Since 1919

The Prairie News

Since 1919

The Prairie News

Since 1919

The Prairie News

Oklahoma Historian’s Exploration of Mixed-Race Families Across American History Wins CSAW’s Outstanding Western Book


CANYON, Texas — A book exploring generations of intermarriage between whites and Indigenous populations—and how and why those relationships were celebrated, then hidden—is the 2023 Outstanding Western Book from the Center for the Study of the American West at West Texas A&M University.

“Born of Lakes and Plains: Mixed-Descent Peoples and the Making of the American West” is the latest from historian and University of Oklahoma professor Dr. Anne F. Hyde, a Pulitzer Prize finalist.

Hyde will give a reading and accept her award at a Jan. 23 event in the Hazlewood Lecture Hall in Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, 2503 Fourth Ave. in Canyon.

“It’s thrilling to be an award winner, especially on a topic that’s this difficult,” Hyde said.

CSAW has given the Bonney McDonald Outstanding Western Book Award annually since 2019.

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. To date, the campaign — which publicly launched in September 2021— has raised more than $125 million and will continue through 2025.

“Born of Lakes and Plains,” also a finalist for the 2023 Stubbendieck Great Plains Distinguished Book Prize and a 2023 American Book Award winner from the Before Columbus Foundation, tracks five American families across generations as they “first bridged then collided with racial boundaries,” according to Hyde’s publishing house, W.W. Norton.

The book is “an empathetic examination of the lives of ethnically mixed individuals across the North American West,” said Dr. Tim Bowman, chairman of WT’s Department of History and member of CSAW’s award committee. “People often to tend to draw distinct lines between the various groups who encountered one another in the west over the course of the last several centuries. Hyde’s work shows a more believable lived reality—the dividing lines between Native and non-Native peoples were oftentimes so blurred that the differences between them became nearly impossible to distinguish.”

“In detailing the ways five mixed-descent families negotiated the early fur trade, ravages of imported diseases, the violence of Indian wars, allotment and reservation policies, Hyde crafts a 400-year history that reveals how the U.S. was built on the need to transcend racial difference,” said Dr. Cordelia Barrera, associate professor of English at Texas Tech University and CSAW awards committee member. “Given how, in the 21st century, the U.S. has become dominated, and perhaps even divided, by racial narratives and the erasure of Indigenous and non-white history, this is an especially important reconsideration of mixed Native and settler culture in the US.”

Hyde, a professor of history at OU, said she was inspired to write “Born of Lakes and Plains” while researching her last book, “Empires, Nations and Families,” the winner of the Bancroft Prize and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

“I kept seeing all of these mixed-race families who were incredibly powerful and incredibly influential in the American fur trade,” Hyde said. “This was just the way the world operated—that there was an advantage to have a mixed-race identity in that world. It was completely common to see families like this in the mid-19th century, but then, while they don’t completely disappear, it becomes much harder to stand in those shoes as the 20th century draws closer. They go into hiding. They talk about their race and heritage in different ways.”

She attributes that to societal changes, including passage of Jim Crow-era laws that forbade racial mixing.

“It just seems that race has always been the thing that trips up American politics and American culture since the very beginning,” Hyde said.

“This is an epic work that beautifully tells the story of mixed-race people in the West, from the Great Lakes and the South Plains to the Pacific Northwest,” said Dr. Brian Ingrassia, WT associate professor of history and CSAW awards committee member. “Hyde expertly weaves the stories of several Indigenous families as they navigate the perils of early American economics, race, and day-to-day life. Everyone interested in the history of the American West should read this book.”

The Bonney MacDonald CSAW Award for Outstanding Western Book is named for a beloved and long-serving professor of English at WT. It 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.

Dr. Alex Hunt, CSAW director, Regents Professor of English and Vincent-Haley Professor of Western Studies, praised the selection.

“I’m thrilled that the committee made this selection among a strong field of competitors,” Hunt said. “I’ve been aware of Anne Hyde’s work since her book on the importance of families in the American West published in 2012. She’s a fascinating thinker, and I’m excited at the opportunity to hear her talk about her latest book and to get to know her.”

Books on the American West published in 2023 can be submitted for consideration for the 2024 MacDonald Award. More information can be found at

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