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The Earth Shall Weep: A History of Native America

4.4 out of 5 stars 52 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0871137302
ISBN-10: 0871137305
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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
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 466 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Pr (April 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0871137305
  • ISBN-13: 978-0871137302
  • Product Dimensions: 1.8 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #730,131 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME on April 7, 2003
Format: Paperback
Helen Hunt Jackson's "A Century of Dishonor," [1881] initiated a string of books by white writers attempting to impart the disaster imposed on North America's native peoples by invaders from Europe. James Wilson has taken a place in that queue with this sweeping study of how native peoples were displaced, deceived, diseased and nearly destroyed. It isn't pleasant reading, but conquest never is when told from the view of the conquered. Wilson attempts to provide a whisper of that voice with as many native peoples' accounts as he could obtain. The result vividly demonstrates the disparity of outlook between the Europeans and those they overran over the course of five centuries.
Although no attempt is made to preface the arrival of Columbus with some account of the previous life of North American native peoples, the text recounts their legends and mythology as they are encountered. Only a smattering of paleoanthropology is offered, and the "consensus" version of Native American origins is dismissed out of hand. Wilson's regional approach is a refreshing departure from the usual chronological format. However, since the focus is on the 48 contiguous States, region and chronology aren't all that distinct.
The issues are land and culture, with a seasoning of racism. The native American "used" the land while the Europeans "owned" it. Native American culture was disparate, often locked into local conditions. Europeans imported a hierarchical society and imposed it wherever they went. Since they went all across the continent, continual clashes were inevitable - and the Europeans won nearly all of them. By the end of the 19th Century, the "Indian", if not extinct, had lost the continent and nearly all culture.
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Format: Paperback
This book offers a readable overview of the major themes in American Indian history. Although there are many things one could find to fault in this book, there is no better overview. I especially like the way the author (a white man from Britain) weaves together orthodox academic opinion with Native voices. Wilson's book deftly combines a chronological approach with organization by regions. In each region he highlights general patterns, but then focuses much of the narrative on a few representative tribal histories. Had he tried to write about all of the more than 500 tribes, nations, villages, and bands of Native North America, he would have produced an unreadable book. Instead, he selects those groups that allow him to give enough detail to keep the narrative flowing, while also emphasizing the interrelations of peoples and places that are central to the best history. Throughout the narrative, he offers long quotes from published versions of Native orature.
This book is an exceptional introduction to the history usually suppressed or misrepresented in schools and colleges. It is accessible to high school and college level readers, but can even add to the store of knowledge of experts in American Indian history. It has become the core text in many of my classes.
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Format: Hardcover
If you are searching for a book about Native American history, this is the book for you. James Wilson's research is presented in three digestable sections: Origins, Invasion, and Internal Frontiers, with the largest body of work appearing in the central section. I recently took an 8,000 miles drive around the United States and read this book the entire month as I entered corresponding areas (such as Southwest, Far West, Great Plains, etc).
Taking Wilson's book on my trip was a smart choice because not only did I experience the sites and people he describes, but his book enabled me to also see into the past, as it were, of these Native People. Wilson's research combines oral history (which will break your heart), political history and analysis, archeology, and ethnography. Several qualities make Wilson's book different from others. First, his research is current and fairly presented. For example, he provides an overview of various theories used to explain the disappearance of the great Puebloan societies so readers can appreciate the variety of ideas and political interests of the theorists. In addition, his synthesis of Native American histories in the forms of stories (and explanation of rituals) with that of modern analyses makes this book even more valuable.
It is clear that Mr. Wilson's heart and conscience is with the Native Americans, and that, above all else, is what makes this book powerful. If it lacks anything, in my opinion, it is the addition of visual aids. A few maps and photographs would have made this text even more powerful. But if you want to read about the tragedy of evil White politics, the demise of many beautiful societies and their relationships before contact,this book holds nothing back. It is a passionate, digestable, and truthful history of the horrors inflicted (past and present)on original people. END
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Format: Paperback
This book offers a true look at American history and offers more insight than the traditional books on American history whose idea of being comprehensive is starting with the history of England and the Magna Carta and only mentions the original Americans in passing. The author has a rare gift for consolidating history and for comparing and quoting other writers in order to create a well-written and coherent work.
This is first and foremost a chronological history. However, it also seeks to dispel myths and stereotypes about "Native Americans" as being the noble savage, primitive Zen masters in tune with nature, and the "Vanishing American." He shows how the Anglo society has had vacillating opinions about American Indians over the centuries. On the other hand, in his Prologue, he states, "I want to make it clear, though, that I am not setting out to reveal 'finally -- the truth behind the myth!': there is no single 'truth' to reveal, and no single 'myth' concealing it."
Other books about American Indians try to serve as an encyclopedia of documenting the various cultures as though there is a static photo in time of a group of individual cultures that was wiped away. Instead, this book is history, dynamic and alive. It tells American history from both sides and contrasts the seemingly irreconcilable viewpoints of Europeans and Native Americans.
About the only downside to this book that I have found is somewhat having the notion of "us" and "them" instead of seeing himself as part of the continuous fabric of American culture. For example he writes, "Unlike 'native' peoples in Africa and Asia, indigenous Americans have not decolonized, and we have not been forced [. . .] to see them in a fundamentally different role.
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