Dissertations and Theses @ UNI


Open Access Thesis


Internal migrants--Iowa--History--19th century; Indians of North America--History--19th century;


Americans are accustomed to a standard historical version of American expansion: The United States pushed West, removing Indians in its wake and filled the land with American settlers. This is often seen as a form of settler colonialism. Westward expansion and settler colonialism were much more complicated. They often occurred on the periphery of the American centralized state, proceeding any serious government involvement, and involved a wide mix of culturally indeterminate people. This paper examines westward expansion in the Des Moines-Mississippi Confluence, a 119,000-acre region in what is now southeastern Iowa. At one time or another, Sauk and Meskwaki Indians, mixed-race people then called “half-breeds,” lawless squatters, and manipulative land speculators all claimed the land, fighting over it using an array of tools and without much government interference. This mixing of racially and culturally indeterminate people shows that westward expansion was often more complicated than a meeting of two developed cultures, that we need to rethink the role of extralegal squatters in westward expansion, and the federal government often exercised less power in the American West than we usually believe.

Year of Submission


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Department of History

First Advisor

Brian Roberts, Chair, Thesis Committee

Date Original


Object Description

1 PDF file (v, 112 pages)



File Format