Ryan Hall, "Beneath the Backbone of the World: Blackfoot People and the North American Borderlands, 1720-1877" (UNC Press, 2020)


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No matter what people call them today the northwestern Great Plains have been and continue to be Blackfoot country, argues Colgate University assistant professor Ryan Hall in Beneath the Backbone of the World: Blackfoot People and the North American Borderlands, 1720-1877 (University of North Carolina Press, 2020). By maintaining their boundaries and enforcing power between both European empires and Indigenous neighbors, the Blackfoot were able to carve out a lasting niche in the contested borderlands of the early North American West of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Although disease, resource depletion, and colonization would eventually be visited upon the Blackfoot, along with American settler colonialism, this outcome was never preordained. Nor was that the entire story, as Blackfoot history carries on well after such well known events as the Montana gold rush and the Marias Massacre. Beneath the Backbone of the World is an example of Native history's power to force a rethinking of North American history's arc.

Dr. Stephen R. Hausmann is an assistant professor of history at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota.

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