Last night we gazed out on the endless cornfields of Iowa. I was aware of those native indian ghosts again – ‘Iowa’, after all, was the name of a Sioux tribe that once hunted its endless plains. Like Illinois to the east, it was first ‘discovered’ by the French but organised settlement began only in the late 1700s. It passed to the USA under the 1803 Louisiana Purchase. Once the local Indians had been driven into a small settlement and replaced by European settlers, Iowa was incorporated as an independent territory and in 1846 it was the 29th state to be admitted to the Union. This morning, having climbed overnight to the Plateau of the Great Plains, we gazed on the vast open fields of Nebraska (from the Omaha Indian name for the Platte River). This was where the American bison once roamed in vast herds of tens of thousands before being hunted almost to extinction in the late 19th century, primarily by market hunters. They were hunted for their skins, with the rest of the animal left to rot on the ground.  (Buffalo Bill Cody once killed over a hundred of the animals in a single stand and such hunters would have killed thousands in a career). I have chosen as my illustration a picture of a pile of bison skulls, taken in the 1870s, which rather says it all.  Nebraska’s recent history was similar to that of Iowa, though it was more of a transit territory for pioneers on their way to the West. It was declared a US territory in 1854 and in 1867 became the 37th state of the Union. Now, big herds of black cattle graze where the bison once roamed, giving a faint hint of how things might have appeared a century-and-ago. The Indians, meanwhile – the Dakota, Omaha, Cheyenne, Pawnee and many other tribes – have been penned back into reservations. Only their ghosts roam the plains.