Historic accuracy, Frontier Home
I just lately discovered the PBS collection Frontier Home. I’ve solely watched a few of it, however I’m already all for how traditionally correct it will be thought-about in the present day versus when it was made (within the 2000s). One of many opening strains mentioned one thing alongside the strains of “[some number] of American households moved to the western frontier to settle virgin land…”
“Virgin” land? I’ve solely learn a small portion of the guide “Why You Can’t Educate United States Historical past with out American Indians,” however I’ve learn sufficient to search out that assertion regarding. To this point there’s mainly been no point out of Native Individuals within the collection.
So right here’s my query, given the adjustments in how historical past is addressed in the present day versus the 2000s, what was ignored when it comes to historic accuracy on this collection? Clearly homesteaders didn’t wander west to discover a fully uninhabited expanse.
Comments ( 5 )
“Virgin” land (specifically in this context) typically doesn’t translate to “uninhabited” but rather “unworked”, meaning all of the resources used for agriculture and construction haven’t been tapped, altered, or processed in any measurable way for the advancement of whatever Western civilization influence comes into contact with it first. It’s more of a matter of semantic accuracy, not necessarily historic accuracy.
Not even unworked, it means untiled land. Land that has never felt the plow. So it’s entirely accurate.
I’m interested in Virgin land. I would like to know more about this.
> So here’s my question, given the changes in how history is addressed today versus the 2000s, what was left out in terms of historical accuracy in this series? Clearly homesteaders did not wander west to find a completely uninhabited expanse.
It’s relative. For all intents and purposes, the unsettled western territories were very scarcely inhabited compared to the settled coastline, and especially the major civilization centers of Eurasia, North Africa, and Mesoamerica.
You have to remember that first contact diseases killed over 90% of the Americas’ population in 16th-century, most of those peoples having died without ever seeing or hearing of European and African people (most diseases came from those two continents). It wasn’t just one pandemic either. Imagine having the equivalent of multiple separate black deaths occur within a single human lifetime, and the natives required many generations to build up immunity to the eastern diseases that Europeans, Africans, and Asians lived with for thousands of years. It wasn’t a one-and-done deal. Despite constant immigration and many interethnic marriages which conferred greater immunity on the children of such couplings, Mexico had a declining population until the mid-1800’s. It took over 300 years for the Spanish and Mestizo population growth to outpace native decline from disease, and that native population was initially much larger than the native populations of what is now the US and Canada.
To get to the point, the western frontier that the US was expanding into was basically uninhabited by the 1800’s. Nearly all remaining tribes at that time were made up of thousands or tens of thousands of people spread over large expanses of territory. For the **millions** of Americans moving west, it was indeed mostly empty.
I live in the west.
Millions and millions of buffalo would have been here when the settlers arrived. Unfortunately they were systematically killed to free up the land for farming.
And while there would have been tribes of native people scattered around, they were primarily nomadic. They continuously moved both during the seasons from down on the plains in winter, to up in the mountains during the summer. They did have specific areas they favored for settling for periods of time. There’s two sites a few miles from my house where they found an oven type apparatus and another where the ground is littered with stone flakes from crafting spear points.
The native populations were pretty cautious about where they’d camp. While you’d think they’d want to be close to water, they’d often camp a distance away to stay clear of bugs and from animal dens.
Tribes also traded quite frequently, and there are areas where they’d meet, trade goods like fur pelts and jewelry, have celebrations, and probably exchange young people for marriage partners.
So the land would’ve been filled mainly with buffalos, and the scattered native tribes would’ve had temporary or semi-permanent settlements only in the most opportune locations.