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2017 Undergraduate Research Symposium-Sam McGee

Sam McGee Homeland vs. New Land: The Northern Paiute’s battle for place in the Great Basin

Abstract
The colonizing Euro-American population came to the Great Basin in Oregon with a different understanding of the land, of place, then the Northern Paiute people who occupied it. Through history, and even into modern times, these two contrasted understandings of place have created conflict and strife. This paper first investigates the two understandings of place, that of the Euro-American colonizer and that of the Northern Paiute. This is followed by a discussion of the Euro-American efforts to change the Northern Paiute’s relationship with the land and the Northern Paiute’s resistance to these changes, both spiritual and physical. The investigation concludes with a discussion of how these two different understandings of place are in conflict today. The sources used to provide the Northern Paiute perspective are accounts from interviews with members of the Northern Paiute, as well as historical accounts of the Ghost Dance. The sources used to understand the Euro-American perspective include historical accounts from various US government officials, and doctrine relating to manifest destiny and westward expansion. This investigation presents two contrasted understandings of place in the Great Basin. To the Euro-American population, it was a new, undeveloped land of opportunity. To the Northern Paiute it was their homeland, central to their identity and their way of life. This connection was why the Northern Paiute fought so hard to stay on their land and continue their way of life, and why they are still fighting today to maintain their culture and connections to their homeland.

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