Email this review


A blandly readable review of Indian concerns, complementary to The Indian Heritage of America and other Josephy histories, that attempts to answer the contemporary puzzler: ""What do Indians want anyway?"" As Josephy tells it, they have always wanted pretty much the same thing: the right to live according to their own lights in harmony with the earth. That has not been easy to do, thanks to European interlopers and the US government's various policies of assimilation, neglect, harrassment, and ""termination."" Josephy chronicles the struggles of some specific nations as typical examples: the Seminoles' effort to maintain their tribal identity against Spanish, French, English, and American cultural duress; the Senecas' losing battle to hang onto their land; the Nevada Paiutes' claim to their lost water rights; and the encouraging fight of Washington state's Puyallups, Nisquallies, and Muckleshoots for their fishing rights. Reaching back to the Puritans' grisly attempt to exterminate the Pequods, Josephy analyzes the racial stereotypes and ""moral"" justifications for genocide which still haunt the thinking of white Americans. The same notions--backed by federal and state power--rise again in 1972 to oppose the rising Sioux and the American Indian Movement at Wounded Knee. These are important events, but in outlining so much historical outrage, Josephy can be disturbingly mealy-mouthed; whites who kidnapped and enslaved Indian leaders in the colonies are described as ""officious"" and the extermination of AIM leaders after Wounded Knee is barely sketched. Finally, Josephy's long history of Indian resistance breaks down into a brief, vague account of ""various ways"" of ""trying to establish other hallmarks of self-determination."" Some valuable, accessible history, nonetheless--and more between the lines.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1982
Publisher: Knopf