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Violence over the Land

Violence over the Land

Indians and Empires in the Early American West

Ned Blackhawk

ISBN 9780674027206

Publication date: 04/30/2008

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American Indians remain familiar as icons, yet poorly understood as historical agents. In this ambitious book that ranges across Utah, Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado, and eastern California (a region known as the Great Basin), Ned Blackhawk places Native peoples squarely at the center of a dynamic and complex story as he chronicles two centuries of Indian and imperial history that profoundly shaped the American West.

On the distant margins of empire, Great Basin Indians increasingly found themselves engulfed in the chaotic storms of European expansion and responded in ways that refashioned themselves and those around them. Focusing on Ute, Paiute, and Shoshone Indians, Blackhawk illuminates this history through a lens of violence, excavating the myriad impacts of colonial expansion. Brutal networks of trade and slavery forged the Spanish borderlands, and the use of violence became for many Indians a necessary survival strategy, particularly after Mexican Independence when many became raiders and slave traffickers. Throughout such violent processes, these Native communities struggled to adapt to their changing environments, sometimes scoring remarkable political ends while suffering immense reprisals.

Violence over the Land is a passionate reminder of the high costs that the making of American history occasioned for many indigenous peoples, written from the vantage point of an Indian scholar whose own family history is intimately bound up in its enduring legacies.


  • Blackhawk’s achievement…is not just rephrasing what is already known, but actually filling a void in historical knowledge by restoring previously overlooked peoples to the record… Blackhawk claims that American history has ‘failed to reckon with the violence upon which the continent was built’… No other Western historian has exposed that violence as starkly as he has.

    —David Wishart, Times Literary Supplement


  • 2007, Winner of the Frederick Jackson Turner Award
  • 2008, Winner of the John C. Ewers Award
  • 2007, Winner of the Robert M. Utley Award
  • 2007, Winner of the Lora Romero First Book Publication Prize
  • 2007, Winner of the Erminie Wheeler-Voegelin Prize
  • 2006, Winner of the William P. Clements Prize


  • Ned Blackhawk (Western Shoshone) is Professor of History and American Studies at Yale University. The Native American and Indigenous Studies Association awarded Violence over the Land its Book of the Decade Award as “one of the ten most influential books in Native American and Indigenous Studies in the first decade of the twenty-first century.”

Book Details

  • 384 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press