Chapter 3

Edge of Empires (1500-1846)

The Euro-American encounter with the interior North American West can be divided into three processes: the approach to and entry into the region of Europeans and Americans, which reflected the political and economic expansion of national empires; the resultant slow development and spread of awareness and knowledge of the region; and Euro-Americans’ beginning uses of, or finding of external value from, the region’s landscape, resources, and people. In the first two and a half centuries of Euro-American’s awareness of and contact with Utah, their knowledge of it remained sparse and its use and value to them remained marginal.

In contrast, the period’s impact on Utah Indians appears to have been enormous in terms of cultural change, ethnic identity, and demographics, although actual data is limited by a lack of documentation. As of 1846, Utah was, in effect, still Yuta, the territory principally of Utes and ethnically related Southern Paiutes and Shoshones, but the relationship of those peoples to each other, to their homelands, and to the world outside had been transformed. (Jay Buckley and John Alley)

In the spring of 1844 came just as Americans were widely awakening to the idea of a westward empire. Expanding the nation’s borders satisfied America’s divine mission, so the idea went. After 1818 the Oregon Country was jointly occupied by the Americans and the British. American emigration to Oregon strengthened the Americans’ claim to it. The “Great Emigration” of 1842 and in the years that followed gave Americans a firm presence in that region.