From the Plains to the Plateau: Indian and Emigrant Interactions During the Overland Trail Migrations
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American emigrants frequently encountered Native North Americans during the overland trail migrations of the 1840s-1860s. This study examines the frequency and nature of those interactions in two geographic sections: the first half of the trail, from the Missouri River to the eastern slope of the South Pass of the Rocky Mountains, and the second half, from the western slope of South Pass to Oregon City, Oregon. While the predominant historiography of these migrations has focused on a binary of hostile or non-hostile interactions between Indians and emigrants, the focus on violence has obscured the larger issue of frequent and amicable interactions between emigrants and Indian peoples along the overland route. Factors such as trade, the availability of resources, and cultural differences influenced the nature of these inter-ethnic interactions, which varied from the beginning of the trail on the Plains to the end of the trail on the Columbia Plateau.