At Stanford, Reworking the Old Story of the Overland Trail | The Bill Lane Center for the American West

15 May

Sarah Keyes is doing fascinating work about the Overland Trail. You can read her description of her project here:

At Stanford, Reworking the Old Story of the Overland Trail | The Bill Lane Center for the American West.

One particular piece intrigues me:

Euro-American travelers declared that adopting an “Indian lifestyle” – walking long distances and eating buffalo meat, for instance – was the way to improve their health. Through this claim Euro-Americans described the journey as transforming them for the better, by making them more like the healthy, tall Indians of the Plains that they so admired.

I am pondering some of the ironies this brings to mind:

  • Well before the 21st century, some Euro-Americans were concerned about finding a healthier lifestyle.
  • A diet of bison died as the bison themselves were driven almost to extinction; now, the promotion of bison as a part of a healthy diet is struggling to gain much traction in contemporary American foodways.
  • While today eating bison is, at best, exotic for most Americans, there is a growing movement among Native Americans to recover it and other traditional foodways as a way to combat the ravages wrought by corporate-industrial foodways on Indian health.
  • Walking … while things are a bit better now than in 1989, I still find myself in my all-season walking to and from work one of only a few practitioners–and this in an Iowa town of some 6000 people which is still quite easy to walk around.

 

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