AMERICA IN 1492 by


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Yet another assessment of Columbus and the New World, this thoughtful one edited by Native American expert Josephy (The Civil War in the American West, p. 1200; On the Hill, 1979, etc.), who assembles an impressive group of scholars to review in depth the state of human affairs in the Americas when Columbus arrived. Opening with remarks by N. Scott Momaday and concluding with a peppery analysis by Vine Deloria, Jr., the essays in between receive an undeniable imprimatur. Written largely by noted American anthropologists, they fall into two groups: the first places tribes in their various geographical sites, from Arctic wastes to the equally harsh environment of Tierra del Fuego, while the second concentrates on the specific accomplishments of Native American civilization. Although overlap between essays inevitably occurs, the larger purpose is met as the richness of the pre-Columbian Americas emerges fully, insofar as it can be frozen at the moment of ""discovery."" Whether considering the hunting techniques used by Eskimo hands (Robin Ridington: Anthropology/Univ. of British Columbia in Vancouver) or their tribute to the animals on which they depended for food during an annual Bladder Festival (Sam Gill: Religion/Univ. of Colorado), or detailing linguistic differences among as many as 2,000 languages believed to have been spoken then in North and South America (Joel Sherzer: Anthropology and Linguistics/Univ. of Texas at Austin), the range of ways of life described leaves one agog that so much diversity could have been eradicated so thoroughly and in such a brief span of time. Immensely informative, if occasionally dull in the fashion of some academic discourse, and a useful resource for anyone interested in the myriad ways of life that European contact has destroyed.

Pub Date: Jan. 19th, 1992
Page count: 498pp
Publisher: Knopf