Maximilian was a German ethnologist accompanied by a European-trained artist, Karl Bodmer, recording the vanishing life of the Plains Indians. Like Lewis and Clark 30 years before, he saw much of the wilderness in its natural, sometimes treacherous beauty; unlike those on the earlier expeditions, he benefitted from army posts en route but faced the hostility of Indians with a long history of government harassment. In this edited version (using the texts of Maximilian's book and his unpublished field journal), his first and lasting impressions are revealed as he examines the richness and variety of cultures already deteriorating from exposure to smallpox and alcohol. A scientific observer free of many of the prejudices of his day, he describes Sioux burial customs, Blackfoot mutilations for female infidelity, the savagery of the Assiniboin--the ceremonies and habits of more than fifteen tribes. Natural wonders are noted and the weather is silent partner to their efforts: at times Bodmer could not paint because his pots were frozen. An oversized book has been designed to accommodate the original watercolors, and the reproductions (76 in full color, 73 in black and white) are excellent, their vivid, earthy tones capturing the Indians in their finery--war paint and all.