I just got back from a trip on the "Empire Builder", the Amtrak route from Portland/Seattle to Chicago. It provided the easiest and cheapest way to get the whole family to my grandmother's funeral. On the train, I read the brochure [available here], giving colorful details of the route for bored passengers. Here's an excerpt from the first page:
A few generations ago, this route was pure wilderness, roamed by Native Americans and buffalo. Following early traders and gold miners came the merchants, timber men, farmers and – dramatically – railroaders. In the northern plains, the greatest of these was James J. Hill, a freewheeling, big-dealing tycoon who linked St. Paul and Seattle with his Great Northern Railway. He acquired the land, built the tracks, and encouraged homesteading along the route. On the way, this “Empire Builder” Hill came to govern the fate and fortune of a large part of this powerfully beautiful area.
1) According to Amtrak, Native Americans are part of the wilderness, like buffalo. (Never mind this area wasn't "wilderness" in the sense of "untouched by human hands".)
2) Believe it or not, Amtrak, most people don't find the robber barons of the 19th century all that endearing as cultural heroes. James J. Hill was the man Eugene V. Debs most famously worked against in unionizing the rainroad workers. (OK, I'll admit, my background biases me against robber barons. I grew up in one of the most heavily unionized regions of the country, and in the public schools we sang union songs and learned about people like Jimmy Hoffa and Eugene Debs.)
3) I teach a section on colonialism in my intro to cultural anthropology class, and in my experience, students dislike any portrayal of the U.S. as an imperial power. The railway route that Amtrak calls the "Empire Builder" takes its name from James J. Hill. Partly, he got this name from building his railroad empire, but the name has a more sinister meanings. Hill "acquired the land" by helping push bills through congress that allowed him to build across supposedly sovereign Indian lands. He also encouraged European settlers to settle on those lands, building his consumer base while eroding Native American land holdings.
All in all, a very sensitive brochure. Nice work, Amtrak. (Sigh.)