AMERICAN INDIANS' KITCHEN-TABLE STORIES

CONTEMPORARY CONVERSATIONS WITH CHEROKEE, SIOUX, HOPI, OSAGE, NAVAJO, ZUNI AND MEMBERS OF OTHER NATIONS

Tantalizing stories—more than 250—culled and woven together from interviews with Native Americans, primarily Navajo and Pueblo, conducted by Cunningham (English/Northern Arizona Univ.) and his wife through much of the 1980's as part of a research project into cross-cultural yarn-spinning. Following in the footsteps of well-known anthropologists and fieldworkers from previous generations, such as Ruth Benedict and Clyde Kluckhohn, the Cunninghams pursue an interest in commonplace folk tales and their formation in deliberately informal settings, talking with relatives and friends of tribal contacts. A Zuni woman brings them into the rich ceremonial world of the New Mexico pueblo, where they experience Night Dances and the midwinter Shalako rituals while hearing about tribal health matters and belief structures. Stories of medicine men lead to a hands-on encounter with a ``bone-presser'' in which the author is relieved of severe back pain following his spinal operation. A subsequent series of interviews with the Ramah Navajo uses common Anglo- American themes that have become legendary—such as the vanishing hitchhiker or the woman who tried to dry her poodle in the microwave—to probe for Native-American counterparts, prompting colorful stories about witchcraft and ``skinwalkers,'' those with the ability to change into animals at will. Other sections are equally interesting, whether concerned with Navajo humor or the difficulties of trying to live in both the white and native cultures, with individual anecdotes interwoven among scholarly commentary and personal reactions. Revealing glimpses of the Native American experience in the Southwest today, gathered with obvious warmth and affection for both the storytellers and their stories.

Pub Date: July 26, 1992

ISBN: 0-87483-203-9

Page Count: 296

Publisher: August House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1992

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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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An eye-opening, vital reexamination of America’s founding myth.

THIS LAND IS THEIR LAND

THE WAMPANOAG INDIANS, PLYMOUTH COLONY, AND THE TROUBLED HISTORY OF THANKSGIVING

An impassioned, deeply knowledgeable history of the “first contacts” between the Indigenous peoples of the Americas and the English and Europeans, this time told from the Native side.

A scholar of Native American, Colonial, and racial history in America, Silverman (History/George Washington Univ.; Thundersticks: Firearms and the Violent Transformation of Native America, 2016, etc.) first orients readers toward what the landing Pilgrim scouts at Cape Cod in November 1620 would have actually seen in the environs: evidence of an undeniable Native civilization. As the author shows, the Wampanoag Indians had already adopted horticulture (maize, beans, squash); created a system of governance via individual sachems (chiefs), inherited through the male line; and established proprietorship of the land stretching back generations. Moreover, there had already been a history of violence between the Natives and the shipboard European explorers for at least 100 years, as the explorers often lured the Natives into unfair trade, which often led to violence, and spread fatal diseases that decimated their population. “The ease of some of the Wampanoags with the English,” writes the author, “suggests that there had been other more recent contacts than surviving documents report. At Martha’s Vineyard, thirteen armed men approached the Concord without any fear, as if they had experience with such situations.” Throughout this well-documented, unique history, Silverman offers a detailed look at the long, tortured relations between the two and captures the palpable sense of overall mourning after the aftermath of King Philip’s War and the attempt to annihilate (and assimilate) the Wampanoags—and their incredible ability to transcend the dehumanization and prevail. Ultimately, the author provides an important, heart-rending story of the treachery of alliances and the individuals caught in the crosshairs, a powerful history that clearly “exposes the Thanksgiving myth as a myth rather than history.” Silverman also includes a helpful “Glossary of Key Indian People and Places.”

An eye-opening, vital reexamination of America’s founding myth.

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63286-924-1

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Sept. 11, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2019

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