Historian Weaving Western Family Saga

Digging into rarely used archives, UNL historian Andrew Graybill slowly pieced together the circumstances surrounding a small episode − a rancher’s murder − and how it triggered a large, tragic event in U.S. history.

That event − the massacre of Blackfoot Indians in 1870 − and the Clark family at the heart of this frontier drama form the centerpiece for Graybill’s forthcoming book, tentatively titled A Mixture of So Many Bloods: A Family Saga of the American West, to be published by W.W. Norton in 2012.

The book follows five members of three generations of a Montana family from about 1850 to 1950. The descendants of murdered rancher Malcolm Clark and his Blackfoot wife, Coth-co-co-na, like many mixed-blood people, were brokers between two worlds, helping to smooth relations between native peoples and Anglo newcomers. By the late 1800s, however, mixed-blood individuals became increasingly marginalized and pushed onto reservations.

Using a narrative style, Graybill hopes to bring the Clark family to life with vivid details gleaned from extensive archival and field research.

Although several family members went on to lead extraordinary lives, the family also represents the typical experience of mixed-blood families at a time when the West was being incorporated by the United States. Graybill said he hopes their story illustrates that once "there was a possibility for a more peaceful absorption of the West than this binary racial formulation that we’ve got today. There were people who lived quite well, for a time at least, before these much more hardened racial attitudes coalesced in the mid- to late 19th century and beyond."

Graybill received a prestigious National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship to complete the book. His previous book, Policing the Great Plains: Rangers, Mounties and the North American Frontier, 1875-1910, was published in 2007 by the University of Nebraska Press.

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Associated Web Content


The 2009-2010 Annual Report is published by the
University of Nebraska−Lincoln Office of Research and Economic Development. More information is available
at http://research.unl.edu or contact:

Prem S. Paul
Vice Chancellor for Research and Economic Development
301 Canfield Administration Building
University of Nebraska−Lincoln
Lincoln, Nebraska 68588-0433
(402) 472-3123  •  ppaul2@unl.edu

Vicki Miller, Monica Norby, Ashley Washburn, Elizabeth Banset, Office of Research and Economic Development

Contributing Writers:
Gillian Klucas, Kim Hachiya, Cara Pesek
Some articles are based on earlier stories from University Communications and IANR News Service and written by Kelly Bartling, Troy Fedderson, Sara Gilliam, Sandi Alswager Karstens, Daniel R. Moser, Judy Nelson, Tom Simons,
Steve Smith, Carole Wilbeck

Joel Brehm, Brett Hampton, Craig Chandler,
Alan Jackson/Jackson Studios, Greg Nathan,
Bruce Thorson, Robert Cope, Laurence Smith
Historic photos, page 22, courtesy Joyce Clarke Turvey

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