As part of The Colorado Sun’s literature section – SunLit – we are featuring staff picks from bookstores across the state. >> Click here for more SunLit
Tthe bookstore of your week: Out West Books, 533 Main St., Grand Junction
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Edited by Ted J. Warner
University of Utah Press
Dec 4, 2004
From the publisher: The chronicle of the most notable expedition of Fray Francisco Atanasio Domínguez and Fray Silvestre Vélez de Escalante in 1776 through the Rocky Mountains, the eastern Great Basin, and the Colorado Plateau to inventory new lands for the Spanish crown and find a route from Santa Faith to Monterey. California.
By Marya at Out West Books: You can’t swing a frozen piece of rope across western Colorado and Utah without touching something named after Dominguez and Escalante. So many place names are attributed to this short 1776 Colorado expedition to find a route from Santa Fe to the California missions that one might think they spent more time here. In fact, they covered 1,700 miles in 159 days without reaching California. The Grand Canyon proved to be too great an obstacle.
This translation of Escalante’s diary of the Dominguez expedition is so accurate that you can tell from the description exactly which hogback, ridge, or river they are crossing. Some people believe that the Utes accompanying the expedition led them into northwestern Colorado and eastern Utah from the Gunnison River to skirt Ute lands. Perhaps, if you read between the lines, you will come to the same conclusion.
blood and thunder
By Hampton Sides
Oct 9, 2007
from the publisher: In the summer of 1846, the Army of the West marched through Santa Fe, en route to invade and occupy the western territories claimed by Mexico. Driven by the new ideology of “Manifest Destiny,” this land grab would lead to a decades-long battle between the United States and the Navajo, the fiercely resistant rulers of a large swath of mountainous desert.
At the center of this sweeping story is Kit Carson, the trapper, explorer, and soldier whose adventures made him a legend. Sides shows us how this illiterate mountain man understood and respected the Western tribes better than any other American, yet he willingly followed orders that would ultimately devastate the Navajo nation. Rich in detail and spanning over three decades, this is an essential addition to our understanding of how the West was truly won.
By Marya at Out West Books: Hampton Sides could write the phone book and I would read it. Initially intended as an account of the Navajo expulsion from Canyon de Chelly, this book is also about the life of Christopher “Kit” Carson. As with Dominguez and Escalante, Carson’s name can be found throughout Colorado and northern New Mexico, from military bases to forests to street names.
He had a very interesting life and played an important role in the “opening” of the West. From the 1820s, beginning with his time as a mountain man, then as an explorer on the Fremont Expeditions, through the 1840s and 50s, and his involvement in the removal and resettlement of indigenous peoples, through the Long Navajo People’s Walk, Sides’ Chronicle of Carson’s life does not disappoint. If you live in Colorado, this book should be part of your library.
By Elinor Wilson
University of Oklahoma Press
Dec 15, 1980
From the publisher: Dismissed as a “gaudy liar” by most historians and often discredited by writers who disparaged his mixed blood, James Pierson Beckwourth was one of the giants of the early west, certainly deserving of standing alongside Kit Carson, Bill Williams, Louis Vasquez and Jim. Bridge. In his old age, Beckwourth dictated an autobiography to TD Bonner, a man more interested in making money from Jim’s adventures than accurately recording his life. Beckwourth was later disparaged because of the inaccuracies that crept into Bonner’s account.
From Marya at Out West Books: Jim Beckwourth, (also known as Beckwith, Beckworth) was born the natural son of Sir Jennings Beckwourth and a slave. After being granted emancipation from his father, the well-educated Jim joined William H. Ashley’s 1824 expedition to the Rocky Mountains. Throughout his life he was a fur trapper, trader, explorer, war chief, prospector, and Indian agent. Jim Beckwourth could tell a story, and as a result, the real facts of his life are hard to discover. To this day, parts of his life remain an enigma.
For example, he lived with the Ravens, married (perhaps several at once) Raven women, and was still involved in the Sand Creek Massacre. Elinor Wilson treats all aspects of Jim’s life with respect, although some facets are still in dispute. I feel that because of his race (even in the 1840’s!) he was wrongly blamed for events that were out of his control and swindled out of money he had rightly earned. Through it all, Jim made a name for himself as a mountain man extraordinaire and that name can be found on mountain passes, streets (5th Ave in Denver used to be Beckwith St.), and again, a residence hall at the University of Western Colorado.