Lauren Kelly Humanities and Social Science
Death in the Wild: How Womens Views on Death Exposed Racial and Colonial Views during American Western Expansion
My research project reimagines the overland journeys of pioneers in the 19th century United States. In our cultural memory, Western Expansion is often remembered as brave pioneers striking out West for adventure or livelihood; however, this view pushes Native Americans to the margins of the story. As pioneer families traveled and settled in the American West, they instigated settler colonialism, displacing and murdering Native American tribes around them. My research will inspect the colonial ethos carried by white settlers, and investigate how they enacted this destructive colonialism on the Native Americans they encountered. Specifically, I plan to study the letters and diaries of pioneer women, as few other researchers have examined this issue through a gendered lens. How did these women view the Native Americans around them? What characterized these interactions and how did they contribute to colonialism as a whole? How did they differ from male encounters? In this way, I hope to contribute to the growing field of Western Expansion history through both a female and multicultural perspective.