Society for the History of Discoveries


Calloway, Colin G.  One Vast Winter Count:  The Native American West before Lewis and Clark.  Lincoln, NE:  University of Nebraska Press, 2003.  ix, 631 p.  ISBN 0803215304
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     As part of the History of the American West Series edited by Richard W. Etulain, Colin Calloway provides an interesting and scholarly book for anyone interested in the American west; particularly the North American Indians.  This compilation of primary sources and synthesis of secondary sources shows the changes and desperation that gripped American Indians as they tried to cope with abundance and adversity.  Calloway begins this journey by discussing the importance of the land, and how change affected many things.  He adroitly notes that that “only by considering America as Indian country can we get a sufficiently long span of history to recognize that civilizations here have risen and fallen as they have elsewhere in the world.” 

     The book has three parts and eight chapters with a prologue, epilogue, endnotes, selected bibliography, index, and a list of illustrations and maps.  The title derives from the way many Lakota or Sioux tribes kept their histories.  Winter counts were pictographs on dried buffalo skins that told their annual story. The maps, whether created by the American Indians or others, allow the reader to understand the plight of these peoples even more.

     The first part discusses the American West that began in Appalachia and extended across the plains to the western waters.  Mr. Calloway analyzes archeological evidence of American Indian origins before considering the American Indian creation histories.  The second part delves into Spanish contact, attempt at conquest, and the Indian reconquest by the southwestern Indians.  This second part concludes with the French exploration and settlement of the Mississippi River valley.  Part three begins with the reintroduction of the horse to the Americas, and he does an excellent job of analyzing the development and importance of western tribes.  He then turns to the events before, during, and following the French and Indian War.  Calloway then notes that the American Revolution, followed by Lewis and Clark, opened the floodgates west and sent many Indians to their demise through the introduction of smallpox.  In all instances, this volume provides an American Indian perspective to trade, commerce, culture, and dominance.  The only continuum of western North America and its people remained change.

D. Paul Webb

The University of Texas at Arlington


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