Book on Plains Native Americans Named CSAW’s Outstanding Western Book of 2021 

Chip Chandler

Justin Gage, author of the 2021 winner of the Center for the Study of the American West’s Outstanding Western Book. Photo provided by WTAMU Communication and Marketing

CONTACT: Chip Chandler, 806-651-2124, [email protected]  


CANYON, Texas — A book exploring Native American life on the Great Plains — and the bloody battles that ensued in the late 1800s — is the 2021 winner of the Center for the Study of the American West’s Outstanding Western Book. 

Justin Gage’s “We Do Not Want the Gates Closed Between Us: Native Networks and the Spread of the Ghost Dance” examines Native American social and cultural networks on the Great Plains in the late 1800s, especially in the years of the Ghost Dance and its violent suppression in 1890. 

Gage, a lecturer of history at the University of Arkansas, will discuss his book in a lecture at 7 p.m. Nov. 11 in the Alumni Banquet Hall on the Canyon campus of West Texas A&M University. The lecture also will be streamed; to register, visit 

The Outstanding Western Book award, now in its third year through WT’s Center for the Study of the American West, is a juried prize recognizing books that demonstrate excellent scholarly or creative insight concerning the American West or some aspect of its history, culture, society, or environment. Of particular interest are books geographically relevant to the Southern Plains region and/or the concerns of a Southern Plains regional readership, as well as works that balance scholarly and creative excellence with accessible style or popular appeal. 

Promoting regional research is a key aim of the University’s long-range plan, WT 125: From the Panhandle to the World. That plan is fueled by the historic, $125 million One West comprehensive fundraising campaign. 

Published by the University of Oklahoma Press in 2020, Gage’s book shows how Native Americans wrote letters and traveled throughout the Plains to build resistance to federal policies.  

“Gage’s critically important book illuminates how Native Americans coordinated across reservation boundaries to deal with U.S. Indian policy during the early reservation period,” said Dr. Tim Bowman, head of WT’s Department of History and associate professor of history.  

The book shows how Native Americans responded to U.S. western expansion in the 19th century, forming the early antecedents of “pan-Indianism in the Red Power movement of the 1960s and 1970s,” Bowman said. 

“CSAW is fortunate to have this opportunity and responsibility of recognizing new books of importance to our region and the greater American West,” said Dr. Alex Hunt, CSAW director, Regents Professor of History and Haley Endowed Professor of Western Studies. “I was fascinated by Gage’s discussion of Kiowa, Comanche, and Southern Plains tribes. His book is the latest awardee in what I think over time will become a great list of important western scholarly and creative work.”  

The runner-up is David C. Beyreis’s “Blood in the Borderlands: Conflict, Kinship, and the Bent Family, 1821–1890” (University of Nebraska Press, 2020), a study of the Bents, a Western trapping family who established a trading post in the Arkansas River Valley and used familial ties and intermarriage to negotiate cultural boundaries between Native American and U.S. society. 

Books on the American West published in 2021 can be submitted for consideration for the 2022 CSAW Award for Outstanding Western Book. Deadline is Jan. 15. More information can be found at  


About the Center for the Study of the American West 

CSAW was formed in the fall of 2016 with a mission of fostering the study of the American West at West Texas A&M University (WT) and building bridges between the university, the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum (PPHM), and the regional populace. CSAW seeks to promote the American West both as a culturally unique region and as a product of broad historical forces. For information about CSAW and upcoming events, visit 


About West Texas A&M University 

WT is located in Canyon, Texas, on a 342-acre residential campus. Established in 1910, the University has been part of The Texas A&M University System since 1990. WT, a Hispanic Serving Institution since 2016, boasts an enrollment of about 10,000 and offers 60 undergraduate degree programs, 40 master’s degrees and two doctoral degrees. The University is also home to the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, the largest history museum in the state and the home of one of the Southwest’s finest art collections. The Buffaloes are a member of the NCAA Division II Lone Star Conference and offers 14 men’s and women’s athletics programs.


Oh hi there 👋
It’s nice to meet you.

Sign up to receive awesome content in your inbox, every week.

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.