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This first of a projected two volumes is subtitled An Anthology of Indian and White Relations, First Encounter to Dispossession; and together with Nabokov's background briefings, the documents constitute a full-bodied and unusually vital history. Through native American eyes we witness the coming of the white man, and with him the horse. . . alcohol. . . smallpox. . . missionaries. . . the Hudson's Bay Company. . . exotic foods. First reactions vary; measured response might take the form of a gesture. Silmoodawa, a human sideshow demonstrating in France the Indian method of killing, curing, cooking, and eating a deer, gives a ""complete performance"" that ends with his ""easing himself before all."" Or it might be a subtle put-down like Iroquois leader Red Jacket's reply to the missionary wishing to convert his people: ""Brother! We are told that you have been preaching to white people in this place. These people are our neighbors. We are acquainted with them. We will wait a little while, and. . . if we find your preaching does them good and makes them honest and less disposed to cheat Indians, we will then consider again what you have said."" Soon, though, this becomes a history of wars--a Cheyenne, 18 during the battle of the Little Big Horn, describes scalping a bearded white man and offering the prize to his shrinking grandmother--and, more and more depressingly, the story of surrender, false treaties, and relocation. Whether the item is as famous as Chief Joseph's surrender speech (""I will fight no more forever"") or the anonymous despair of an aging tribesman (""When I turn to the east I see no dawn""), each selection is both acutely personal and strongly representative. A living resource.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1978
Publisher: T. Y. Crowell