At the center of the competing visions of the land stands the Indian. The 19th-century Indian is under attack from newcomers who are fighting back. By the early 20th century, the Indian stands watching the artist. The Indian stares out from Walter Ufer’s witty self- portrait. She becomes a figure of irony. I stare back at her impassive face, and all the images of the painted land rush past in my mind, rivers and mountains and cowboys and mission churches. In her laconic regard of the painter, she is witness to the place that was neither El Norte or the American West, the land we will never see.
The boy reached the islet, his heart thumping with excitement, wondering did the bird forsake. He went slowly, quietly, on to the strip of land that led to the nest. He rose on his toes, looking over the ledge to see if he could see her. And then every muscle tautened. She was on, her shoulders hunched up, and her bill lying on her breast as if she were asleep. Colm’s heart hammered wildly in his ears. She hadn’t forsaken. He was about to turn stealthily away. Something happened. The bird moved, her neck straightened, twitching nervously from side to side. The boy’s head swam with lightness. He stood transfixed. The wild duck with a panicky flapping, rose heavily, and flew off towards the sea. . A guilty silence enveloped the boy. . He turned to go away, hesitated, and glanced back at the bare nest; it’d be no harm to have a look. Timidly he approached it, standing straight, and gazing over the edge.
On June 27, 1865, General William Tecumseh Sherman was given command of the Military District of the Missouri, which was one of the five military divisions into which the . government had divided the country. Sherman received this command for the purpose of commencing the twenty-five-year war against the Plains Indians, primarily as a form of veiled subsidy to the government-subsidized railroad corporations and other politically connected corporations involved in building the transcontinental railroads. These corporations were the financial backbone of the Republican Party. Indeed, in June 1861, Abraham Lincoln, former legal counsel of the Illinois Central Railroad, called a special emergency session of Congress not to deal with the two-month-old Civil War, but to commence work on the Pacific Railway Act. Subsidizing the transcontinental railroads was a primary (if not the primary) objective of the new Republican Party. As Dee Brown writes in Hear That Lonesome Whistle Blow , a history of the building of the transcontinental railroads, Lincolns 1862 Pacific Railway Act assured the fortunes of a dynasty of American families . . the Brewsters, Bushnells, Olcotts, Harkers, Harrisons, Trowbridges, Lanworthys, Reids, Ogdens, Bradfords, Noyeses, Brooks, Cornells, and dozens of others (2001, 49), all of whom were tied to the Republican Party.