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Facing East from Indian Country: A Native History of Early America Kindle Edition

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Length: 336 pages

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

At the center of this bold and thoroughly astonishing history of Native Americans are narratives of three Indians generally known to Euro-Americans: Pocahontas, Blessed Catherine Tekakwitha and the Algonquin warrior Metacom, also known as King Philip. Telling each of these stories a romance, the life of a saint, the destruction of a "noble savage" from the European and then the Native American perspective, Richter elucidates an alternative history of America from Columbus to just after the Revolution. Taking his cues from historian Carl Becker's famous assertion that history is "an imaginative creation," Richter, director of the McNeil Center for Early American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, recasts early American history from the Native American point of view and in doing so illuminates as much about the Europeans as about the original Americans. After explaining the vast scope of Native American culture probably more then two million native people lived east of the Mississippi in 1492 in villages that were "decentralized and diverse, but not disconnected" Richter reconstructs the Native American experience of the European. Using a variety of sources missionary tracts, official state art (the seal of the Massachusetts Bay Company featured a native with the words "Come Over and Help Us"), military reports and religious writings by both Europeans and Native Americans he describes a world far more layered than that of accepted U.S. history. Exploring the varying complexities of different native peoples' relationships with England, France and Spain, he argues that the Native Americans were safer during the colonial era than after the Revolution, when the idea of a white, democratic country took hold. Gracefully written and argued, Richter's compelling research and provocative claims make this an important addition to the literature for general readers of both Native American and U.S. studies.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Director of the McNeil Center for Early American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania and author of the acclaimed The Ordeal of the Longhouse: The Peoples of the Iroquois League in the Era of European Colonization (Univ. of North Carolina, 1992), Richter here offers a masterly work that eschews the long-standing perception that Native Americans were nothing more than marginalized bystanders as Europeans colonized North America. Focusing on the period between the 15th and 18th centuries, the author instead shows that Native American communities adapted to the many stresses introduced by the arrival of the Europeans and were active participants in creating a new way of life on the continent. This title, which should be read alongside Richard White's The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, 1650-1815 (Cambridge Univ., 1991), provides a valuable perspective that is often overlooked in books about the same period. Highly recommended for all public and academic libraries. John Burch, Campbellsville Univ. Lib., KY
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 4646 KB
  • Print Length: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press; New Ed edition (April 30, 2003)
  • Publication Date: May 30, 2003
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005I4GGBU
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #411,973 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Dan Richter teaches early American History at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, where he also directs the McNeil Center for Early American Studies. His first book, The Ordeal of the Longhouse, won the 1993 Frederick Jackson Turner Award, Organization of American Historians and the 1993 Ray Allen Billington Prize, Organization of American Historians, and was selected a 1994 Choice Outstanding Academic Book. His Facing East from Indian Country won the 2001-02 Louis Gottschalk Prize in Eighteenth-Century History and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

79 of 83 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on March 13, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This book is by no means the first, nor the most comprehensive analysis of early American history with a Native American perspective. The writing style is straightforward and matter-of-fact and not as dramatic or emotional as the tale as told in BURY MY HEART AT WOUNDED KNEE. Nevertheless this book is evocative of Dee Brown's book largely because of the same emphasis on Native Americans. Also because it too uses Native American history and traditions as the framework in which to look at North America, from discovery through to the 17th century.
One of the things that happens when FACING EAST FROM INDIAN COUNTRY is that you get a different picture of time and events. Traditionally the story of early America is a westward moving one, and one which quickly becomes a story about Europeans and an emerging people called American's.
One of the most profound impressions this book will leave with you is a view of the East Coast of North America as dominantly Indian country for more than a hundred years after initial settlement. Even more startling is Richter's well reasoned argument that Eastern North America only ceased to be Indian country when following 1776, the now fully emergent American's "denied the continent's first peoples a place in the nation they were creating."
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41 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Daniel A. Stone on August 29, 2006
Format: Paperback
Most historians have sufficient presence of mind to clear from their brains the Panglossian cant which insists we live in the best of all possible worlds. The best histories, of which Daniel K. Richter's Facing East from Indian Country: A Native History of Early America is most certainly one, are able to envision a historical narrative where paths not taken would lead to a counterfactual narrative to our own.

To this end, Richter musters the sources traditional to any historian--varied secondary sources, the journals of participants of historical interactions between Natives and Europeans, literary sources by Natives and sundry oral sources likely to be their own. Utilizing a vast knowledge of the period between the first arrival of Europeans in the Americas through the period of "Jacksonian Democracy," Richter paints a lucid picture of European interaction with the tribes of North America, and how it altered the behavior of all parties involved. This narrative is neither a record of triumphant civilization moving west, nor is it an account of genocide moving ferociously from East--though Richter makes clear both of these fit, respectively, into American myth and American realty--he is much more concerned with how the cultures interacted with each other in creating the circumstances that Natives lived under and how they viewed their changing world.

Richter's approach to understanding how the world did and would appear to Natives is grounded in the understanding that commerce, politics, environment, and ideologies will be discernibly altered by any new presence. Just as North America became a new market for European goods, so Europe allowed for the prospering of some tribes through a need for raw materials such as leather and beaver pelts.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Roy E. Cloudburst on May 18, 2007
Format: Paperback
Traditional histories of Native Americans have focused on the point of view, or history, of European Americans. But in 2001, historian Daniel Ricther breaks this trend in his novel work - Facing East From Indian Country. The "eastward" approach incorporates the interpretations, or stories, of early Native Americans who observed the movements of Europeans from eastern America. His research is by no means exhaustive, but advances a fresh perspective of the scant pre-existing primary sources on early Native Americans. His sophisticated synthesis and analysis of the aforementioned sources, coupled with his incisive imagination shed light on a virtually untold Native American history.

Richter chronologically organizes his work and concentrates heavily on early colonial times in his opening chapters, which appear to be his area of expertise. His passages of primary sources are often lengthy and precariously worded, but his strong narrative and eloquent articulation of Indian culture supersede these minor distractions.

Revisiting the oft told stories of Pocahontas and Metacon, Ricther articulately portrays these individuals as being champions of peaceful co-existence, and cooperation, in the New World. In addition to the previously noted amenable traits, Native Americans also possessed sound diplomatic skills. For instance, Richter provides considerable detail about the sophisticated "treaty protocol" that early Americans utilized. Noting that this process "ideally consisted of nine stages," ( 135) Ricther explicitly detailed the expectations of Iroquois during these meetings in the mid-eighteenth century and illuminated the European's poor cultural understanding of these protocols. These examples, and others, highlighted the European's ignorance of Indian culture.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful By R. DelParto VINE VOICE on November 22, 2004
Format: Paperback
Behind the documents and the interpretations of Native American history, the Native voice yearns to be heard. It is unfortunate that no body of literature will be able to provide the "true" voice of how Natives actually reacted to the so-called "invasion" or "conquest" of North America by Europeans during the early part of the 16th century. However, Daniel Richter's FACING EAST FROM INDIAN COUNTRY: A NATIVE HISTORY OF EARLY AMERICA attempts to switch the lens from a European perspective to a Native American one.

The book's cover shows an amazing picture of the American landscape that is all too familiar to historians and literati with its depiction of the romanticized Indian. Here we have a glorious painting that does not truly depict the world in which the Indians lived. Yes, it is a big wide world that has not yet been tainted by colonists, settlers, and traders. However, it was their world, which was later coined as the New World.

Richter does a good job at introducing his argument that Natives are at the foreground of American history. That is, if one looked East along the Eastern seaboard. This account adds a dimension to the "master narrative," which now includes Native inhabitants, but with their voices heard behind European accounts.

FACING EAST FROM INDIAN COUNTRY may be a good starting point for those who would like to understand American history and its intricacies that involves Native Americans. This may not be the quintessential narrative, but it is one that is not difficult to understand nor is it complex. It is a visual perspective that may lead to complex inquiry as an after thought because the book ends where the story of Native Americans further continues where one drastic event will occur after another.
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