An easygoing, folklorique rather than scholarly study of the Northwest Coast Indian tribes of America, who Hays says are neglected by writers--though the Kwakiutl, for one, have in fact been scrutinized to death. The book describes the abundant seafood supply and fish-drying techniques that enabled the Indians to reach a comparatively advanced artistic level, though, as Hays admits despite his romantic bent, their general culture featured a lot of grime, tyranny over women, mindless gambling, and a crippling ""shame-prestige ethos."" Hays anecdotally reconstructs the advent of U.S. buccaneers who, unlike the early fur traders and the Russian missionaries, had no long-term interest in preserving some well-being among the Northwest Coast peoples. As for the American missionaries, they not only imposed their ludicrous hymns but tried to halt the native institution of the potlatch. In the introduction Hays commends this custom as noble-savage philanthropy, but his account shows the utter devotion of the potlatching tribes to the concept of property and the neurosis of ""conspicuous destruction of wealth"" as a means to status, as well as (though only by implication), the perils of a society unable to use its surplus resources toward qualitative or quantitative expansion. The book closes with further anecdotes about recent ""cultural revival"" as a response to the paternalistic liberalism of the Canadian government. Sometimes sloppy in particulars (Hays says ""inverse relation"" when he means ""direct,"" and makes 20th-century customs of assigning ""mixed blood"" children Indian or white status unnecessarily confusing), the book is aimed at insatiable general readers of Indian history.