20 Literature Essay Topics: Discuss “The Red and the White” in a Brand-New Way

Topics and ideas
Posted on April 13, 2016

Award-winning western historian Andrew R. Graybill penned “The Red and the White: A Family Saga of the American West”, detailing historical events that have been obscured, but remain fresh in the minds of Native Americans. It is a great read for literature buffs who enjoy Western themes and an excellent choice of literature for college and university students. After all, it is very rich in themes, making writing a literature essay on this subject a good assignment.

If your instructor has added this book to your reading list and told you to write a literature essay for class, one of the first steps you should take is coming up with a topic to write on. This may not be a major challenge for this book as it has complex themes and multi-layered ideas within itself. However, if you are strapped for time, here are 20 topics related to “The Red and the White: A Family Saga of the American West” which you can tackle in your essay.

  1. The Challenges Faced by Native Americans in Preserving Traditional Heritage and Culture in the Wake of European Settlements
  2. Environmental Impact of Euromerican Arrival: How Logging, Hunting and City-Building Changed the Landscape
  3. The 1973 Indian Standoff at Wounded Knee
  4. The Effect of Linguistic Differences on Intercultural Communication
  5. The Dynamics of Sociological Relations between the Conquerors and the Conquered
  6. Dimensions of Cultural Encounters among the Euromericans and Indians
  7. The Ideologies Which Shaped the Settlement of the American West
  8. Exploring the Roots of Social Conflicts
  9. The Native-White Conflict on Great Plains
  10. Assimilation Policies of US and Canada: Effects and Long-Term Socio-Cultural Implications
  11. Reasons Why the Baker Massacre Has Not Been Properly Chronicled in History
  12. The Baker Massacre: An Act of Military Terrorism?
  13. Pros and Cons of the Early American Policies towards Native Americans
  14. Laws and Legal Systems of Native American Tribes in the 1800s.
  15. Gender Relations among the Native American People
  16. The Role of the Blackfeet Tribe in Montana’s History
  17. A Psychological Analysis of the Motivations behind the Baker Massacre
  18. Gender Roles among the Piegan, the Bloods and the North Blackfeet Tribes
  19. Inter-Tribal Warfare in the Great Plains between the 1700-1800
  20. Dissent and Protest of the Blackfeet Tribes

These topics vary in depth and scope. Pick the one you like best and then use the sources referenced at the end to write your literature essay easily. If you want to explore more facts before deciding the topic, read our 10 facts on “The Red and the White” for a literature essay for further help.

To help you out with your literature essay assignment and to make it even easier, we have included a sample essay on a topic related to “The Red and the White: A Family Saga of the American West”. You can use this as a template for your own essay. For a more detailed structural outline, head on over to our how to write a literature essay on “The Red and the White” guide.

Sample Literature Essay on “The Red and the White: A Family Saga of the American West”

The work entitled “The Red and the White: A Family Saga of the American West” by historian Andrew R. Graybill is a touching and brilliantly written account of events leading up to the Marias Massacre. This event stands out as one of the most brutal in the well-scarred history of the American West. The brutality of this event was horrifying in scope and depth of the effects.

The name of the book serves as a running theme of the entire historical account. Red and white refers to the merging of the different races of Europeans and Native Americans. The book focuses on the interracial relations of both these races. It is more than just a gripping saga though; it examines how interracial marriages affected the society and challenged its norms. It also examines how the mixed-race children struggle with identity issues.

Malcolm Clarke was a former fur-trader who lived on Prickly Pear Creek, which also served as his ranch. While working for the American Fur Company, he married a woman from the Piegan Blackfoot tribe. His wife was named, Coth-co-co-na (roughly translated, Cutting Off Head Woman). They had four children. Later on, Clarke married a second Indian woman and had four children with her. The entire family lived together on the ranch.

The conflict between red and white also takes on another shape in the book. This time in the form of a conflict between Pete Owl Child and Malcolm Clarke. Pete Owl Child is Coth-co-co-na’s cousin. He ends up killing Clarke over a disagreement over land encroachment.

The conflict between red and white takes a brutal and shocking form when the Marias Massacre occurs. Under the command of Major Eugene Baker, the U.S. Second Cavalry descends upon an encampment of peaceful Blackfoot people and slaughters almost 200 innocent people. The slaughter occurred on January 23, 1870. The heavily armed soldiers massacred a large number of women, children and old men.

The aspect of a mixed-race individual struggling to discover their own identity and the conflict within is brought into stark relief when the young Horace Clarke is said to be one of the armed men responsible for the massacre. The book further explores the fallout of the massacre and what it meant for the Clarke heirs. The third generation of Clarkes also struggles to create and maintain a separate identity in the world.

The book is a touching and dramatic tale of an important event which has been largely forgotten. It is an excellent account of the challenges faced by interracial marriages and how their effect shapes society.


  1. Hutton, P. (1999). Phil Sheridan and his army. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.
  2. Bennett, B. (1982). Death, too, for The-Heavy-Runner. Missoula, Mont.: Mountain Press Pub. Co.
  3. Mitchell, R. (2016). Washington Post. Retrieved 29 March 2016, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2013/12/05/0800e126-4b06-11e3-9890-a1e0997fb0c0_story.html
  4. White, R. (1991). The middle ground. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  5. Scheick, W. (2015). The Half-Blood. Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky
  6. Utley, Robert M. (1973). “Grant’s Peace Policy, 1869-74”. Frontier Regulars the United States Army and the Indian, 1866-1891. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press.
  7. Perry, A. (2001). On the edge of empire. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
  8. Welch, James. Fools Crow. New York: Penguin Classics, 2011.
  9. Milner, Clyde, et al. Major Problems in The History of the American West: Documents and Essays (2nd ed.). Boston: Wadsworth, 1997.
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