Graduation Year

2023

Document Type

Senior Thesis

Degree

Bachelor of Arts

Primary Major

History

Second Major

Visual Studies

Thesis Advisor

Jordan Lieser, PhD

Abstract

As the United States continued to expand during the nineteenth century, the creation of new states and acquisition of foreign territory posed many problems for the people living or attempting to live within these territories. On paper, the borders of these lands were clearly defined. However, the infant United States was still a vast array of “borderlands” that many groups, especially indigenous peoples, refused to believe were legitimate. California is no stranger to such conflicts that perpetuate the disregard for borders and the law for one's personal gain. The advent of ranchers and miners in the Owens Valley created a landslide of cataclysmic events that led to the invasion of unconquered indigenous territory and the establishment of a contested frontier county. This research paper represents a new contribution to the borderlands history of Owens Valley and Inyo County, California, analyzing the intersecting histories of Anglo American settlers, indigenous peoples, and Mexicans in eastern California. This research utilizes United States military correspondence and records, historic newspaper records, and a vast array of secondary sources to analyze the complicated history of eastern California and the governments who refused to accept the legitimacy of created borders. This paper will also utilize historic photographs and paintings to demonstrate how art can be used to remember and interpret the people, places, and events of the past to better understand eastern California borderlands.

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