or as far as Europeans these you have to be a wild person to take that kind of a chance. It's a big chance but of course that's always balanced between the what appears to be a dead-end life from where they were. Right. All immigration you know it's sort of a push in a pull. Right that's the motivation. America had a great pull but they're also being pushed. It's also extraordinary that there was this enormous continent far bigger than Europe that was available that you know that you could go there and establish a new life too I mean yeah what a what a marketing promotion. Oh yeah imagine now as I tell my I'm retired now but we used to tell my classes imagine that suddenly you know the news hits that there is another universe that we didn't know was there. Mmm. And number two you could go there you could actually go there. Yeah. What an idea. Yeah what a crazy idea. Yeah my family came over here in the 1920s from both sides and they came over from Europe with this idea that you know America was better than what was available in Italy and Ireland and you know that was something that had already been really pretty well established go a hundred years earlier than that two hundred years earlier than that these are incredible risks that these people took. Yeah yeah they were you know and you have to sort of marvel at it. At the same time ask yourself would you do that you know I don't think so. Yeah we can look at it from that perspective marvel at it but man from the perspective of the natives that lived here what a horrific invasion and what a devastating effect it had on their way of life their culture and how much is missing from their cultural memory because of this devastation of 90% of their population. Yeah yeah except for the Black Death this was the most horrific thing that has ever happened in recorded human history to Indian peoples in the new world nothing remotely approaches it except the Black Death except the the bubonic plague and even even then when you consider it when you track it over time bubonic plague of course came in waves occasional waves if you look at this as one story over 400 years it's it's by itself nothing like it. Well it's not only by itself for human beings but it's also by itself for native wildlife which is another incredible aspect of this story of American expansion I watched the Ken Burns documentary on the American Buffalo and you were in that as well yes and in that as well Steve Rinella and that is that is a crazy story that no wildlife in this country can it can survive being a commodity and it might survive but it's gonna have a real tough time. Barely. That's right. Barely. I mean we had to put the brakes on it in order for it to survive. And we were able to put the brakes on it because it was no longer profitable as long as it's a profitable commodity. Yeah. It's in real trouble. But that also contributed to the the demise of Native Americans. Of course. Particularly the ones who hunted the buffalo. That's right well not just the Buffalo. Buffalo were just you know the most dramatic example of dozens scores of species of animals in the New World in North America that were driven to this either to extension completely or really close to it. Dan Flores I think he's been on your yes couple times yeah Dan has this marvelous new book a wild new world that goes to that goes in that in some detail and describes it and as I remember from the book Dan says that at no point in modern history have so many different species been eradicated so quickly so quickly yeah and of course you made of course the essential point what that is it's not just that they're being hunted and exploited for the profit of people who are coming into that's really part of an even larger process that is the complete transformation of a world that's one of the things that I try to emphasize in this book between 1850 and 1880 the western third of North America was literally remade ecological not just culturally socially ecologically ecologically it was made over into a new world and that world of course was not one that native peoples knew how to work hmm there their existence relied on them being able relied on centuries of knowledge gained from this intricate understanding and use sort of choreographed life of this of this place of this place relying upon its resources and was also plants of course crops and so forth and the Europeans come in and they just transform it quickly very quickly very quickly so what are you gonna do that is what defeated the Indians it wasn't the military it was this transformation of their world into another one world into another in which they didn't fit so they simply had no choice but to do what they were told if we can live now when it comes to the American bison there certainly was a market hunting aspect of it that they were hunting them for their tongues they were hunting them for their hides but there was also it seems like there was a motivation to remove the Native Americans ability to sustain themselves or was that a just a peripheral was that like it's a little complicated as usual you're talking about two things here yes when you're talking about the I think it's fair to say that Indian peoples had their own hand in this what's Buffalo robes that is you take a take up usually a cow hide and you process you scrape it out of you and you work it you work it into a robe subject those became quite popular in the East in England and in Europe sort of this exotic thing to have in your house you know you put it on the wall or you put it make it into a rug or you use it as a you're out and a carriage in the winter you would have these things it was it was something that was interesting something it was all of a sudden it was a fashion kind of a fad and suddenly there's this great market for these things for Indian hunters native hunters they've been killing bison of course for their own uses but now they would do both that and for their hides which they could turn into robes which would give them this unprecedented affluence since it was his business boom among them and also warmth and the ability to sustain during winter sure well I mean they had always used it for that now it was a commodity when did that shift and what what caused that shift that was in the 1820s is when it really when it really boobs suddenly you know there's this exotic thing that you can get from the American West that's that's kind of cool to have right so that's in the 1820s and it's a huge trade you know hundreds of thousands of ropes are sent down the Missouri and the Mississippi down to be marketed marketed out of New Orleans and to be in to be and to be sent east that had an early effect on the decline of the bison population and my own own research and work on this I think that something close to a half of the bison population at its peak is explained by that sort of hunting and other kinds of ecological and environmental changes that were going on in the West so long before the hide hunters the white those white hide hunters went out there and started killing them it is killing them and essentially for the same reason in other words and it's themselves became caught up in this commodification caught up in this international trade right and they began to feel the effects of it hmm by the 1850s there's this noticeable shortage decline of bison population so they're already under pressure and then and then somebody figures out 1872 we know exactly the year 1872 somebody figures out that you can take a bison hide and you can turn it into industrial leather now the 1870s there was a worldwide leather shortage the reason was industry factories needed leather for gaskets for these machines belts and these things a huge demand for it both here and in England and in Europe most of that leather have been coming from Argentina the huge herds in Argentina but they're about tapped out so there's this huge demand this huge there's this big pressing economic question how where's the leather gonna come from as hundreds of new factories even built all the time right suddenly somebody figures out buffaloes Wow they can give it so the Buffalo got it from both sides that's right that's right they read Dan Flores's work on the reason why there was these immense Buffalo herds in the first place sure he believes that with the decline of the Native American population because of disease that led to an unprecedented rise in the Buffalo and that when the Europeans came and saw these millions of Buffalo on the plane that this was not normal this was something akin to like if you go to populations like in my neighborhood my neighborhood is overrun with white tail deer it's crazy how many of them there are and white tail deer at one point in time are on the verge of extinction in the United States right because of market hunting that's right but that he says that he believes that this insane number of bison that people at first is witnessed this was because the Native Americans had declined so much there was no pressure on them yeah that's a good argument but I think it's sort of very hard to prove but Dan and I have had that conversation before and I think there might well be something to it you know the classic classic thing like Yellowstone you know you get rid of the wolves the elk population booms right right yeah get rid of the get rid of predators and beaver population booms and all of a sudden all the creeks are damned and their plans flooded or so it's yeah yeah so it's a yeah it's just this extraordinarily intricate relationship and connection that we have in the world around us and you mess with any one part of it and the rest of its gonna change and human beings love to mess with things we do especially yeah we do especially when we came to a place that we didn't really have an understanding of the ecosystem like North America yeah another thing that Dan talks about this really fascinating was that horses originated from North America but were wiped out but had already been transferred to Europe and to other parts of the world and then were reintroduced when Europeans came here what year was that when that started happening well you're right of course they evolved on the southern plains over 50 million years from a critter called a hierarch aetherium which is about the size of a collie into the modern into the modern horse that took millions of years and fairly late in that stories that is to say only two or three million years ago they migrated along with all kinds of other animals camels for example evolved alongside horses that's crazy in the southwest and they made that trip you know over Beringia over the the land bridge there Bering Strait yeah into what was the largest pasture on earth you know Central Asia and there their population exploded and there they continued to evolve they became zebras headed south into Africa that is crazy they became you know asses so all the equids evolved from those horses coming out of New Mexico that is so crazy that zebras came out of Mexico pushing far back enough that's right wow so they boomed over there but you know at the end of the last ice age into the playa during the Wisconsin at the end of the Wisconsin glaciation the world changes we're going to a kind of a climate change as we have today warming and that changes the ecology completely and all kinds of animals in especially in North America became extinct dozens of species became extinct it's like 65% of all North American large megafauna yeah yep yep you know we had an American lion we had of course the saber-toothed tiger the smile of dawn American cheetah American cheetah yeah we had armadillos the size of Volkswagen bugs really up into win with this extension Wow and so 12,000 13,000 years ago there was giant armadillos that's right that's right wow you know they would run over cars the cars didn't run over there but and you know the list just goes on and on they all of these animals suddenly disappeared because of this partly because of his ecological change now there's an argument that it wasn't just that the question is okay the lion goes extinct in America didn't go extinct in Africa horses go extinct in America they didn't go extinct over there there was a global change so what's the difference the argument is people people by that point had just been able to make their way over in the other direction you know you know Beringia was a who was a two-way street two-way highway and animals coming over from Asia at the same time that American animals are going over in the other directions buffaloes bison evolved in the old world and then they came over here real where they originate from Central Asia Wow and also parts of Europe there was an animal called a rock that's that was a descendant also of them were they just as furry do they look similar who knows maybe they changed and they were they were quite different from once today the ones that came over the dominated were called bison antiquus our bison latifrans they were much larger much larger bison antiquus if you can imagine one now has a you know the bulls had these you know the horn spread just like ours do the horn spread of a bison antiquus was great enough that LeBron James could lie down between the tips of the horns and not touchy not touchy the one Wow so there were these gigantic bison they became extinct and they were then succeeded they were then replaced by or followed by our bison bison bison Americana's have you ever read into the younger driest impact theory into the what now younger driest impact oh yeah yeah yeah yeah Randall Carlson has been on my podcast multiple times he's a proponent of that and there's a lot of scientific evidence in terms of our core samples and micro diamonds that seem to indicate that around 11,800 years ago in North America and a good 30% of the world was hit when we passed through a comet shower and that that was the end of the Ice Age and that it happened not just then but it happened another time somewhere in the 10,000 range and that that was what melted almost instantaneously most of the North American ice cap that covered half the continent and miles of ice and all that and that he thinks that that was the origin of the mass extinction along with human beings yeah there was a combination of those two things yeah I've heard that idea but yeah I don't frankly don't know enough about it I'm trying to bring Randall and together with someone who is an expert like Dan Flores you would love to bring Randall and Dan Flores together so they could sort of compare notes because both of them are working on the same problem from different angles yeah yeah yeah well it's a fascinating one and it has to do of course is what we were talking about a little earlier human groups right people were here what effect did that have on on them yeah does that explain you know some of these sudden declines of populations yeah don't know what's so interesting that we still have some animals left over like the pronghorn antelope right that moves at speeds that don't make any sense considering the predators are available for it there's so much faster than everything else because they had to evade the North American cheetah that's right yep yeah there's a wonderful book called ghosts of extinction and that's exactly exactly long those I also you know pronghorns can't jump fences right they go under them or they go under them or try to go through them but they can't go over them and that's because no fences back faster than hell you know they can they can outrun a lion but but they can't jump a fence if you would think that something that could run that fast could also jump you'd think do you think if you gave another million years they'd figure out I feel pretty confident they would because white-tailed deer do it like they're born to do it right like a fence to them is just like stepping over a branch oh I know we have a we have a place out in the hills in Arkansas and we've got bits like you said they're overrun over all the deer there's a place called Catalina Island in California where they're there the what they're trying to do now is use snipers and helicopters to wipe out the deer population because no kidding yeah because well they're on an island and there's no predators right it's which is a shame it's a it's a horrible shame they starve yeah they starve diseases you know CWD there's a lot of different diseases that they can get hit with because of this overpopulation yeah and of course that's the kind of context that you could put in the decline of native peoples here what we're doing what we're doing is messing with the ecological arrangement in ways that make it impossible for certain thing for animals that have adapted to that to survive yeah the difference was of course that Indians are human beings and human beings have the imagination to imagine a different way and to respond to it in ways that others others can't what's one of the more fascinating and horrific aspects of the story of the decline of the native population in America is that they had this incredibly unique lifestyle that really wasn't it wasn't available anywhere else in the world at that time most of the rest of Europe and Asia had sort of changed and moved to agriculture and moved to cities and these people had these immense tribes super sophisticated hunter gatherer civilizations that lived in symbiosis with the land and to us people that sort of understand how horrible it is that that's happened we have this incredible romantic attachment to Native Americans yeah yes a lot of ways we do now there was of course agriculture here yeah and what's today the United States in the East highly sophisticated forms of agriculture growing a variety of crops in the southwest remind especially on corn but you're right a good part of what's today the United States especially the West were hunter-gatherer peoples and fishers they had figured out these ways to these sort of the incredibly complicated and complex practiced ways of moving through their year month by month week by week in ways that they had practiced and learned about over the over many generations that allowed them a really a remarkably high standard of living now there were not large traps that one of the limitations of a hunter-gatherer society is you cannot expand in numbers beyond a certain a certain limit about 125 you know that's a get bigger than that you really can't support it so what you had was this extraordinary splay this this extraordinary variety of peoples you know hundreds hundreds of different native groups today there are 530 federally recognized tribes in the United States Wow yeah and that's just those are the ones who have survived physically and culturally so there's this remarkable array of peoples many of them seeking different languages or different dialects all of them in contact with the others that with in this very intricate trade relationships it was quite a place you know and you're right it flies dramatically in the face of what we think was going on back then this romanticized simplistic view of the Indian right there's just like this this one group of people it's also so interesting that that number of 125 people aligns with we know as Dunbar's number that's exactly right that's where it comes right yeah so you're aware of that yeah yeah wonderful book yeah yeah Dunbar's number meaning that we have in our mind the ability to hold a certain relationship with a certain number of people intimately and then as it spreads out further we can know some people sort of we kind of know of them and but there's just a small group that would be your family a larger group that would be your tribe and then there's neighboring tribes that's right that's right fascinating idea it is fascinating because uses yeah it shows a hard drive yeah we have a mental hard drive that sort of design yeah we do yeah he uses a great book he uses the idea of gossip you know the got the other the maximum number which gossip really affects you you can't get above about 125 for what the hell I don't care well it is interesting because it seems like there's a biological maybe an evolutionary reason for gossip of course yeah yeah sure and in those societies it played a very important role because these groups typically had nothing remotely like our system of authority essentially nobody was in charge yeah along many Western groups no person in a particular band could tell another person to do anything no one had that kind of authority right so how do they stop people from you know being going nuts you know doing right doing horrible things it's it's it's it's the it's the it's the groups or the bands opinion of you or shamed right they have they would often have case characters sort of like town criers you know somebody would do something awful and he'd walk through the camp yelling about this guy so with that of course it's just sort of gossip on a grand scale right someone's hiding food yeah yeah yeah someone's being greedy so and what's interesting also at Dunbar I'm sure you remember this one from his book when you get down below 125 smaller groups there's also groups in which there's a certain intimacy where you can add you can absolutely trust these people right right right what's that number 12 12 think of it 12 jurors right 12 disciples right yeah 11 and a football football team yeah close to it yeah right you know that's a it's a smaller group that works because everybody knows everybody else everybody is you can rely on each other you know so yeah and like you say that's it's hard work yeah so we work well that's one of the things that's fascinating about things like the battle at Little Bighorn because the Native American groups had figured out listen we got to get together there's the only way we're gonna stop these invaders is if we band together and form a much larger group yeah now those are the tribes that tell most importantly they're the Lakota the Western Sioux and the Northern Cheyenne they were all again composed of bands there was no tribe in the sense that we're thinking all of them broke down into and these smaller these smaller units and they recognized a kinship they spoke the same or common or highly related languages so forth they intermarried a lot sort of binding them together but about that time as you say about the time 1876 1870s there was this realization you know we got a real problem here we got a real problem here and the best chance the best shot we have is for us to overcome these to the forge a sense of common identity and a common purpose it's a kind of rise of what you might call nationalism a kind of a Sioux Cheyenne nationalism and it's that's new that's new that wasn't there wasn't there before so they're evolving you're evolving in their understanding they're evolving and how they think about it themselves right it's this world and constant motion and change and what I what fascinated me about this in this in this book was how complex it was and how fast it was and how completely far-reaching it was everything changes quickly yeah the one of the fascinating stories about Little Bighorn was that this band this this banding together of all these natives didn't last they were very effective this one battle very quickly like what they said that the battle what did they say the battle lasted somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 minutes well the height of it you know we're a Custer's part that's probably about that or maybe a little longer it's crazy now the the battle itself of course a larger battle lasted much longer or more than a day about two days as he's part of them part of the command under Reno retreated to this hill you know and was besieged and held under siege for a day a day and a half but you're right and then you know they that's a great victory yeah problem is you know what's gonna happen right you know what's gonna happen they knew the retaliation was coming yep yep big time you gotta remember now when when did this happen it was 1876 the battle itself was on June 25th 1876 like I say they were under siege there for two or three days it was another few days before the first other group of the army of the cavalry arrived then they had to spend a few days taking care of the wounded do what they can then they took the survivors to the Missouri River to get on a steamboat to head to head down to Bismarck and it was at that point that the news began to travel about this unprecedented defeat by American forces so the battles on June 25th put all those days together when do you think the first news arrived that of this catastrophe July 4th July 4th 1876 the 100th 100th anniversary of the approval of the Declaration of Independence though our hundredth honor our hundredth birthday news arrives of of this crushing of Custer the nation the military was not gonna let that stand yeah so this was part of the reasons there was this this extraordinary effort you know to just to destroy these people so they very quickly broke up into these constituent bands and tried to get away as best they could and less than a year they were they were defeated and you talked about what happened after that in your other book on the Nez Perce the last Indian war yeah right yeah that was the next year 1877 the Nez Perce were this extraordinary people in the Pacific Northwest they were from Idaho from Eastern Oregon they too composed of these different bands gathered together in this this one common identity the Nimi poo which means the real people and they were completely at peace with the whites in fact Lewis and Clark had been the first of the first Americans the first white people that they had ever seen Lewis and Clark came over a little old pass down in there they were starving and the Nez Perce took them in saved them gave them help them get some horses and canoes to keep on their way and on the way back Lewis and Clark stayed with them more than a month and they formed in the eyes of the Nez Perce they formed this alliance with the Americans and they swore from this time on we're friends we're allies you help us when we fight we'll help you when you fight and that was in 18 6 they kept that promise from 18 6 until 1877 Wow as they were their land was being overrun as he's appalling treaties are being forced upon them kept their word and then finally in 18 1877 the government said okay that's enough you got to come into this reservation and the ones who were living off of it had to then within one month than a month they had to pack up everything they had to leave their homeland that they had known for generations they had to cross the Snake River at its highest point somehow get their families you know women children kids old folks across this river to gather to go into this reservation end of a way of life even though the treaty that required them to do that was a fraud and on the eve that literally the day before they were to go on to the reservation to be forced on the reservation these young men sort of snapped and these young men took off and killed a bunch of white folks you know that they had grudges against that then triggered this war triggered this larger outbreak against whites that then of course brought the army in and the army tried to put this down but as I researched that book the question that keep kept coming back to me was why why did they do that because at the time of the war they were completely at peace with the Americans around them they had adapted beautifully they were prosperous cattlemen they were raising cattle you know they had silver tea sets for pizza they were they were more they were more prosperous than the whites who were who were living or in the air in the area they threatened no one they were living on lands and the whites didn't want why then why force them in what's the reason and the only reason I can think of was the little bighorn this year before this humiliating defeat at the hands of the of the Lakotas and the Cheyennes with that the government said okay that's it everybody even our best friends have to give up and they have to come in into reservations where we will we will control them yeah they'll control them in that force Christianity on them as well yeah have you seen Taylor Sheridan's series 1923 it's a prequel to Yellowstone have you ever watched any of those shows no really good show but one of the things that 1923 documents it stars Harrison Ford and so it's very interesting but it documents these women that are forced from their tribe to go into these schools where their Christianity is forced upon them they're beaten and treated horrifically it's very hard to watch because you know that that is what happened of course yeah that's the boarding schools yeah that goes way back before 1923 about 23 is sort of it's sort of winding down but yeah all sorts of course scandalous news recently in the past year or two about the kinds of treatment that came out of those done those schools here in Canada the same sort of thing is being revealed in Canada about the abuses under those under those schools yeah just Christianity is being forced on they are required to speak only English you know they're punished if they speak their own languages yeah therefore they give up their appearance or cut their hair dress in a certain way now there's a wonderful irony in that show I said a moment ago most people most public think of you know the Indian as if there's one group of people right the the Indian native peoples course didn't think at all like that they identified with tribal groups they identified with the band within the tribal groups but often at odds with each other you know they've been fighting each other like everybody fights everybody else in history right so their identity was you know when you say what are you they would say well I'm a Cheyenne I'm a Comanche you know I'm a Tlingit you know whatever I belong to this guy's band so the idea of and of the Indian was completely foreign to them until boarding schools and all of a sudden in boarding schools all the kids all the young people are taken required to go to these schools all of these different groups they're all living together they're all forced to surrender much of their own individual cultures those dozens different cultures that they were if they'd come from and suddenly it begins to dawn on them they're now all speaking the same language right they're all you know we've got much more in common do we have differences so there's a way in which you know the supposed purpose of a boarding school was to destroy Indianness the famous phrase coming from a Colonel Pratt who was the one who founded Carlisle was kill the Indian to save the man destroy Indian identity in order to allow these people to survive in the modern world Wow but what the Rotary schools did was in fact create the Indian they didn't kill the Indian the Indian didn't exist before that it created this sense of common identity this sense of okay we may be Comanche we may be Cheyenne, we may be Lakota, maybe Tlingit or whatever but we're all we all have this common problem that we're facing these common difficulties so we need to think in terms of the Indian to bond together just like in a smaller scale when these bands decide to join and unite in order to fight the military now on this much larger continental scale Indians from all over native peoples from all over the nation now begin to see that they are related related in their circumstances not by blood so the Indian was created not killed in the boarding schools that's fascinating when they initially tried to move the natives to reservations how did they were they doing it because where the natives were there was valuable resources were they doing it because geographically they could control them better in these regions like what was the motivation initially it was all of that yeah certainly they were especially when they're in particular places that are very rich in resources great examples of course were mining rushes these people who are again hunter-gatherers living in this someplace this remote mountain area from California or Arizona or wherever suddenly you know they're overrun by these people coming in overrun because they are they are living on some of the richest places in the nation so you got to get rid of them right but there's also the reason this is a way to control them and to in the eyes of the government to transform them right put them on these reservations and you can turn them into the kind of people that you want them to be yeah make them American and that's what so it was both of those things those are those things together which is historic like when we look back at it now it's like one of the most horrific aspects of it that we just tried to eliminate them and just integrate them into our culture right that was always the the formal government goal it wasn't simply give them a place to live the way they live it was no virtually no one was saying that even the people who were called as the part of a formal term friends of the Indians they were the organization called the friends of the Indians and they were honestly in their own hearts they thought that they were doing what was necessary for the best for these people but this was a they said the only way we can do that only way that these people can be saved is to transform them into people like us you know to make them into our to integrate them into our our culture and that that depended on really basic 33 things it was they had to become farmers because you know from the beginning in this country you know that's sort of the ideal life that's how you that's how you begin your your integration into the American economy farming you know the Jeffersonian vision you know of the ideal farmer they got to be Christian they have to have this common common religion and education we've got to take their young people and we've got to put them in schools where they will be not only learn the basics of three r's and so forth but they'll be culturally educated yeah they will be culturally transformed so these boarding schools were meant to transform these people into Americans but they you know so yeah so we you often hear the term genocide thrown around and there are times in American history when that was absolutely true when there was an effort to simply eradicate Indian peoples but the whole reservation system was not meant for that sometimes it turned out that way but the purpose of it was this control and transformation that's what was supposed to happen and then when that happened once that was done then they the reservations would be done away with everybody would live in harmony you know wow it didn't happen of course but of course it had to be so confusing to them what the resources were that the white man wanted too because they're like why do you want gold you can't eat it you can't use it as a weapon yeah so strange it is in a lot of ways it is uh you know gold as you said it's virtually useless it's it's very soft all right yeah you can't make it into a what a strange thing to be the most valuable of all commodities it's really shiny but how bizarre that so many parts of the world that agreed upon that that's right it's just cross-culturally across hundreds of years they are the uh Egyptians you know yeah Egyptians call gold uh the breath of god you know the Aztec consider it god's scat this was the excrement of the gods you know it came so strange so strange yeah now it's not true i think that uh once there's some really interesting works going on right now by a historian named Benjamin badly uh who is studying in California in the gold rush there were Indians who said oh they're going to give me much stuff for this stuff of course and so they adapted they went to work and there were there were hundreds of Indians who were in the gold fields before the 49ers came really yeah that was another interesting thing about your discussion with Steve Rinnell that we think of the 49ers as the miners but there was 48ers that's right and they were from a variety of different countries right that's right Tasmania Australia Australia yeah wild all parts of Asia yeah yeah remember the the uh gold was discovered uh you know the American river on January 24th 1848 so you know three weeks into 1848 the word then began to leak out made it to San Francisco and slowly gradually this is now 1848 so it takes a long time for news to get from California to to the east how did it primarily get there was it well there was you know there was traffic back and forth but it's very slow over the trails over and over right so for months and months and once and when it came to the east a lot of people said oh come on yeah one more rumor about the riches in the west and so forth so it wasn't until December 4th 1848 when the president James Polk in his annual message to congress said yep it's true it's true they found gold out there and there's a lot of it a lot of it and uh people are making thousands of dollars uh tens of thousands of dollars out there but the point here is that uh from January 1848 when gold was discovered to the end of 1848 nobody in the east really either knew about this there were rumors or or believed it so that's why we call the gold rushers 49ers because it's the next year that they they go out there in these extraordinary numbers but the question that is what was happening out there at the time right what was happening is we had the 48ers people from Oregon people from Australia people from Tasmania people from the first Chinese ever coming over especially people from the south Sonoran's people coming from Mexico Peruvians Chileans so when the 49ers get out there you know the Americans get out there and they look around they said who are these people digging our gold right so so it's what I what I call the book the what I call the book the second conquest of California the first and of course in the in the war with Mexico but then suddenly you know this is the richest place on earth quite literally at that time and it's being being the goal there is being mined by these people that we considered non-Americans right so we've got to get rid of them Indians right the rest of them there's this what's called the Chile war in which Chileans are driven out of the mines so these people are are either driven out completely or they're confined to the edges while the 49ers all the 49ers take and including of course the Indians this is what triggered the great one of the few cases where this is clearly genocide in which there was a concerted formal effort to eradicate Indian peoples who are on these gold fields you know the California legislature funded bond issues to pay for militias to go kill Indians Congress reimbursed California the legislature to pay for those to pay for those expeditions um it was it was what Ben Madley who wrote the book on this it calls a killing machine one of the few times in American history when we just say absolutely yes this was attempted this was attempted genocide and it was specifically because of the commodity of gold sure of course wow of course yeah you gotta remember this was yeah uh this was the by far the richest gold discovery in human history up until up until that time more gold was mined in California in one year 1852 than had been mined across the world in the entire 18th century one year you know wow there's a story uh from the fellow who was uh from the fellow who was the head of the San Francisco mint it was established in the mid-1850s he said that at one time they were processing so much gold in that mint that the the furnaces couldn't handle it and they discovered to their horror that gold dust was being blown out of the smokestacks wow and settling uh and settling on the area around there so they had to send out people you know for like a quarter mile around the mint to sweep up the gold on the roof it sipped through it on the roof the gilded rooftops you know wow this is a lot of a lot of gold that's insane and one result of that was as a California of course gets this gets this instant population it never goes through a territorial period it just goes straight to statehood because there's so many people right well historically uh if the Indians were getting much of a protection it came from the federal government well the federal government has it's not a territory you know so it's entirely it's a state government that's in charge there and the state government state government's attitude was get rid of them get rid of them and the population dropped from estimated 150 000 in 1848 to 1900 16 000. wow. 100 so about 90 about 90 percent yeah wow yeah it was one of the you you can picture it uh this way I think we mentioned the most most folks you know where were the great Indian wars where are the great Indian defeats they think typically of the great plains little bighorn you know Montana the Dakotas and the southwest New Mexico Arizona that's where the movies all are yeah those are the ones that we're most aware of publicly if the population in California native population in California dropped as much as we think it did that would be as if every native person in Montana north and south Dakota Wyoming uh Colorado Nebraska Kansas Texas uh New Mexico Arizona vanished it was if they they were all gone all dead wow and that was happening in this one one state one state because of one commodity yeah yeah wow it was an absolute nightmare and yet who knows about it you know very few people who's aware of that yeah yeah that's not really discussed that much there's a fantastic book about Texas and about the Comanches called empire the summer moon sure have you read it yeah incredible book but it uh it details the difficulty that they had in trying to establish colonies both in New Mexico and in Texas because of the Comanche and sure that is an absolutely amazing documentation of what took place in this area yeah yeah yeah uh part of that story has to do with what you what we were talking about earlier and that is horses yes this was one of the this was one of the great revolutions I call it the other American Revolution in the book I call it the grass revolution because horses now had of course started here went to Asia became extinct here and the Europeans brought them back Coronado was the first to uh to bring them into uh where they had been born onto the South Plains what year was this Coronado yeah 1540s in the 1540s and then the Spanish came uh for good at the end of the 1500s up and establishing Santa Fe along along the along the Rio Grande River they brought horses and then it wasn't until around 1680 with the this rebellion of uh Pueblo Indians in the Santa in the Santa Fe area and uh that drove the Spanish out for 12 years that these horses began to spread across the west they had had begun to spread before and we're coming to understand now that there were probably more of them out there than we realized earlier than we realized but the explosive growth of horses out of New Mexico is comes after 1680 1780 100 years later Indian peoples across the plains in the southwest and in the Rocky Mountains have all developed adapted the horse adopted and adapted to that horse into what we call horse cultures that is these ways of life that depend upon the horse without the horse you can't do what you what you want to do it's like we have a car culture right and this thing this gave them among other things a great military power economic power but also also uh military power the key to that Joe was the fact that horses are herbivores right and they're adapted to this the second largest grassland on earth the great plains and when you put a human on a horse then um then it becomes something else it becomes what I call a horse man that is horse hyphen man right not a horseman it becomes it's like you take these two animals and you fuse them into one thing right and this animal like a centaur this animal has the power and the speed and the grace and the beauty of a running horse and it has the brain of a human being it has the imagination and the innovation right and the arrogance of a human being so that's a new animal it's bad news for the bison really bad news the bison because the first time you have a grass-eating predator predator you have a killer you have a killer that can draw upon the same energy and the grasses that the bison do and it's ultimately fatal for them right but at the same time it becomes this these horse cultures become extraordinary you know military machines and that's what the Comanches were that's what the that the book is about and that's that was this other American revolution the same time that our revolution in the east is going on there's this revolution in life and power in the middle of what's today the United States with the rise of these native empires yeah the Comanches and the Nakodas and others these become this sort of superpowers they dominate they dominate the middle of America right and they just kick the bajabbers out of the Spanish yeah and of others it's not until the Americans show up with their numbers overwhelming numbers you know and with their new technologies the pistol the pistol and the rifles you know railroads yeah and the others that they're able to find that these that these empires are broken and of course little bighorn that's that's the end of that particular cycle of it you know when they're uh Lakotas who they were the superpower you know the middle of America they and the Comanches were these formed in effect one great empire stretched from southern Canada all the way into Mexico the native empire right that's what we broke when we came in with a little bighorn 1876 against the Comanches what that book writes about 1874. It was also the last time that a horse culture arose on earth the first were about 5,000 years ago in Ukraine and then that way of life spreads across central Asia the Mongols you know it spreads into northern China it spreads down into the mid-east it leads to the you know the great horseback empires of the Arabs in northern Europe and then into Europe to the uh you know the great Iberian powers like Spain all of these are horse military horse cultures it's a story that goes 5,000 years back and it it ends it ends where the story began 50 million years ago with the beginning with the first horses right it ends at the same place. What we see when you look at the little bighorn when you look at the defeat of the Comanches when you look at the fetal southern Indian tribes which what you're seeing is the end of a 5,000 year epic in world history an epic that began at the same place. That's incredible so the the horse empire began in Ukraine? The first time that we know we think now the first time the people domesticated horses was in Ukraine yeah. That's so fascinating yeah how did they figure it out and how did the Comanche figure out how to do it so much better than the other tribes? That's a great question there have been some very good books written recently on the Comanches the best in my opinion is by it's called the Comanche empire that follows the story you know of the rise of Comanche power it's by a good friend of mine Pekka his name was a Pekka Hamelayanan he's a native fin who has written the great the great book on this I don't know they just well first place is I think Dan Flores would would stress this they were in absolutely the right place southern plains Dan has a book called horizontal yellow which is the Comanche word for for this area this is where horses evolved this is where they were born this is where that they were best adapted and the Comanche that was a Comanche that was Comanche area that was a Comanche so they were in just the right place for this proliferation of horses and they took advantage of it something about them was able to to fashion you know to take advantage of this to a degree that few others that few others did they were very very good at it and what Pekka's book does also is show that this was genuinely an empire they had their own foreign policy they had their own economic system they had this intricate trade system so they they would sort of outsource outsource the growing of of horses they would when the Americans came you know they would wait until the Americans were developing horse herds as well as cattle and other things let them do the work let them use their grass you know to develop these horse herds and then we steal them so they're they're outsourcing right right wow they develop these trade networks of trading horses up to the northern plains where their winters are so severe that they they had terrible losses every year so they would sell horses trade horses up to the north this is a very sophisticated arrangement but they were the masters of it and it served them well until the Americans show up in numbers they figured out how to geld stallions they figured out how to raise them and the amount of status and wealth that you had was dependent upon the amount of horses that you had sure yeah yeah which is very different from what you had before yeah that was quite common among other groups so these horse cultures that you know horses became sort of the coin of the realm as you said who you were it was like big wigs right yes bigger the wig you have the bigger that's right more horses you have that's the measure of that's a measure of of your wealth of your status of your prestige yeah this area that we're in right now was populated by the Comanche and these these arrowheads this is one of them is they're everywhere here i mean they're everywhere yeah there's a friend of mine who has a ranch out here and he finds hundreds if not thousands of them a year yeah and he actively sifts through them and he puts them up on his website on his instagram page and he sent me one of them and this is just one of who knows how many if not hundreds of thousands of these that have been found in this area yeah where these people lived for a long time a long time surviving off the buffalo and wild game and primarily eating only meat which gave them a big advantage over the americans who came here who needed carbohydrates and who they couldn't go a day or two without eating without being completely diminished whereas they were there just because their body had adapted to eating meat they were essentially in ketosis and they were eating meat and it didn't bother them to go a day without food they had all these advantages yep beautifully adapted partly by their own planning partly just good chance yeah yeah and also their strategies their ability you know we think of native americans we think of archers as having a quiver on their back and they pull an arrow from the quiver and put it in but they carried multiple arrows in each finger so in the four fingers of the hand they would have four arrows sitting in their hands ready to go and they they had the ability to cycle them through the bow very quickly whereas the europeans had a musket they had to put the ball in there and the gunpowder and tap it down the whole thing took like 30 seconds to get one shot off under extreme pressure of these native americans who are extremely adept on horseback and who actually would ride sideways so they would hide behind the body of the horse right yeah which is incredible now they uh by the time those the real hammer came down uh the whites had repeating rifles and they had they had pistols but still but still uh in in terms of fighting on those terms uh kamanchian horseback was far more effective those they were called short bows uh and they were very powerful we think of long bows or crossbows as ones with a great power but these things were you know they could uh hunting bison uh they could shoot an arrow one of these short bow arrows under these through these short bows and it would go through a bison all the way through this through this animal so and they're incredibly accurate yeah and very accurate horseback riding horseback they trained to shoot off of horseback like the mongols famously would release their arrow while the horse was in the air because it had the less disturbance so they they had this thing yeah that they would do well they would release the arrow as the horse was in the air yeah and they they were insanely accurate doing it that way apparently not very accurate doing it just standing still that was alien to them like why would you shoot on the ground like that that's so stupid get on a horse dummy yeah yeah well what was documented in uh empire of the summer moon was the the use of the revolver and that um the military didn't really have a desire to acquire the revolver but the texas rangers did and the reason why they did is they would recognize that there's there's a need to have multiple bullets in some sort of a cylinder that you could replace and so when they started doing that that's when they started to gain ground over the kamanchi and then of course the henry rifle the repeating rifle all these different things that happen after that yeah yeah revolvers are not terribly accurate but they could they could fire they could fire bullets as fast as the command she could fire an arrow so yeah that's an advantage yeah yeah and jack hayes who's the original texas ranger there's a photo of him out there uh in our lobby as well as the photo of uh cinthia and parker so those in quanta and quanta parker yeah it's just such an amazing uh aspect of the history of this area i mean to this in this region when you drive around you'll see like quanta parker lane you'll see like all these kamanchi names that uh have been put on streets yeah well uh cinthia was taken not far from here right 11 years old yeah yeah it's a crazy story right it's an amazing story yeah um this whole place transformed so rapidly and it's just it's so it's interesting that this sort of independent philosophy of texans probably had a lot to do with how difficult it was to take over this place yeah i think you can you can push that a little too far but there's certainly something to that it'd be awfully awfully tough people how could you push it too far and what do you mean by it well i think that so many people in texas and elsewhere you know they were just sort of ordinary folks and you wouldn't really they really didn't have to go through the kind of transformation you know kind of adaptive transformations they would produce those kinds of abilities but the ones on the cutting edge you know the ones out there you know that was true of them yes tough guys charlie goodnight you know that you know that name yes charles goodnight yeah good example of that yeah it's a tough guy his partner uh oliver loving uh was killed by kamachi's out in out in west texas you know and he had to he had to go through some serious stuff uh good night and others and others at that time uh to uh to make it did the kamachi's have a reservation not as such uh there were the very end of this right before it all fell apart they were on sort of government land had been set aside far north texas uh up at the border of border of up at the border of border of oklahoma stayed on that but didn't last the the animosity the the unalloyed hatred mutual hatred between kamachi's and texas it's hard to exaggerate it it was just it was like palestinians and israelis you know homas and israelis it just you could not reconcile it and so the government you know was trying to give these folks a chance to become farmers and the rest of it so they put them on this piece of land but the texans kept kept at them kept at them kept at them and finally they said enough of that you're going back to the panhandle right so besides that no texas uh has only a couple of reservations by the end of the by the end of the story one in east texas the reason is of course that this that this uh hostilities these hostilities between texas and indians is so extreme that they're either all indians are either all killed or driven out no which is so extraordinary when you think about the the expanse of their empire yeah yep yeah it's just sort of a purging of them you know ethnic cleansing when you set out to write a book this vast i mean this is an enormous book it seems like there's so much information that it's got to be a daunting task to try to figure out how to pull it all together yeah that was by far the biggest problem i think it was very naive when i started i started i looked back and you're gonna do what you know because you know let's see uh you know as as i've already said a couple times it's just this 30-year period when so much happens so fast in so many ways so many changes all of them all of them bouncing off each other all of influencing each other it's just this bewildering uh series of of of things you know of events the hardest part um the hardest part of any book you know one of my friends told me the hardest thing about writing a book is making it a book you know making it one thing yes i think it's the hardest thing in one thing yes as opposed to just a whole series of note cards uh put together but that was uh it went beyond hard for this had to come up with some way to fit it together with a narrative an arc over time uh with themes and try to hold it together i did my best to do that but that was by far the hardest part of it yeah did you do this independently did you have a contract to do a book oh it's like it's part of a series the history of the west seary university of nebraska uh series um and we're about finished with it now um but it beyond that it was independent you know it was it would have to be it would have to be otherwise the pressure on you to get this done the deadlines what are you doing elliot right what kind of book is this well i've told them before you know it's done when it's done right i'm not gonna well it's just it must be so hard to put together something that if we put it into perspective today imagine that kind of change happening from 1993 to 2023 yeah put that in your head yep and imagine the world changes the world is made over it's made over yeah and if i the theme that i came up with it here the closest thing i had to to tie it together was um something really big happens in this country in the second half of the 19th century and we all recognize that any any any american historian will uh will agree with that and what happens is the narrative of this country that the basic story of the united states shifts onto a new track uh you know we're changing all the time of course but sometimes things really change and this is one of them when this american story moves in a new direction that would carry it into what we think of as modern america carry it into the america where we know the 20th and the 21st centuries if you go back if you're able to get a time machine you don't twirl a dial go back to say 1850 and before that you're in another world yeah uh it's one very difficult for us to uh to identify with 1900 you know we're industrialized right we're tied to the world in new ways uh we're technologically far more sophisticated uh where people much more of a polyglot nation the whole idea of citizenship of who is an american all that has changed you know it happens during that period well if you all americans all american historians agree with that if you're to ask them how do you explain that what accounts for this shift the most common answer to that by far up until now has been the civil war it was a civil war you know establishes the primacy of the federal government it's a civil war that expands citizenship through emancipation it's a civil war that helps it as a go to us to industrialize to turn into this modern economic superpower it's all true undeniable what i argue in this book is that expansion in the 1840s the discovery of gold which comes exactly at the same point and what happens in the west during these 30 years from 1850 to 1880 those things are as important as the civil war in helping us understand how we became modern you know in the making of the making of modern america expansion those 30 years of incredible changes were as important as the civil war and turning us into a modern industrial power and expanding citizenship in this case not just free people but but indians you know hispanics chinese and the strength of the power of the federal government which takes on all kinds of new responsibilities because of the west you know from national parks to the department of interior to outward looking into the world it's because of this happening that we what i call the orientation the reorientation of america we turned into the pacific we become a pacific facing nation as well as an atlantic nation we began to move into what we know today as a people who are looking people who are looking continuously across the pacific to china to the other to the other nations over there all those things that we associate with being modern have as much to do with expansion as they do with the civil war so so the basic idea is you cannot possibly understand america as the america that we that we know from the 20th and 21st centuries without looking at this story without taking into account what follows from the acquisition of 1 million 200,000 square miles over three years and what happened following that but just without books like this i think people have sort of this abstract notion of what took place here they know horrible things happened they know the native american population was wiped out they know they were forced into reservations but i don't think it's being taught enough to most americans the actual history of this land and how extraordinary this change was yeah well well that's a grave responsibility that you had to put down this one massive book yeah well of course i could not could not agree more we can't know who we are as americans unless you take this into account and unless you get beyond the sort of the mythic romanticized view that we have of that yeah and recognize it as this is the this is the birth of modern america yeah just as it's going on east and west of course but the point of the title is it's a continental story yes it's a it's a story that has to be told and understood from coast to coast there's also a very bizarre aspect of our understanding of the west that has to do with the narratives that are shaped in film sure i mean we have this whole genre of film in america called westerns which is really interesting right because we have spaghetti westerns are actually made in italy with trent eastwood and you know all these films that detail these heroic americans who fight off the indians and you know our narrative is the people that are on the wagon train they're just trying to have a good life and they're getting attacked by the indians we have to fight off the indians we have this very sort of myopic view it's weird right it is weird yeah our view of what happened in terms of what what's been depicted in film and in books it's it's very simplistic no kidding yeah right it is and it's a great question about why you know why that is yeah for 40 plus years i taught a course called the west of the imagination which wrestles with exactly that question what is it about western history that is so what is it sort of compels us you know to take this story of the west and to turn it into this simplistic romanticized story story it's a great question it's a revisionist history question right well it is yeah and and uh i think there are various there are various uh ways to approach it the most basic way is simply in a way sort of to restate the question by saying that there is something about the west and this goes way back to european history even before columbus you know there's something about the direction west that invites us to imagine new worlds yeah right people living in europe you know the the one direction in which they knew absolutely nothing was west you look into the atlantic and so they were able to imagine all of these all of these wonderful myths you know there's something about that there's something that sort of carries through on that but in particular in this country people need the west need the west to be something you know it's their need that produces a story it's not what's happening out there yeah we need to make the west into what we need we need the west to be what we require in this particular time so for instance uh after the civil war this country is trying to this country is trying to remake itself into one nation we're trying to you know to heal these wounds to stitch the nation back together we need stories about what we have in common whether you live in south carolina or whether you live in pennsylvania right what do we have in common well one thing we have in common is we're conquering the west right we're doing this together all americans you know where it's a it's a heroic very positive uh american view uh story in that story among other things we've got to we've got to earn our way into this country that means we got to suffer um okay um so all of these tales of you know suffering pioneers and so forth but also of course indians uh the threat of indians you know overcoming the threat of indians that's that's a heroic american story right uh in other words sort of we got to bleed our way into full possession full possession of the west don't bother me with the with with complications like this is indians country right this is their country you know don't bother me with the fact that they're just trying to defend their land right they're not trying to kill people to kill people right right right that doesn't matter you know we need we need this to be a very viral story to reflect the the image of this of this uh as american nation is really coming into its dome yeah the heroic rugged individualist who makes his way across the country that's right not wholesale genocide for resources that's right so it becomes a very um a very male story yes all of these stories of uh oh you know of uh railroad you know of these railroaders trying to protect themselves against the indians of a very the idea of a violent west you know of these shootouts uh shootouts every day that reflects the kind of virility uh to the uh to the whole story so in other words uh i think i think of it as a metaphor like this a western movie right any movie you sit there in the theater and you're watching this thing up on the screen and you're tricking yourself to thinking it's on the screen but it's not of course it's behind you yeah it's the projector so there's a way in which we turn the west into this thing that that that in fact is outsiders are projecting onto it what they want it to be yeah that's what westerns are do you think it's a part of a guilt of a real understanding of what really took place i don't know i don't know people because it's so romanticized it seems like there should have been one genocidal film made about the american west the knowledge was there yeah yeah you said a moment ago everybody if you stop folks on the street everybody agrees indians are poorly treated yes right but hey you know it's eggs broken for a national omelet right right it's also it wasn't me i wasn't there that's right you know i'm child of immigrants came here in the 20s i have no responsibility and you are well and you are you know it's not a matter of guilt so much is it a matter of recognizing this is our story this is the actual events yeah yes yeah nobody's gonna you know pressure to feel guilty about it and we're never going to learn unless we actually know what happened sure i mean there's no it's too easy to the good term is whitewash because it really is whitewashing right in this case sure literally literally whitewashing yeah it's too easy to whitewash the actual events took place yeah yeah and it could be an awfully ugly story but it's also i think we can also make the mistake of painting it in these these sort of starkly tragic occasional genocidal genocidal terms there is absolutely something to the point of view that these are just ordinary people going out there to try to make better lives yeah right i've uh my my early passion was what we call social history which is the uh history of everyday life and so i was fascinated by uh these people who went out there uh took off solar farm or whatever picked up and went out to to oregon or someplace why were they doing that you know and and what was it like what was it like for them and i looked at i read hundreds of letters and diaries and journals and memoirs of this and i've yet to find one to read one example of somebody saying well tell you what you know it's gonna be it's gonna be tough out there but we we gotta go out there and get rid of the indians right they had these images of who the indians were and what sort of a danger they had but they weren't out there to dispossess the indians they're out there to get a better farm right out there to make it make a better life that's the american story but in doing that as i said earlier in doing that they took part in this effort this took part in this complete transformation of this world that destroyed the indian life that made it impossible for indians to uh uh deliver where they had when you're writing something like this what it must be an overwhelming responsibility to accurately relay this message to people sure yeah i mean that's what historians do that's probably why i took 20 years right i looked at a lot of stuff right and it took me a long time to research it to write it put together and i also try to make it as much as i can a human story i try to give it what i say in there give it a story with a somebody-ness you know a a sense of what it was like for individuals for individuals out there and that means you make it very complicated you know there are no simple moral messages as much as we'd like to like for them to be uh it's not that's part of the that's part of the accuracy of it all right yeah i also try to respect uh you know you know as we've talked about americans have this romanticized view out there in particular things like uh cowboys cattle drives right uh homesteaders well the fact is those are the stories that fascinate us and i try to honor that fascination those were great stories you know the stories overland trails you know these wagon trains these families picking up you know walking 1500 miles uh those are great stories uh the story of the lives of cowboys cattle drives and all the rest of that uh those fascinate us for good reason because they're fascinating right and what i try to do is to respect that fascination at the same time of trying to tell those stories uh as fully as i can with as much nuance as i can and to bring in new understandings to point out for example in ranching uh i mean who knew uh that that the great ranching empires the great plains were run mostly by corporations really yeah there were hundreds of corporate ranches it was stock being sold in new york and boston and edinburgh it big there was a very tight connection between edinburgh investors and and ranches ranches out of the great would they ship the livestock back no no that livestock was uh you know grunt was raised in the plains and then was typically fattened up in a place like iowa and then slaughtered in um in the chicago kansas city as i kept now over time by the end of the century closely in the center they developed a refrigerator refrigeration so they were able to send slaughtered beef back but they wouldn't send the animal wouldn't send the animals themselves but the point is it was a ranching for all of our images of lonesome cowboys out there yeah cattle drives uh ranching was it was a was an international corporatized business one more way in which we see the west as modernizing america yeah it was as much a corporatized uh enterprise as iron and steel or petroleum uh in the east modern business which is bizarre to imagine what it was like before ranching because well that probably led rise to the market hunting right because where else are you going to get your meat from that was before uh right market hunting was before ranching yeah before ranching right but it's you're right it's the same thing because like before ranching where did they get their meat like if people came over here en masse from europe what were they eating well they were they were eating a lot of they were eating a lot of beef a lot of pigs they're eating a lot of bear too which is wild well early on yeah earliest settlement but there was uh you know americans are traditional carnivores they're also of course eating a little wild game as well like bear but that beef and that pork those are raised on farms that as individuals you would you would raise your own cattle cow to feed your own family that's right and you slaughter it at that particular time of the year to do it what happens after the it starts in california actually the first time you see modern ranching develop is before the civil war out in california to feed the gold miners but then it becomes a national phenomenon after the civil war when uh we begin to raise cattle on a mass scale on public land out of the great plains now you have a modern transportation system railroads you know make their way out on the plains so you can take cattle in texas southern texas you can drive them north on public domain that's the grass is free you know the fuel for the whole thing is is government coming out of the government free you load them up on uh cattle cars and abilene or dodge city um ship them to the east to uh fatten them up uh and then to slaughter in other words it's a it's becomes a nationalized business and then international business and it becomes funded in the same the way that other new national businesses are corporations it's all coordinated by the revolution of uh in communication through the telegraph right so we're using these uh these new revolutionary technologies like the like the telegraph and the railroad and new revolutionary economic systems like that of corporate america you know uh sort of these concentrations of capital to create this new national international business it's all part of the the national story but it's one it's a national story in the west that we've turned into this kind of exotic romantic story yeah miss the fact that it's really critical to what's going on across the country but it's such a fascinating transformation and so many moving pieces yeah and so little understanding by the general public of all these factors that are at play yeah yeah well that's why you're so important elliott i appreciate you very much for coming on here thank you and talking about this in your book um this book is not available right now as an audiobook do you have plans do they have plans to release it i think they uh last i heard they did given the length of it i have a large stack of packages of lozenges i'm going to send to whoever has to read this try to help him out yeah well i know the last uh last indian war is available it's available and i'm listening to that right now and so this uh this book right now is only available you got to read folks continental reckoning the american west in the age of expansion elliott west thank you very much sir really really appreciate you being here thank you jules awesome awesome