Honors College Mic

Frontier family poses in front of covered wagon; photo.

Elliott West, "The Overland Trail: Window on America" 

Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019, 5:15 p.m.
Gearhart Hall Auditorium (GEAR 26)

The great overland migration to the Pacific coast was one of America’s best known yet least appreciated events of the 19th century. The images are familiar. Covered wagons creep slowly, like bugs across a carpet, across the vast continental interior. Indians lurk, poised to attack. Sturdy pioneer men and their sunbonneted wives carry their families and hopes into the new country. In fact the migration, with hundreds of thousands of persons walking more than two thousand miles, was an exceptionally revealing window onto American life between 1840 and 1860.  

It holds lessons about the nature of an evolving society and about how its expansion would play crucially in transforming the continent. The events around it show the increasingly troubled relations with the many thousands of Native peoples suddenly brought within the nation’s borders. Simply as a human experience, the overland migration is quite a story, and it also has much to teach us about the United States at one of the critical turning points of its history. This talk will touch upon both.

Elliott West is a Distinguished Professor of History in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts & Sciences. Two of his books, Growing Up With the Country: Childhood on the Far-Western Frontier (1989) and The Way to the West: Essays on the Central Plains (1995) received the Western Heritage Award. The Contested Plains: Indians, Goldseekers, and the Rush to Colorado (1998) received five awards including the Francis Parkman Prize and PEN Center Award. His most recent book is The Last Indian War: The Nez Perce Story (2009).

Honors College Mic showcases top faculty on this campus, who combine the skills of a dazzling lecturer with expertise on fascinating topics.  Overall, these lectures foster intellectual conversation at the University of Arkansas through shared dialogue between lecturer and student, faculty and staff, and the wider populace.