THE GREAT FATHER: The United States Government and the American Indian by Francis Paul Prucha

THE GREAT FATHER: The United States Government and the American Indian

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In 1984, Prucha gave us the definitive history of the sad, bloody relationship between American Indians and the US government. This edition, a one-volume abridgement, trims away more than half the text and all footnotes and illustrations. Happily, the heart of Prucha's scholar. ship, scope, and sprightly style remain. The federal government's Indian policy can be summed up in one ugly word: paternalism. The colonial experience set the pace. Whether Indians were seen as noble savages or wild beasts, few early settlers doubted that native Americans were desperately in need of ""civilization""--i.e., the imposition of Christianity and an agrarian life-style, by exhortation if possible, by force if not. Prucha travels slowly and carefully down the contradictory paths that American Indian public policy took over two centuries: Thomas Jefferson's program of acculturation (reversed by Andrew Jackson, who initiated the deportation of all East Coast Indians to Oklahoma Territory), the rise of reservations after the Civil War, the Indian New Deal engineered by John Collier in the 1930's, the self. determination programs of the 60's and 70's. Young readers raised on the ideal of ethnic pluralism will be astonished to learn that less than 30 years ago Washington's official Indian plan was one of ""termination""--a concerted effort to eradicate tribalism by absorbing Indians into the white-bread mainstream. Other readers, certain that George Custer and his cohorts were demons, may be disturbed by Prucha's contention, richly documented, that US Indian policy was for the most part benign in intent, if not in execution. A book, then, of many surprises, as is often the case when a first-rate scholar produces a major history of a controversial subject. That Prucha writes with vigor and grace is icing on a grand, intricately layered cake.

Pub Date: May 9th, 1986
ISBN: 0803287127
Publisher: Univ. of Nebraska Press