aren't wrong in seeing the West as a land of the future, a land in which
astonishing things are possible. What they often are wrong about is that
there's no price to be paid for that, that everybody can succeed, or that
even what succeeds is necessarily the best for all concerned. The West
is much more complicated than that."
By 1877, the American conquest of the West was nearly complete. For every Indian in the West, there were now nearly 40 whites, and as the Indian wars drew to a close, the last obstacles to American domination dropped away, and the country readied itself to assert control over the entire region.
Between 1877 and 1887, four and a half million more people came West. Almost half settled on the western Plains, creating new towns in a region once thought too harsh for human habitation: Bismarck and Champion, Epiphany, Wahoo and Nicodemus.
Some came seeking freedom, land of their own -- and opportunities they couldn't find in the East, while others found in the West a place to change themselves -- become someone else, to start over.
But as more and more Americans arrived, there was less and less room for those who didn't conform.
Indians were expected to change overnight -- to forget their old ways and make themselves over in the image of their conquerors.
The Chinese, who had done more than almost anyone to connect the West to the rest of the nation, would be told that they were no longer welcome in the United States.
Mexican-Americans were overwhelmed by the newcomers, even in towns where they had lived for centuries.
While the Mormons were forced to surrender part of their religion in order to save the rest of it.
But even as Americans tried to “tame” the West, they preferred to remember a gaudier version -- full of violence, adventure, and most of all, romance -- a “Wild West.”
And yet, between 1877 and 1887, Americans would come to learn firsthand just how “wild” the West could really be -- and that no conquest could ever be complete.
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© 2001 THE WEST FILM PROJECT and WETA