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Narratives of Native Americans

            Traditional narratives of the Western expansion described western tribes as a part of the dangerous environment that the American travelers had to endure throughout their journey. They are typically portrayed as challenging encounters for the travelers to overcome. History books, the western genre of fiction, and Hollywood movies all reinforced the stereotypes of Indian massacres, raids, abductions, thieves, and vagabonds. Occasionally in these narratives, a lone Native American would travel with the hero as a faithful companion. In general, however, Native Americans are portrayed as a form of civilized wildlife. Tate challenges this convention by highlighting the human to human interactions that defined the westward journey of the American emigrants. While most began their trek with Native Americans as their biggest fear, many had come to value and rely on their encounters with the local tribes. "Although lasting personal friendships were impossible to maintain among the migrating populations, the amiable relations created by thousands of individuals blossomed into a climate of improved feelings all long the line of march" (104). Some other challenges to the traditional narrative of the Western expansion were the exchange of goods and services which provided for safe passage. Most important was the reliance of the emigrants on the Native American's knowledge of the land which was needed to survive the journey. .
             There are very few representations of the economic interactions between the westward bound Americans and local tribes in traditional narratives of American expansion. At the time the emigrants were under the preconceived notion that the Indians stole all the goods they had or robbed graves to get these items. The reality that Tate's study reveals is that the American travelers relied on the goods and services Native Americans provided in exchange for their manufactured products.

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