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The Role Of The Frontier In American History And Culture Discussion

The Role Of The Frontier In American History And Culture Discussion

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Introduction

This briefing paper aims to explore the complex discussion about the frontier’s influence on American history and culture. The analysis will include a discussion on the position of Native Americans and other nonwhite communities like Mexican Americans, Black Americans, and Asian Americans. This paper will summarize key arguments both for and against the significance of the frontier, analyze the advantages and disadvantages of each position, explore connections to present-day issues, and conclude with a personal perspective on the matter. The Role Of The Frontier In American History And Culture Discussion

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Against the Frontier Position

Those who challenge the frontier’s influence on American history argue that the frontier’s significance has been overstated. Frederick Jackson Turner’s Frontier Thesis is criticized by Patricia Limerick and others. They claim that Turner presents a simplistic story that ignores the complex dynamics driving the country’s evolution (Turner 132). The claim is that elements other than westward migration, such industrialization, economic shifts, and world events, have to be recognized as being just as important in forming America. These critics hope to expand the historical narrative and promote a more nuanced understanding of the different factors that have shaped the nation’s identity. They do so by highlighting the complex and multifaceted nature of historical development (Limerick 63)The Role Of The Frontier In American History And Culture Discussion.

In Support of the Frontier Position

On the other hand, proponents of the frontier theory contend that westward migration had an essential role in forming the character of America. Turner (131) asserts that the frontier experience was life-changing, encouraging traits like democracy, individuality, and self-reliance. Advocates of this perspective emphasize how westward migration had a significant influence on the establishment of American institutions and the creation of a national identity. According to Turner’s view, the frontier’s opportunities and challenges significantly shaped the distinctive qualities that characterize the American spirit. Embracing this perspective, proponents stress the frontier’s lasting influence on the American story while arguing for its essential role in forming the nation’s character and values.

Advantages and Disadvantages of the Support of the Frontier Position

Proponents of the frontier thesis make strong cases for the theory’s value in explaining the distinctive characteristics that characterize American society. The emphasis on the frontier’s role in developing qualities like resilience and adaptability is one advantage. It is believed that the difficulties brought forth by westward migration, helped to shape the resilient and adaptable nature of the country. According to Klein, this perspective emphasizes the virtues of the frontier as a test of American exceptionalism. The Role Of The Frontier In American History And Culture Discussion

However, one significant disadvantage of advocating for the frontier stance is the tendency to oversimplify a complex historical process. Critics contend that by focusing too much on the frontier, they risk forgetting other crucial variables shaping the nation. They contend that economic developments, societal transformations, and global events must be addressed alongside the frontier experience to gain a more complete perspective of America’s history.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Rejecting the Frontier Position

The recognition of various effects on American history is valued by those who reject the frontier concept as a benefit to promote a more complex view of the country’s evolution. Critics aim to acknowledge the diverse causes that have shaped the American identity. They also expand the historical narrative by rejecting a narrow concentration on the frontier. This approach enables a more thorough and extensive analysis of the elements that impact the country (Da and Tendler).

Rejecting the frontier perspective, however, has the disadvantage of possibly neglecting its influence on the development of specific facets of the American character. Proponents argue that dismissing the frontier’s impact entirely may lead to overlooking the unique qualities instilled by westward expansion. It is vital to strike a balance between appreciating the importance of the frontier and other influences to fully comprehend the complexities of American development and prevent overlooks.

Connections to Present Problems

The impact of the frontier persists in present-day issues, influencing political, social, and economic dynamics. Economic disparities, cultural clashes, and debates over individual rights versus communal responsibilities can be traced back to the frontier experience. Acknowledging these connections is essential for addressing contemporary challenges. The Role Of The Frontier In American History And Culture Discussion

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Native Americans and Westward Expansion

Native Americans faced a complex set of choices during westward expansion – leave, assimilate, or resist. The challenges faced by several Native Americans are reflected in Chief Standing Bear’s story. Their relations with the U.S. government were marked by bloodshed, treaty violations, and forced expulsion. Native Americans had little options due to the power dynamics that benefited the US government, which continued the cycle of marginalization and dispossession (White and Patricia).

Standing Bear and the Ponca

Chief Standing Bear’s story provides insight into the harsh realities of westward expansion. Forced removal from ancestral lands, loss of cultural heritage, and the challenge of assimilation underscore the immense difficulties Native Americans encountered. The Ponca’s plight exemplifies the devastating impact of U.S. policies on indigenous communities (Hutchison 32)The Role Of The Frontier In American History And Culture Discussion.

Connections to Present Problems

The historical power disparities during westward expansion can be connected to the ongoing problems that Native Americans face today. The Native American experience is still shaped by cultural marginalization, economic inequality, and inadequate representation. Recognizing this historical background is essential to solving current issues that indigenous populations face.

Personal Perspective:

Upon reflection on the frontier’s influence on American history and culture, I see it as an essential but complex aspect of the development of this nation. Although the frontier clearly played a role in shaping some of our values and traits, it does not define who we are. History is a tapestry made of many different threads like societal changes, global influences, and economic crises.

Regarding the question of whether the frontier is still necessary in our culture, I think it is important to recognize its historical significance without glorifying or exaggerating its influence. It is imperative that we embrace an in-depth understanding of our past, one that recognizes the contributions of many influences. Rather than concentrating only on the necessity of a frontier-like experience, we need to work toward a shared story that embraces tolerance and diversity. We should also acknowledge the myriad influences that have shaped our diverse and ever-changing culture. The Role Of The Frontier In American History And Culture Discussion

Conclusion

In conclusion, there is much debate over the place of the frontier in American history and culture. Some contend that it has a defining influence, while others stress the necessity for a more complex perspective that considers numerous variables. The advantages and disadvantages of each perspective draw attention to the complexity of this historical argument. Making the connection between historical events and current situations highlights the frontier experience’s enduring influence on current concerns.

Work Cited

Das, Joanna Dee, and Joseph Tendler. The significance of the frontier in American history. CRC Press, 2017.

Hutchison, Chace. “Standing Bear and the Ponca: A Forgotten Legacy.” International Social Science Review (Online) 96.1 (2020): 0_1-33.

Klein, Kerwin Lee. Frontiers of historical imagination: Narrating the European conquest of Native America, 1890-1990. Univ of California Press, 2023.

Limerick, Patricia Nelson. “What on earth is the new Western history?” Montana: The Magazine of Western History 40.3 (1990): 61-64.

Turner, Frederick Jackson. “The significance of the frontier in American history.” The Structure of Political Geography. Routledge, 2017. 132-139.

White, Richard, and Patricia Nelson Limerick. The frontier in American culture. Univ of California Press, 1994. The Role Of The Frontier In American History And Culture Discussion

Purpose:

This project is to help you better understand the role of a frontier and the position of Native Americans in our history and through today.

Explanation:

A briefing paper is a short summary of events, their causes, and recommendations for solving the problem. This is not a long research paper. Rather it should be a roughly 2 pages 1000 words.

Instructions

You are to write a briefing paper addressing the issue of the frontier. You should attempt to write roughly the same amount on the argument about whether or not the frontier defined our history and culture. You should include a discussion of the position of Native Americans and other nonwhite peoples.

First, briefly summarize the main points against the role of the frontier. Then summarize the main points of supporting the role of the frontier in defining our history and culture. DO NOT FORGET TO INCLUDE THE POSITION OF THE NATIVE AMERICANS (AND MEXICAN AMERICANS, BLACK AMERICANS, AND ASIAN AMERICANS)

Second, analyze the positions and give the advantages and disadvantages of each position.

Third, draw connections between the role of the frontier of the late 19th century and the present, giving your understanding of why some of these issues persist more than 100 years after the movements we are studying.

Finally, summarize your personal opinion on the role of the frontier and whether or not we need it in our culture. There is no correct answer here. I am interested in the way you view history.

SOURCES:

You are free to use your own sources for this assessment. I DO WANT AT LEAST 1 PRIMARY SOURCE THOUGH. You can start with The Role of The Frontier In American Society by Frederick Jackson Turner (This is a primary source).  Also, What on Earth is the New Western History by Patricia Limerick is a secondary source, critical of Turner’s argument.

Something to consider: In Political science (and demonstrated numerous times over history) when a new power comes in to take over a new land mass. The existing inhabitants have three choices: leave, assimilate, or die fighting the invaders. What should the Native Americans have done throughout the Westward expansion after the Civil War? Keep in mind the ideal practice is not necessarily one that would have worked. Think about the power dynamics between the Natives and the US Government.

Look at the experience of Chief Standing Bear (this is a secondary source). More information on Standing Bear and the Ponca (this is a primary source)The Role Of The Frontier In American History And Culture Discussion.

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 RUBRIC

Against the Frontier Position: 10 points (Includes enough information but not too much information)

In Support of the Frontier Position: 10 points (Includes enough information but not too much information)

Advantages and disadvantages of the Support of the Frontier Position: 10 points (Gives both sides of the position and does not skip major aspects of the position)

Advantages and disadvantages of rejecting the Frontier Position: 10 points (Gives both sides of the position and does not skip major aspects of the position)

Connections to present problems: 10 points (Gives both sides of the position and does not skip major aspects of the position.

Summary: 10 points (Extrapolates from the Frontier Thesis to the present and makes recommendations for bridging political divides) The Role Of The Frontier In American History And Culture Discussion.

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