Native Americans continue to hold a special place in the modern imagination. Images of the Native American as "noble savage," as grunting Hollywood brute, or even as nature lover reinforce what author James Wilson describes as "the principal role of Indians in US culture throughout the twentieth century: helping America imagine its own history." Wilson hopes to rescue them from this role and place Native Americans within their own context by attempting to view the Indian-European encounter through their eyes. The result is an engaging history of North America and its peoples--and a welcome addition to the already voluminous literature on the subject.
Wilson weaves Native American oral traditions and archeological, ethnographical, and historical evidence into a compelling narrative. Chapters on regional groups and their histories--from the Algonquians of the Northeast to the Zuñi of the Southwest--emphasize both their differences and their similarities. Wilson also traces the shifting relationships between Indians and non-Indians and investigates the reasons behind their misunderstandings. As Wilson points out, the image of the Native American as spiritual guide and Green Party spokesperson, while more romantic, is no more realistic than the image of the ignorant savage. Frequent excerpts from personal interviews allow Native Americans to speak for themselves and remind us that, far from ending at Wounded Knee, the Native American experience continues to evolve. Wilson's clear prose, command of the subject, and detailed suggestions for further reading make this book valuable to scholars and general readers alike. --C.B. Delaney
From Library Journal
Wilson has been actively involved with indigenous North Americans for almost 25 years. Here he presents a comprehensive, imaginative overview of Native American history that is exceptional in its concept: Wilson has gathered information not only from historical sources but from ethnographic and archaeological works as well as oral histories. He looks at social issues such as intermarriage and language loss in addition to the political and environmental issues faced by present-day Native American communities. Wilson begins with the first English settlements on the Atlantic coast in the 1500s and moves from century to century, focusing on various geographic areas through the massacre at Wounded Knee in 1890. He then addresses today's social, political, and economic issues while trying to examine the legacy of ignorance and misunderstanding that has reduced the Native American population from 7 to 10 million people to 250,000 in four centuries. Because it encompasses so many facets of the Native American situation, this volume will appeal to a broad spectrum of readers.AVicki Leslie Toy Smith, Univ. of Nevada, Reno
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