MANY SMOKES, MANY MOONS: A Chronology of American Indian History Through Indian Art by Jamake Highwater

MANY SMOKES, MANY MOONS: A Chronology of American Indian History Through Indian Art

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The subtitle is misleading. Handsomely designed, this really consists of archaeological, then historical snippets (most only a few lines to a paragraph long), some of them fitted out with black and white pictures--either preserved artifacts and depictions or paintings and drawing by modern Indian artists--which illustrate the notes with varying pertinence. A typical early sequence notes that the Pinto Basin culture, based on an economy of fish and shellfish, dominated the Far West around 7000 B.C.; that the disappearance of salmon from the Columbia River around 6000 B.C. caused the Northwest Indians to adopt a gathering-hunting lifestyle; that a California Desert Culture used food-grinding implements around 5000 B.C.; and that maize was domesticated in Mexico around the same time. After 1492 the coming of Europeans and the subsequent great changes and disasters are seen (sometimes) from the Indians' viewpoint--but not as eloquently or informatively as in Nabakov's Native American Testimony (p. 441, J-113). As for American Indian art as a subject for comment, Highwater makes passing mention of several developments but with no apparent system or sense of proportion; political observations are similarly sketchy and unconnected. The pictures as a group do not make this a notable art book; neither is it a coherent history or a particularly pointed reminder of the human diversity Highwater emphasizes in his introduction. Perhaps it will find a place somewhere between the coffee table and the quickreference shelf.

Pub Date: June 19th, 1978
Publisher: Lippincott