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A complete and useful guide
Posted by Stephen A. Haines on 4/9/2006
A good resource for any student entering the field of North American Indian studies, this book is carefully organised and rendered. Waldman traces the many facets that have been used to explain who the North American Indians were, how they lived and where. The text is clear and direct, well-suited to the novice in this area of study. The wealth of maps and other illustrative material well supports the narrative, although space restrictions force a certain level of clutter at times.
Waldman opens the book with a description of how humans arrived in the Western Hemisphere. The "Ancient Civilizations" of Mesoamerica, such as the Olmec and Maya are well summarised, before the author turns to the Southwest peoples - the Anasazi, Hohokan and Salado communities. He explains the often overlooked or poorly considered Moundbuilders of the Lower Midwest. The section on "Indian Lifeways" turns to areas like California, the Pacific Coast, and Subarcic regions. While these peoples didn't achieve the strongly hierarchical civilisations of Mesoamerica, their various social structures were complex and dynamic. Their economic systems allowed them to endure and they adapted well to change, something too often lacking in Mesoamerica. To a limited extent, the geography and environment hosting these people granted them the flexibility to maintain a dynamic society, even in precarious conditions.
One aspect of life they were poorly prepared for was the European intrusion. Waldman sets aside a section to introduce the problems introduced by European colonisation. The litany of wars and rebellions take up a hundred pages of the text. The accompanying maps showing battle sites sparkle with stars indicating clash sites. Some of these wars have almost disappeared from historical accounts of North American settlement. It's a good reminder of how the whites took over the hemisphere and what cost that hegemony extracted from the native population.
In time, war was replaced by "Land Cessions" and resettlement. The reservation system, never a fixed idea, is carefully explained by Waldman. The modern result of reservation communities and the ambivalent policies surrounding both the settlements and their populations gave rise to a new awareness among Indian people. The poor acknowledgement of Indian contributions in two world wars was but one of many irritants leading to "uprisings" at Wounded Knee and elsewhere. The author goes on to list major Indian government agencies and Indian organisations and facilities. Indian place names, often overlooked, are listed, with the modern "nation" structures for the US and Canada provided. In all, this book will be a firm base from which to expand a study of Indian circumstances for the future. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
Well-Organized, Informative, and Comprehensive
Posted by T. B. Vick on 1/9/2001
I have always had an interest in the Native American history and tradition. I have bought several books in the past and been upset that they either seem to misrepresent the Indians or were too stereotypical. This book is not like that at all. In fact, this is one of the most informative, accurate and indispensable books that I have read regarding the Native American. The book covers almost every (if not every) Native American tribe known. Moreover, this book not only delineates their culture, locations, skills, history, etc., but it provides a chronology of prehistory and history of the Native American in one of the book's 7 appendices. This text provides the reader with information and facts about the ancient Indians, Geography (great maps), the art and technology, and even their clothing and transportation. This is definitely an invaluable tool for those who simply want to gain a greater understanding of Native Americans, or those who actually want to do some more serious research.