Subscribe to Christianity Today
Indians and Emigrants: Encounters on the Overland Trails
Michael L. Tate
University of Oklahoma Press, 2006
352 pp., $29.95
P. J. Hill
Don't Circle the Wagons
In 1996, in The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, Samuel Huntington proposed a paradigm for understanding the world of the 21st century. He argued that the major civilizations would inevitably be the source of most major future conflicts because of their very different worldviews and understandings of personal identity and religious meaning. Since the publication of Huntington's book, numerous events have lent support to his thesis: terrorist attacks in the United States, Spain, and England; the concern over Muslim immigration in Europe and Hispanic immigration in the United States; the ongoing Palestinian-Israeli conflict; and the war in Iraq. Of course not all scholars agree with Huntington's perspective; in part, his book was itself a response to Francis Fukuyama's argument that Western liberal democracy was evolving as the dominant form of human government and that the future would see only minor conflicts over peripheral issues.
The issue of the correct lens through which to see both world history and future events is a controversial one, and the book reviewed here, Indians and Emigrants: Encounters on the Overland Trails, by Michael L. Tate, is not an attempt to provide a big-picture explanation of the forces that generate either cooperation or conflict. Still, Tate's work sheds some light on the question of whether civilizations and different worldviews are ultimately and always in conflict.
Tate examines a specific period in U.S. history and a specific set of events, namely the relationship between the Native Americans and the overland travelers in the heyday of wagon train emigration, from 1840 to 1870. During this period, more than 550,000 men, women, and children moved via wagon trains from jumping-off places such as St. Joseph, Missouri and Omaha, Nebraska to Oregon and California. In his case-study of this experience, Tate provides counter-evidence with respect to prevailing wisdom about how civilizations interact. He argues that popular ...