FIRST CAME THE INDIANS by M. J. Wheeler

FIRST CAME THE INDIANS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

To describe the culture and environment of six representative North American Indian tribes in less than 25 brief pages of ragged-edge text (less than 2500 words in all) would seem a dubious enterprise; but Wheeler, with Houston's help, does surprisingly well at conveying a sense of how each tribe spent its time, divided its tasks, made use of the resources on hand, and related to the spirits of the region. The Creek are seen celebrating the time of the New Com; then, ""And in fall they camped near lakes and streams. Then women took birch bark canoes and gathered the wild rice that grew on plants in the water. Men hunted ducks and waterbirds, which had come to eat the rice. And children stayed out late, playing in the blue dusk, among the shining birch trees."" For the Sioux, who lived amidst ""mile after mile"" of tall grass that fed and strengthened the buffalo, we see all the uses made of the buffalo ("". . . children made sleds from the rib bones. The buffalo's tail was used to swat flies"") and meet their spirits via the designs painted on the buffalo-skin tipis. Though Wheeler's reference to the ""terrible killer whale who hunts men"" (vis-à-vis the Northwest Coast Makah tribe) suggests less understanding of orcology than of anthropology, the picture of Indian life and regional differences is adeptly composed.

Pub Date: March 10th, 1983
Publisher: Atheneum (Margaret K. McElderry)