Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
This dissertation examines the ways in which Indigenous peoples and Irish people combatted or contributed to U.S. imperialism in the American West during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Between 1840 and 1940, the United States engaged in Westward expansion, displacing Native Americans in the name of imperialism, capitalism, and Anglo-Protestantism. Simultaneously, Anglo colonization in Ireland prompted millions of Irish people to flee to the United States. This dissertation follows the complex interactions between the Irish, Native Americans, and Anglo-Protestants in Ireland and North America.
In the American West, the Irish became the unwitting foot soldiers for U.S. expansion, engaging in bloody assaults on Indigenous people. They worked with Anglo-Protestants to undermine Native American nations in exchange for wealth and social mobility. Despite this, some Irish Catholics and Indigenous peoples found common ground in shared colonial experiences. They expressed political solidarity, used anti-Anglo language, cooperated to challenge Anglo-Protestantism, and promoted alternative visions of the world based on their traditional values. The mutual admiration and transatlantic solidarity led to intermarriage, joint political campaigns, innovations in the labor movement, and weapon exchanges.
The project draws on government reports, military records, newspapers, memoirs, diaries, letters, interviews, business records, and artwork. It also utilizes Indigenous letters and pictographs such as the Waníyetu iyáwapi, known as Winter Counts. Reading Anglo-Protestant sources against the grain in conjunction with Irish and Indigenous material helps provide insight into a neglected tale of transatlantic solidarity. In privileging the voices of Indigenous and Irish peoples, the dissertation offers valuable insights into alternatives to Anglo-Protestant hegemony, imperial expansion, and capitalist economic structures.
Donnan, Conor Joseph, ""an Empire Of Liberty?" Irish Immigrants, Native Americans, And American Imperialism In The Trans-Mississippi West Between 1840 And 1940" (2022). Publicly Accessible Penn Dissertations. 5556.