Thursday, July 29, 2010


The Lakota Ghost Dance of 1890. By Rani-Henrik Andersson.
Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, November 2008. Cloth: ISBN 978-0-8032-1073-8, $50. 462 pages.
Review by John T. “Jack” Becker, Texas Tech University
In The Lakota Ghost Dance of 1890, Rani-Henrik Andersson takes the “Great Story” approach (as defined by Robert F. Berkhofer of the University of California, Santa Cruz) to write his history of the Lakota Ghost Dance. The Great Story calls for a multicultural approach using the “conflicting voices of gender, race, and class” (xiv). Andersson arranges the book into six chapters, each designed to tell the story of the Ghost Dance from a different group’s point of view; they include, in order, the Lakota, Indian agents, U.S. Army, missionaries, the press, and U.S. Congress. He seeks through this method to write a more realistic history providing a sound reconstruction of events. To a remarkable extent Andersson has achieved the goals he has set for himself.
The Great Story approach to history helps the reader understand the points of view of each group, the relationships between all the groups, and the ways misunderstandings occurred, interests collided, and points of view changed over time (xv).
In the first chapter, Andersson starts with a brief history of the Lakota. He explains how the Lakota ended up on a reservation on the northern plains of the United States as a poor and demoralized people. The psychological and economic condition of the Lakota set the stage for their eventual acceptance of the “new religion.” Andersson writes that the Lakota changed some aspects of the Ghost Dance to fit their specific needs or world view. As the Ghost Dance traveled east, from the west coast, it changed as it was passed on from one Indian group to another; so the Lakota were not the first people to change the Ghost Dance. The Lakota added new features and meanings to the dance, although, at first, the Lakota were slow to adopt it. By September 1890, however, Indian Agent Hugh D. Gallagher wrote that the dancing interfered with reservation life (48).
Andersson brings to light how the Indian agents were split about what to do concerning the Ghost Dance. Some agents, obviously scared and or inexperienced, wanted military assistance almost from the start of the troubles, but more experienced agents did not. The agents were also split as to the cause of the dancing. Only a few realized correctly that the Lakota’s sense of desperation created a climate for the Ghost Dance to flourish. James McLaughlin, Agent at Standing Rock Reservation, realized that if the military came, it would effectively end the agents’ control over the reservations. Events proved McLaughlin correct, as the military was called, and Indian Agents lost control of the reservations.
The Lakota saw the military with a mixture of hate and respect caused by years of warfare between the two groups. Although summoned to protect settlers, some military leaders knew the Indians had good reasons for Ghost Dancing. In a very insightful letter dated November 28, 1890, General Nelson Miles listed the reasons for the problems on the Lakota Reservations. He stated that reduction in the size of their reservation, crop failures, reduction of beef rations, delays in dispersion of rations, and starvation created wide-spread and deep-seated problems. All these problems, and more, lead to increased tensions on the reservations. His letter demonstrates, in some ways, that the military had a deeper understanding of the problems confronting the Lakota than did Indian Agents.
It is hard to comprehend, now, the extent of the control the Government and missionaries had on the reservation. The Lakota had little personal freedom, needing permission to move or visit relatives on other reservations and little freedom to practice their ancient religious rites and customs, much less the “new” Ghost Dance. Many Lakota religious practices, old or new, were actively discouraged or even suppressed by missionaries. In order to stamp out Lakota religion, Christian missionaries sought out Lakota children and taught them Christian stories and songs, which upset many Lakota parents.
According to Andersson, newspapers did little more than trade in rumors, publish alarmist headlines, knowingly print wrong or misleading statements, and in some cases spread outright lies. Many reporters came to the Dakotas to report on another “uprising” and most all of the large eastern newspapers had reporters on the scene. The reporting is described by Andersson as “up to date but wrong” (220-22). Reporters gathered every night, during the crisis, to compare notes and telegraph their stories to their respective newspapers. The tones of stories and editorials changed almost simultaneously, proving to Andersson, collusion between newspapers and reporters (225).
Congress took no notice of the Lakota Ghost Dance until December 3, 1890 and even then, thought the problems manageable and the reports of starvation exaggerated. When Congress finally acted they took the side, quite naturally, of the white settlers, Senator Daniel W. Voorhees being about the only Congressmen who took the Lakota’s side. He warned that the troubles steamed from the Indians’ poor standard of living, not the Ghost Dance. Senator Henry L. Dawes, believed by many to be the “Indian expert” in Congress, believed otherwise and stated that Congress had every right to reduce the Lakota’s annual appropriations.
Andersson believed Senator Voorhees had the correct interpretation of the problems on the reservations. He states tensions were created by the division of the Reservation, recent crop failures, and the fact that few full-bloods were farming (and thus becoming “civilized”). But Congress continued to blame Indian leaders, especially Sitting Bull, Red Cloud, Indian officials, and rank-and-file Indians themselves for their plight.
Andersson claims that the Congressional debates of December 1890 show a Congress out of touch with reality and a body depending on too few “experts.” As a body, Congress viewed the Ghost Dance with suspicion, uncertainty, and downright fear. Andersson makes the reasonable claim that the Ghost Dance fighting started December 15, 1890 with the attempted arrest of Sitting Bull, which directly lead to his death (as well as the death of several other Indians). This fact is often left out of other Western History books.
The book is aided by the inclusion of five appendices, one of which is a timeline of events. Although Andersson used numerous secondary sources, their use does not harm the final product. His analysis of events is forthright and his writing clear, although, in a few cases, redundant. But make no mistake, this is a fine work, and Andersson brings much new knowledge to this well-known historical event. Andersson’s use of Berkhofer’s “Great Story” approach to writing history is challenging but rewarding to the reader. Using a wide variety of voices and covering a wide area of time and space can make it difficult for a historian to write a coherent and interesting history. But Andersson has successfully risen to the challenge and written a well-researched and interesting history in The Lakota Ghost Dance of 1890.

Friday, October 30, 2009


Performing Worlds into Being: Native American Women’s Theater.


Edited by Anne Elizabeth Armstrong, Kelli Lyon Johnson, and William A. Wortman.

Oxford, OH: Miami University Press, April 2009. Paper: ISBN 978-1-4243-3112-3, $29.99. 186 pages.

Review by Megan Burnett, Alice Lloyd College, Kentucky

Entering this text is entering a theatrical world of Indigenous voices speaking words of truth, and a retelling, or rather, a re-knowing of Native American history. While the material in the text represents Native American Women’s theatre, the contributors offer the Native and non-native theatre practitioner feminist perspectives on materials chosen for performance as well as styles of Indigenous theatrical performance. This offering of the NAWPA collection make it clear that there are many opportunities for further exploration in academic and performance settings. The Native American Women Playwrights Archive was founded in 1997 as a “living archive by sponsoring readings, performances, and conferences” (iii). This volume is the representation of their third conference at Miami University (Oxford, OH) where the archive is kept. Performing Worlds into Being: Native American Women’s Theater is a fitting example of the work that NAWPA is doing to keep Native American theatre present and alive within both the academic and performance communities. The scholars, artists, and theatre practitioners represented in this book include Indigenous peoples from Canada, Mexico, Central and Caribbean America, and Pacific Islands.

A recurring theme throughout this text is that “storytellers are the rememberers” (75). All of the contributors explore this Native American cultural norm. Theatre and feminist literature scholars can turn to Section I: Looking Back, Looking Forward for a critique of Native American myths and legends. These stories are “known” to our current culture as they were told to us from a seventeenth-century European male perspective. This section re-examines the story of Pocahontas bringing her back to the truth of her tribe and the customs she honored and challenged. The keen analysis offered by scholars such as Jill Carter in “Blind Faith Remembers” brings an understanding of Native American theatre that has been lacking in the traditional theatre classroom. Section II: Honoring Spiderwoman Theater is a most invaluable section for those artists interested in creating their own work. This section is accompanied by a DVD with selections from Spiderwoman Theater’s performances and a photo archive of their extensive body of work. Section III: Voices offers concrete examples of play texts written by Native American women for an audience accustomed to the Western style of theatre presentation. The large number of script excerpts provides a broad perspective on Native theatre, bringing to light a voice in the world that has been squelched for decades and is still frequently ignored in the overall theatre community. Section IV: Community and Collaboration brings the discussion of theatre back to the community, whether professional, community, or educational, and offers interviews with theatre artists who have focused their careers on creating and presenting Native American work for the Native American audience and the broader North and Central American audiences in general.

Section 1: Looking Back, Looking Forward offers an attack on the past and the need to learn from the wounds of that past. These stories, including the story of Pocahontas and general awareness of Indians to most non-native peoples, was shaped by the perspective of seventeenth-century British working-class soldiers. Monique Mojica, Ric Knowles, and Jill Carter make their point clear that it is important to re-learn Native American history through the knowledge and history of the Nation tribes themselves, not the “white man’s” narrative anymore. Monique Mojica’s re-interpretation of Pocahontas’s story does not stop at fixing the romantic version told through storybooks and cartoons. She delves into the wounds of Native peoples and forces her audience to face them with her. “When we make a decision to create from a base of ancestral knowledge, we confront the rupture, the original wound” (3). While Mojica’s play Sky Woman Falling is offered in this text, her critically important play Princess Pocahontas and the Blue Spots is not included. The critical analysis of the latter play, the real story of Pocahontas and of Mojica’s performance technique, would have been well served by offering this play either in the book or as a performance on the accompanying DVD. Many artists and scholars refer to Mojica’s play, Princess Pocahontas and the Blue Spots, throughout this book, so its inclusion would have been an added asset.

The Honoring Spiderwoman Theater section is valuable for its practical application for devising new work, the sharing of the history of the women involved in creating and sustaining this unique theater company, and samples of their work both in print and on the accompanying DVD. The information and techniques are useful for practitioners and for the theatre classroom. According to Murielle Borst in her essay “Spiderwoman Theater’s Legacy,” “the technique through which they combine storytelling, acting, and writing to create their kind of theater” is the main legacy of Spiderwoman Theater from which we can all benefit. Borst goes on to state, “Storytelling is a key aspect of Spiderwoman’s technique, whether traditional or non-traditional” (75). The artists in Spiderwoman Theater ignore the traditional Western style of theatre. Their performances are based on text written in response to events in their lives and expressed through traditional Indian storytelling techniques such as drumming circles, dance, and the aspect of spirituality in their text and stories. One concept explored by Marcie Rendon is the confusion of being white or Indian in her poem “What’s an Indian Woman to Do?” (58-59).

Section III: Voices includes several examples of Native American plays by women. Many reflect the Western Aristotelian model of theatre (plot, character, theme, spectacle, diction, music). These scripts open readers to the depth and breadth of NAWPA’s archival material. This section offers material that any Native American or non-native theatre company interested in telling the stories of Indigenous peoples could produce. This “normal” model of publishing houses selling the scripts and rights to perform plays is in contrast to material explored elsewhere in the text. Several of the artists, including Spiderwoman Theater and Monique Mojica, develop their own work with voices that are not necessarily meant to be spoken by other women. They create their own story for themselves to perform, not others.

Section IV: Collaboration and Community offers enlightening and useful interviews with working Native artists. “Theatre in the House/Raving Native Productions,” an essay by Marci Rendon, offers identifiable and reproducible techniques in playwrighting, rehearsing, character creation, and story creation in an educational as well as community center setting. This section beautifully reflects the overall premise of this collection, including the need to tell Indigenous stories, the desire to find universality, and the need to honor specificity of why these stories need to be told, shared, and saved. Many of the theatre practitioners in this section suggest a desire to wait to be invited by communities they wish to serve. They help those communities tell stories they are ready to share rather than forcing their story upon the community. Contrast this aesthetic to the authors and artists represented in earlier sections of this text, who take an activist feminist perspective. They explore the wounds they and their people have suffered for hundreds of years, and with guerilla theatre precision, force their audiences to face the truth with them.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


The War in Words: Reading the Dakota Conflict through the Captivity Literature
By Kathryn Zabelle Derounian-Stodola. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, May 2009. Cloth: ISBN 978-0-8032-1370-8, 2009, $60. 398 pages.
Review by Wendy Lucas Castro, University of Central Arkansas
In The War in Words, Kathryn Zabelle Derounian-Stodola uses twenty-four captivity narratives in what she describes as “part literary history, part textual analysis, part historiography, and part cultural contextualization” (1) to examine the Dakota War of 1862. Not only does she utilize these narratives to discuss a single war, an innovative approach which could easily be used to study other Euro-Indian wars; Derounian-Stodola also draws on Anglo, German, and Indian (including mixed-blood) narratives who were either eyewitnesses or participants. These narratives are supplemented with biographical and archival evidence, including unpublished letters and coverage of the war in local newspapers to supplement details from the narratives and use them to corroborate each other’s memories. What these accounts reveal is a deeply divided community. Dakotas were split on whether to participate in the war or support friends and white relatives who lived in the area. Anglos characterized the Dakota involved as both evil murderers and benevolent saviors who kept them from being harmed by others. Interestingly, some of these Anglo captives understood that whites had been partly responsible for the violence, and attributed hunger and the Civil War as contributing factors as well. Germans tended to blame both Indians and Anglos, taking the opportunity in their narratives to lash out against both groups.
Mindful of the captivity genre, some of the most compelling moments are when Derounian-Stodola analyzes deviations from the standard captivity narrative, as these moments often reveal personal insights the author had tried to veil in the safety of the narratives’ formulaic nature. By bringing together a variety of voices—Anglo, German, and Indian—and broadening captivity to include Indians captured by other Indians, as well as Indians who were cultural captives to Christianity and physically confined captives in the aftermath of the violence, we get a truer sense of what this war meant to the individuals who experienced it and to the community that tried to make sense of it after the war was over. The result is an impressive reconstruction not only of the war, but of how these individuals (taking into account gender, race, and class) remembered and interpreted this experience. A chronology and summary paragraph on each of the captivity narratives used are particularly helpful, as is the division of the book into white and Indian narratives. Everyone teaching the Dakota War or captivity narratives, or seeking a cultural lens into a microcosm of nineteenth-century Indian Wars, will find this an essential addition to their library. Historians will wish for more regard for the causes, effects, and details of the war itself, but as this is not the author’s purpose it should not be considered a weakness. Rather, Kathryn Zabelle Derounian-Stodola has given us an interesting and effective way to think about this complicated moment in Minnesota history—a moment many groups are still struggling to come to terms with.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


Southern Ute Women: Autonomy and Assimilation on the Reservation, 1887-1934
By Katherine Osburn. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, January 2009. Paper: ISBN 978-0803220386, $18.95. 184 pages.
Review by Brad Montgomery-Anderson, Northeastern State University
Between the years 1887 and 1934, the U.S. government made a concentrated effort to assimilate American Indians into the dominant society. This assimilative agenda began with the 1887 Dawes Act and centered on breaking up communally-held land and redistributing it as private property. Some of the “civilizing” programs were aimed specifically at Native women, and Indian agents saw their transformation into middle-class homemakers as a crucial component of the process to remake the Native American family. Katherine Osburn’s book is a groundbreaking study of the reaction of the women of one tribe to this assimilative effort. Southern Ute Women is a republication of a title that originally appeared in 1998 through the University of New Mexico Press. The current publication from the University of Nebraska Press includes a new introduction that places this work in the context of recent scholarship on Native American women. An especially interesting portion of this introduction is Osburn’s description of three general categories of studies regarding women’s reactions to colonialism. One category of scholars see colonialism as having little impact on the power of women, while another group of scholars, following the “declension model,” see colonialism as producing a marked decline in the power and status of indigenous women. Osburn’s work falls into the category of scholars who “argue some decline but also document creative adaptation” (vii). The book’s original introduction is also included and provides a good theoretical context for the main thesis of the book: namely, that during the assimilative years of the Dawes Act, Ute women used strategies of adaptation and selective assimilation to deal with the changes that outside forces attempted to impose on them. In the first chapter, Osburn provides the historic events that led to the confinement of the Utes on their reservation in southwestern Colorado and initial attempts at assimilation. Osburn groups these areas of attempted assimilation into the following four chapters. In chapter 2, “Women and Public Leadership,” Osburn discusses how the Office of Indian Affairs (OIA) ignored women when discussing policy matters with the tribe. Ute women, however, did not accept the passive role assigned them and refused to send their children to schools they deemed unsafe. While OIA policy continually relegated women to the private sphere by only dealing with the “head of the household,” women found ways to recover their traditional participation in the public realm. In the next chapter, “Women and Economics,” Osburn shows how women resisted being relegated to dependency on their husbands’ wages and engaged in economic activities that were crucial to the tribe’s survival. The OIA expected women to be homemakers and to create nuclear households that fit a Euro-American model of “civilized” domestic life. To achieve this goal, the OIA hired three matrons to train Ute women in a variety of domestic arts. Osburn outlines the successes and failures of this program in the fifth chapter. The response to the matron program was complex. Ute women eagerly adapted many innovations concerning sanitation and health care as well as homemaking technology. As a result of this program, infant deaths on the reservation declined significantly. At the same time, this program failed in its basic goal of replacing the extended family with a single nuclear family living in its own home. Part of the OIA’s initiatives included bringing Ute attitudes towards sex and marriage in line with Euro-American attitudes. These attempts are the focus of chapter five. Osburn speculates that the increase in marriage licenses probably indicates an outward conformity to assimilationist pressure; on the other hand, the persistence of “serial monogamy” showed that OIA attempts to increase the number of lifelong marriages were not successful. This strategy of “selective assimilation” is characteristic of the attitude of Ute women in general as they struggled to retain their autonomy. Despite being treated as second-class citizens by the OIA, Ute women found creative ways to continue to make important contributions to their family and tribe. In her conclusion, Osburn argues convincingly that “while the framework of women’s lives was radically altered on the reservation, Ute women did not suffer a serious decline in status and power among their people” (117). Osburn makes a strong case for this conclusion using the existing documentation from that time period. She could strengthen this argument, however, by more thoroughly explaining the role of women in traditional pre-reservation culture. Osburn has a few pages of such discussion at the beginning of chapter 2, which she summarizes by stating that “women were equal members of families and bands” and that “they participated in councils” (23). Traditional gender roles deserve greater explanation and exemplification; moreover, Osburn should address what appear to be situations of traditional gender inequality that are depicted in the literature. For example, in the recently re-released classic history The Last War Trail (University Press of Colorado, 2000), Chief Ouray declares that the Utes do not accept the testimony of women (269). Although Osburn’s book does focus on Southern Ute women, it does nevertheless feel that something is missing without a discussion of Chipeta, wife of Chief Ouray and perhaps the most famous Ute woman. Chipeta did not live on the Southern Ute reservation, but it seems that the available documentation on her life and the part she played in the transition to the reservation (Chipeta: Queen of the Utes by Becker and Smith appeared in 2003) could provide another perspective on the role of women in Ute culture. An expanded discussion of Ute women in general would allow the reader to better understand the contexts of the strategies of resistance and adaptation. These are minor absences, however, in a work that is well-researched and thought-provoking. Osburn’s book has been and remains an important contribution to the growing literature on women’s responses to colonialism, and this book will be of interest to readers interested in Native American history and women’s history.

Thursday, June 25, 2009


From Dominance to Disappearance: The Indians of Texas and the Near Southwest, 1786-1859

By F. Todd Smith. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, reprinted December 2008. Paper: ISBN 978-0803220775, $24.95. 320 pages.

Review by Jeff Carlisle, Oklahoma City Community College

In From Dominance to Disappearance, F. Todd Smith chronicles the downfall of the Native Americans in Texas and the Near Southwest, an area he defines as the region bordered on the east by the Red River, on the west by the Llano Estacado, on the south by the Nueces River, and on the north by the Canadian. In effect, the Texas mentioned in the title is the Texas of the Spanish and Mexican periods rather than the larger Texas of the Republic or statehood periods. Smith intends for his work to be a successor to Elizabeth John’s massive tome Storms Brewed in Other Men’s Worlds, which concerned Indian relations with Euro-Americans in a larger area, using the Rio Grande in New Mexico as her western border, from 1540-1795. Smith argues that Indian policies in Texas and New Mexico had little to do with each other and therefore justifies his more limited approach. Even with his smaller region, however, Smith has his work cut out for him. There were numerous tribes inhabiting the region and Eastern Indians immigrated into the area during the time span covered by his book. Slightly more than half the book deals with the Spanish and Mexican eras, and Smith does an admirable job sifting through the voluminous Bexar archives as well as other Spanish sources, even traveling to Spain itself to research. Smith details how each Indian tribe dealt with and was dealt with by the Spanish, the Mexicans, the Texans, and finally the Americans as their region changed possession over the decades.
From Dominance to Disappearance is not light reading and can become tedious at times, especially during the Spanish era, as each tribe’s actions are discussed through a series of Spanish governors, only to be followed by the next tribe’s different experiences with the same governors.
Until the 1830s, the natives retained numerical superiority and therefore maintained a powerful position against the Spanish, who had little luck subduing the Natives but at least partially succeeded in creating a stable peace with most tribes. The Mexican Revolution threw New Spain into turmoil and actually gave the Natives a brief resurgence of power. The arrival of Americans in the region, however, soon brought about the end of that resurgence. More numerous than the Spanish or Mexicans, Anglo-Americans flooded into the region in the years following the Louisiana Purchase, and many were invited to move into Texas by the Mexican government, in an effort to populate the province. Indians who found it beneficial to play one power against the other soon found themselves at the mercy of the hordes of Americans entering the region. The Americans cared little for trade or alliances, and instead wanted the land, pressuring the natives ever more to the west. The Republic of Texas launched a massive campaign against all natives, forcing most of them to flee to Mexico or the United States. Once Texas was annexed by the United States, the Indian policy was hampered by the fact that Texas retained ownership of its public lands and refused to turn over any land for Indian reservations. Eventually, in the decade before the Civil War, Texas relented and formed two reservations on the upper Brazos River. The Indians who resided there made incredible progress in making the reservations a success. Even a band of normally restless and nomadic Comanche made great strides toward becoming farmers. However, constant harassment from Northern Comanche on one side, and on the other side, Texans, who blamed every depredation on the peaceful reservation Indians (even though the latter often accompanied Texan expeditions against the hostiles), soon drove the reservation natives to distraction. Living in constant fear of reprisals for crimes they had not committed, the reservation Indians were unable to tend to their herds or crops and eventually requested a military escort to take them to Indian Territory (Oklahoma), on the eve of the Civil War. Hence, in less than a century, the Indians of Texas and the Near Southwest had indeed gone from dominance to disappearance. A brief epilogue completes the story to the present, from the Tonkawa, who were basically intermarried into nonexistence, to the Alabama-Coushatta, the only tribe to retain land, a 2800-acre reservation within the confines of Texas.
Smith has made an important contribution to Native American history of the region, and has done an admirable job of synthesizing a vast amount of information into a single volume. He has laid an impressive foundation for anyone interested in further research of tribes in the area.

Thursday, May 28, 2009


A Description of New Netherland
Original text by Adriaen van der Donck. New translation by Trans. Diederik Willem Goedhuys. Edited by Charles T. Gehring and William A. Starna
Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, October 2008. Cloth: ISBN 978-0-8032-1088-2, $40.00. 208 pages.
Review by Wendy Lewis Castro, University of Central Arkansas
Historians of early America have long lamented that so little extensive scholarly work has been done on the middle colonies, due mainly to language issues. This is particularly the case for New Netherlands, whose Dutch sources have limited American scholars of those texts that have been translated into English. One such invaluable source is Adriaen van der Donck’s A Description of New Netherland, which had been originally translated in 1841 by Jeremiah Johnson. Unfortunately, Johnson’s translation was riddled with errors, which the editors note in the preface, giving the following example: “Johnson translates this passage thus: ‘Their men on the breast and about the mouth were bare, and their women like ours, hairy.’ Diederick Goedhuys correctly translates the same passage: ‘The Indian men are entirely bald on the chest and around the mouth like women; ours, quite hairy’” (xviii). However, it is not only this accurate translation that makes this new edition invaluable, but also its detailed notes made possible by the translator’s access to the Woordenboek der Netherlandsche Taal (1889-1998), a massive Dutch dictionary, New York State Library’s reference collection, and the New Netherland Project’s seventeenth-century collection. The result is an annotated edition with new insight into the text, from natural history to linguistics, that had been lost in the previous translation. The addition of a brief biography of van der Donck and the original page numbers in the margin provide modern readers with an informative and user-friendly version of a much-overlooked guide to New Netherlands before it became the English colony New York.
Van der Donck dedicates the first half of the book to a physical description of the colony. Typical for this genre, Van der Donck describes geographic boundaries, rivers, soil, trees, vegetation, animals, and seasons among others that Dutch settlers encountered when they disembarked the Halve Maen in 1609. This section also describes how imported crops and animals fared in the new climate.The second section focuses on detailed ethnographic descriptions of Indians, whom the Dutch called wilden. It is this information that has provided ethnohistorians with a lens into the food, dress, housing, religion, rituals, medicines, warfare, agriculture, hunting, and laws of the group of tribes collectively known as the Iroquois. At the end of this section are two short pieces: the first on beavers (their habitat, medicines that can be made out of their testicles and urine, body structure, behaviors, homes, gestation, and how to capture), the second a conversation between a Dutch man and a Dutch colonist of New Netherland, which answers some questions the Dutch man had after reading van der Donck’s Description: for example, Is there danger being surrounded by both English colonists and Indians? Finally, an appendix with a list and identification of Latinized plant names found in the text completes the work.
Geographers, historians, and anthropologists will find this edition an invaluable authority for their own work on New Netherland, in addition to its use for undergraduates who would find the work both interesting and accessible. Its one weakness is the use of endnotes rather than footnotes, which, as the notes often contain critical pieces of information, makes it cumbersome to flip back and forth between them and the text. Long underutilized, this edition will place A Description of New Netherland alongside Thomas Harriot’s A Briefe and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia, John Smith’s A Description of New England, and William Wood’s New England's Prospect as essential primary-source narratives of the early days of the New World.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


Mexican American Mojo: Popular Music, Dance, and Urban Culture in Los Angeles, 1935-1968


By Anthony Macías. Durham: Duke University Press, September 2008. Cloth: ISBN 978-0822343394, $89.95; paper: ISBN 978-0822343226, $24.95. 408 pages.


Review by Darius V. Echeverría, Rutgers University


During the late nineteenth century and running through the Great Depression, xenophobic ideas and practices began to exert greater force throughout America. People were defined ever more sharply on the basis of their nationality, language, religion, and phenotype. They were incrementally limited in their legal status, voting privileges, and the jobs they could obtain. Indeed, degrading images of legally vulnerable groups such as African Americans, Native Americans, Asian Americans, and various Latino/a subgroups, especially Mexican Americans, became part of popular culture in the songs people sang, in the products people bought, and the illustrations they saw in books, magazines, and media imagery. Thus, many Americans remained outside of meaningful mainstream culture, thereby relegated to second-class citizenship and the underbelly of the U.S. economy. Indeed, Mexican Americans found themselves in the anomalous position of living in a land of plenty to which they were denied access. A small but influential handful, however, notably from the “Mexican American generation,” rejected second-class citizenship, thereby “transform[ing] Los Angeles and enrich[ing] American culture” (2). In this spirit, the author’s thoroughly researched book makes an important contribution in providing an overview of how Mexican Americans throughout Los Angeles embraced cultural pride to counter patterns of prejudice. In doing so, Mexican Americans drew on popular music, dance, language, and a style that was both Mexican and American to reevaluate their worth in a society that only accepted upward mobility through “whiteness.” This hybrid of “Mexican” and “American” ethos peppered with African American popular cultural traditions fostered a subculture whose arrangement was unique, and whose amalgamation was distinctive from either “Mexican” or “American” cultures. Equipped with this empowering “mojo” that was predicated more on a bicultural identity rather than Mexican nationalism, Mexican Americans challenged the standard for measuring acceptability and cultural worth. This was accomplished by not only separating from Anglo American identity, but through creating ethnic Mexican diverse modes of celebratory expressions. Inevitably Mexican American Angelenos developed a unique social acclimatization experience because of their day-to-day encounters with racializing prejudice. These experiences compelled many to find refuge in music, running the gamut from jazz, to rhythm and blues, to rock and roll. The book is carefully organized into five chapters supported by a tightly woven introduction and conclusion. With the exception of chapter five, which in part serves as a synthesizing section, the material is arranged in chronological order. Chapter one is crucial to the overall work because it demonstrates that Mexican Americans not only appreciated traditional music, but were just like any other American music lovers, enjoying swing music and dancing the jitterbug. Chapter two is valuable for several reasons, but none more important than exploring how 1940s African American cultural expressions influenced evolving Mexican American music, dance, and urban life. Chapter three builds on chapter two by providing a greater understanding of how indirect and direct cultural forces among and between Chicanos/as and African Americans changed forever how each respective community dealt with an unfriendly urban world. Engaging with and exchanging ideas among a range of communities in dance halls, ballrooms, and auditoriums encouraged a growing respect for differences. In particular, pockets of Mexican American and African American communities overlooked their workforce rivalry in an effort to build a bridge toward tolerance and understanding. Notwithstanding, Mexican Americans, like Asian Indians and African Americans during this period, recognized that rejecting non-white culture while associating with Anglo identity was advantageous for securing better job opportunities. Although Macías provides a cursory discussion of this daily reality, greater depth and inclusion of other comparable communities would have given sections of the work more force and variety. Nevertheless, chapter three also introduces actors that affected the trajectory of the marriage between seemingly distinct musical cultural domains. This dynamic helped shape and guide the aforementioned communities’ political ideology, identity maturation, organizational support, and socio-economic outlook. Chapter four delves deeper into Mexican American musical tastes and tunes throughout the rock and roll era. The final chapter illustrates the widespread acceptability and increasing aptitude of Chicano music subgenres while underscoring its importance in challenging institutions that discouraged and devalued Mexican American thought, culture, and heritage. Perhaps the most striking aspect of Mexican American Mojo is how Macías skillfully blends the oral testimony of key artists to the larger framework of urban culture. These rich interviews add clarity and continuity to scholarship on music and movements. Focusing on specific localities, events, and high schools, Macías, a California university professor, cogently reveals how Chicanos/as established strong bonds of community solidarity and companionship in order to confront anti-Mexican sentiment. In turn, scores of Mexican Americans summoned the courage to break through Eastside Los Angeles, and by extension, the Jim Crow geography of much of the American southwest. As a result, acculturation and assimilation rates among Mexican Americans increased. The author appreciates this point, so a thoughtful conversation with the former is expressed throughout which demonstrates that assimilation was a complex process fueled by countervailing factors such as popular music and fashion trends. Similar to claiming cultural citizenship, Mexican Americans made their mark on U.S. popular culture by appropriating big band swing music, jitterbug dancing, and many more public forums of expressions. The circumstances of poor health, inordinate dropout rates, hard work for low wages, high unemployment, police brutality, societal stereotyping, ethnic Mexican deportation drives, urban renewal, political exclusion, anti-miscegenation policies, and real estate redlining created an unstable social position for Mexican Americans, inspiring many to redefine themselves in order to break the cycle their parents experienced. As noted, the author raises numerous intersections between African Americans, Latinos/as, and Japanese Americans. One hopes that more scholarship in Chicano/a Studies will explore the patterns of competition and cohesion among Mexican Americans and other groups. By challenging some assumptions of the roles played by Mexican Americans in cultural maintenance, this case study builds not only on popular culture scholarship, but helps put civil rights struggles in proper interracial context. In scope and significance, this work is a model for a community’s popular culture history.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Nahuatl Theater Volume 3: Spanish Golden Age Drama in Mexican Translation. Edited by Barry D. Sell, Louise M. Burkhart, and Elizabeth R. Wright. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, April 2008. Cloth: ISBN 978-0806138787, $49.95. 420 pages.
Review by Bradley Montgomery-Anderson, Northeastern State University, Oklahoma
from SJC post 2 (10/13/08)

Starting in 2004, Nahuatl-language dramas have begun appearing in a projected four-volume Nahuatl theater series, of which Spanish Golden Age Drama in Mexican Translation is the third. In the current volume the editors present three dramatic pieces and a short farce, or “Intermezzo.” When the Spaniards first conquered Mexico in the sixteenth century, they needed a language to communicate with a large indigenous population. The imperial language of the Aztecs, Nahuatl, already enjoyed great prestige as a language of empire and trade, and pockets of Nahuatl speakers were found throughout Mesoamerica and as far south as Honduras. While the pre-contact Aztecs had a pictographic system rather than a true writing system, they were in contact with the Maya to the south who did possess writing. The Spanish colonizers, recognizing the importance of the language, created a Latin-based writing system for Nahuatl and used it as a lingua franca. The desire to evangelize created a demand for Nahuatl-speaking priests, and the new alphabet adapted for Nahuatl was easily received by a culture with a high regard for the written word. The result is a large body of Nahuatl-language texts, the largest collection of colonial texts in an indigenous American language.Don Bartolomé de Alva, a fluent Nahuatl-speaker of mixed royal Aztec and Castilian ancestry, adapted and translated these plays from the original Spanish. Three introductory essays, as well as a preface with biographical information on Alva, alert the reader to the importance of these texts. The Nahuatl elements in these indigenized dramas are aptly explained in Louise Burkhart’s introductory essay “Nahuatl Baroque: How Alva Mexicanized the Spanish Dramas.” In another essay Barry D. Sell describes the relationship of the translator with Father Horacio Carochi, the author of the most important colonial-era Nahuatl grammar. “A Dramatic Diaspora,” by Elizabeth R. Wright, explains some of the sociolinguistic factors at play in the creation of the dramas and shows how Alva deftly combines elements of Spanish Baroque with native Nahuatl elements. One thing that makes these works especially fascinating is the process of Mexicanization they underwent as Alva adapted them to local sensibilities. These transformations are made apparent by the editors’ decision to present them in four side-by-side columns: the first is the original Spanish play, and the second an English translation. The third column, on the facing page, has the Nahuatl version, and the fourth has the English translation of this text. This layout allows the reader to compare the Nahuatl adaptations with the originals.
In “The Great Theater of the World,” a Eucharistic play that is the first drama presented, Alva often has the piece’s allegorical characters use Nahuatl-appropriate metaphors. In an especially striking example, the original Spanish “Praise the Lord of Earth and Heaven, the Sun, the Moon, and the stars; let the beautiful flowers, earth’s hallmark, praise him” (90)” becomes, “Let our hearts and words sprout jades, hatch motmots; intertwined with sacred popcorn flowers they extol the master of heaven and earth” (91). In "The Animal Prophet and the Fortunate Patricide," the character Irene is transformed into Malintzin; in the original the protagonist’s servant declares, “I’m Vulcan. My father was a Roman who had the custom of naming us children after gods, and so he called me Vulcan, after a well-known god” (170). In Alva’s adaption this becomes, “I’m Tizoc. My father is Mexicatl. They gave us royal Mexica names that are feared everywhere in the world” (171). In the indigenized form of the drama, several layers of cultural interpretation overlay the Spanish version of the story of St. Julian the Hospitaler. This old European legend tells of a nobleman who leads a holy life after unknowingly killing his parents in a jealous rage, an event foretold by a dying deer he had shot while hunting. The third drama, “The Mother of the Best,” is based on apocryphal gospels and portrays a couple, Joachim and Anne, who discover that their previously childless union is to bear fruit in the person of Mary, the future mother of Jesus. Alva’s version of this play ends with a beautiful example of Nahuatl aesthetics when a Mexicanized Archangel Gabriel announces the destiny of the infant Mary: “And moreover, the heavenly Atotoztli, the turquoise bellbird, will give birth in her girlhood to the great and royal child” (403).
Spanish Golden Age Drama in Mexican Translation has an abundance of information for those interested in colonial Latin American culture, religious history, cultural contact, and linguistics. Nahuatl language scholars will find much useful data in these texts for studying the impact of Spanish on the language. The editors have chosen to preserve Alva’s original linguistic commentaries within the texts, a feature that will help the language scholar to understand the complexities of translating between these two very different languages and cultures. They have done an excellent job, both in the introductory essays as well as in the layout and presentation of the texts. An additional feature that might render the texts more approachable would be a very brief grammatical sketch of the language; such an addition would give a greater appreciation of the Nahuatl language itself and enhance the side-by side comparisons. There is some discussion of the Nahuatl writing system, but it would be an improvement to have this information in a more complete format, perhaps with a few examples from the Nahuatl texts to exemplify the pronunciation.Burkhart and Sell state in the first volume of the series that this project aims “to establish the place of these dramas in the literary canon of the Americas” (xix). This third volume offers an engaging look at the beginnings of a new hybrid culture, a dynamic Nahua-Catholic literature created for a sophisticated and literate indigenous public. These texts represent a great cultural might-have-been; Spanish eventually became the dominant language as Mexico slowly became Hispanicized, and the culture of written Nahuatl eventually died out. Anyone interested in cultural aspects of the Columbian Exchange will find these dramas, and the excellent essays that accompany them, a fascinating read.
Patterns of Exchange: Navajo Weavers and Traders. By Teresa J. Wilkins. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, May 2008. Cloth: ISBN 978-0806137575, $34.95. 231 pages.
Review by Robin O’Brian, Elmira College
from SJC post 2 (10/13/08)

In Patterns of Exchange, Teresa J. Wilkins documents the long and vexed interrelationship between Navajo or Diné weavers and the non-Native traders with whom they have long done business. The work explores in detail the roles that traders played in shaping and developing the commercial Navajo rug trade and thus adds to ongoing theorizing about the nature of “authenticity” and craft production.Wilkins begins with a brief history of Navajo weaving. Accounts differ, but Navajo likely acquired weaving knowledge from their Hopi and other Pueblo neighbors. Weaving has become sufficiently central to Navajo identity that weavers say that the spider gave Changing Woman the ability to weave as a gift and that Navajos have woven ever since.While there had long been a small trade in Native American crafts items, the role of non-Navajo trading posts shaped and expanded the trade in the late nineteenth century. J. L. Hubbell and Clinton Cotton were particularly influential. An 1868 treaty following the Navajo Long Walk by several years mandated rations of food, farm equipment, clothing and weaving implements to Navajos, and many certainly accepted some of these items. The reservation trading posts encouraged the trade of Navajo wool for food and other goods, and by the mid-1870s hundreds of thousands of pounds of Navajo wool was shipped east each year for commercial textile production. The posts also functioned as a form of economic assimilation, “an opportunity to usher Navajo people into a capitalist economy.” By the 1880s Navajos were bartering hides, pelts, wool, and blankets, and the way trade functioned began to change.J. L. Hubbell had acquired a store in Ganado, Arizona, and he took on Clinton Cotton as his partner. Cotton sought to market Navajo products, including piñon nuts and Navajo blankets, even as he and Hubbell continued their active wool trade. Cotton, and later Hubbell, encouraged the use of Navajo blankets in U.S. homes, especially as rugs, and eventually began to suggest designs for weavers to produce. By the mid- to late-1890s Hubbell was using small paintings to provide weavers with examples of designs to copy, and Cotton began a mail-order catalog specializing in Navajo products.The marketing strategies of Cotton, Hubbell, and others intersected with the rise of industrial capitalism and a growing upper-middle-class anxious about the changes in their way of life. Some of this anxiety expressed itself in an anti-modernist sentiment that prized the objects produced by crafters like Navajos. Wilkins points out the irony of seeking the “real” and “authentic” through the consumption of crafts objects, a pattern that only reinforces and intensifies class-based consumer society.Still, demand grew and traders sought to meet it. John Moore, whose first catalog appeared in 1903, described items in terms of their natural origins and so-called “primitive” production. He often described objects as sacred to increase their perceived value, noting that such items were rarely available to outsiders. Moore increased his control over weavers by arranging a specialized production system where some women specialized in spinning and others in weaving. Moore introduced and encouraged adoption of designs drawn from other sources, particularly those used in Oriental rugs. Moore emphasized the “authenticity” and “naturalness” of such items, qualities that collectors of ethnic textiles still seek and value today.Hubbell’s small blanket paintings had a similar role in the rise of the Navajo craft market. The paintings likely served several purposes. As a trader, Hubbell probably used the paintings as examples of possible available blankets. The paintings also provided models of what Hubbell wanted copied. But while early accounts tended to emphasize the role of traders in the development of blanket designs, Wilkins examines the weavers’ own experiences. Unlike traders, Navajos remained deeply embedded in a web of relations and obligations. And while some weavers did produce close copies, many others modified designs and colors, both as an assertion of autonomy and as a means of avoiding the risks that could come with appropriating another weaver’s work.Navajos extend the tension between individual agency and cooperation to their understandings of the creation of the world, when First Man created this world: its animals and plants, its land, the Navajos, their ideas and way of life, exist through the action of his thoughts. In much the same way, weavers create their weaving designs, bringing them to life through their own thoughts and actions. Thinking as both a process and an action can affect what it creates. Weavers may leave a design in an item open—closed designs can close up thinking and action in one’s life, as well.Further, weavers with their looms create persons in the form of blankets or rugs. The original loom given to the First People by Spider Woman was created from the elements of life, and looms are themselves alive. Weavers use their living looms and their own thoughts and actions to create their works, sometimes guided by the loom itself. Said one weaver, “I can’t force it. The loom has to communicate what it wants me to do.” Weavers feel a sense of communication with the rugs they make and “feel” them in the trading post or traveling the world. The complexity of the rug-weaver relationship shapes weavers’ understandings of copying designs.And what of trading relations themselves? Navajos have ideal expectations of what they want from traders, framed in values about helping. Traders can help by buying all rugs offered for sale. They should not overcharge customers. They should extend credit for unfinished rugs, and when they buy a rug they should extend a small “extra,” perhaps some jewelry or sodas, as a token of the trader’s ongoing relationship with the weaver. Because Navajos consider the weaving of the rug to expand beyond its production into its purchase and circulation as a commodity, they regard the trader as a participant in the process.When weavers sell rugs to traders they have a price in mind and will use different methods to convince the trader to meet that price. A weaver may not specify the amount of work she has put into a weaving. A weaver may again invoke relationships, saying perhaps, “My son, I want this rug to cost this much.” Traders who know and respect Navajo kin obligations recognize this and say that it is almost impossible to refuse.Wilkins provides a wealth of such detail in this excellent work. Wilkins outlines the history of trading posts, the development of commercial weaving, the ways that the changing U.S. economy opened new markets for such weavings, and how weavers themselves engage with these changes. Its multi-sited approach makes it invaluable for those interested in Navajo society or more broadly in weaving or textiles as well. Well-written and generally free of jargon, it will be of interest to general readers with these interests as well as specialists.
White People, Indians, and Highlanders: Tribal Peoples and Colonial Encounters in Scotland and America. By Colin G. Calloway. New York: Oxford University Press, July 2008. Cloth: ISBN 978-0-19-534012-9, $35.00. 392 pages.
Review by Andrew K. Frank, Florida State University
from SJC post 2 (10/13/08)

In White People, Indians, and Highlanders, Colin Calloway explores the parallels and contrasts between the experiences of Highland Scots and Native Americans as the cultures encountered and engaged in acts of British colonialism and market capitalism. Much of the volume betrays a single thesis and instead emphasizes the complexities and ironies of their parallel histories. At the same time, though, Calloway effectively demonstrates how the histories of Highlands Scots and Native Americans were both transformed, albeit differently, as “capitalism displaced tribalism” (176).Calloway carefully delineates the cultural distinctions between Scots and Natives while impressively demonstrating how outsiders frequently perceived similarities. These resemblances often reflected cultural and social realities as much as they were intellectual creations of English colonizers. As much as the different cultures understood and controlled land differently and had contrasting clan and kinship structures, they both had warrior traditions, clan-based kinship networks, ties to the soil, oral and storytelling traditions, a belief that leaders should act for the good of their people, and an ethos emphasizing that individuals should share rather than accumulate wealth. At the same time, English society also believed them both to be lazy, barbarous, savage, and in need of civilization. These perceived and real similarities magnified as the two peoples intermingled and intermarried on the American frontier.Most of the volume, however, eschews cultural comparisons and explores how the cultures’ histories shaped and were related to one another—how “on both sides of the Atlantic, tribal peoples scrambled to adjust to new colonial relationships, structures, and economic orders” (11). The result is a messy set of connections that defy easy characterization, and a reminder that Native American history is not as distinct as it is often portrayed. Similarly, Calloway uses the insights of whiteness studies to remind us that Highland Scots once occupied a place outside of the “civilized” English norm.Calloway divides the volume into thematic chapters that impressively tie together but are equally effective as distinct entities. Calloway begins the volume with a chapter on conquest and colonization that epitomizes the interpretive tensions within the volume. As much as the English government brutally sought to pacify Natives and impose “civilization” with the same policies they used in the British Isles, the histories of the two peoples differed markedly. Scottish soldiers frequently imposed the will of the English crown and eventually the United States government. Similar histories, as Calloway repeatedly states, did not necessarily create alliances.The next two chapters build on the themes of conquest and colonization. One explores how Scots and Indians confronted the Industrial Revolution with comparable concerns for balancing innovation and tradition. Scots and Natives became part of the Atlantic economy, with often-disruptive “repercussions on social and political structures” (55). Chapter three demonstrates how ethnocentric English reformers sought to make Englishmen and women out of various tribal peoples. Although the English often held similar stereotypes of Scots and Natives, the so-called civilizing efforts often had quite different results. As Highland Scots increasingly embraced English norms, they often took on the role of introducing and enforcing cultural changes within more resistant Native societies. In short, Calloway shows how Scots and Natives underwent similar structural changes while emphasizing their different manifestations.The next three chapters explore the various ways in which Highland Scots and Native Americans met, merged, and competed on the American frontier. One chapter explores the ways in which Scottish soldiers and Native warriors united as allies and clashed as enemies. Another details the Scottish dominance of the fur trade, emphasizing how Native hunters and Scottish traders had complex and competing purposes and understandings of the trade. Once again, a joint experience did not result in a truly shared history. Chapter six builds on this chapter by examining the intercultural families that formed and the cultural mixing that occurred within Indian villages.The final three chapters detail the great divergence that occurred between Highland Scots and Natives. Chapter seven, perhaps the volume’s most insightful, details the parallels of the Scottish clearances and the various removals in Native society. For similar reasons and in similar contexts, both peoples saw themselves displaced in the name of progress and capitalism. The shared histories did not necessarily create sympathy, as many Highlanders whose families suffered from the clearances helped expel Natives (many of whom had Scottish relatives) from their homelands. After a chapter that explores the ways in which Scottish settlers tried to use Native lands to insure their own economic and cultural survival, Calloway demonstrates how the act of mythmaking allowed Natives and Scots came to occupy different places in the British Empire and history. In this way, Scots largely became an accepted and distinct part of the British Empire, while Natives were presumed to be disappearing in the face of American development. Finally, in the epilogue, Calloway explores the parallel ways in which Scottish and Native identities and heritages are performed, transformed, and embraced in the modern world.Because the volume covers a tremendous geographic and chronological scope, the volume occasionally lacks a sense of time and place. Some comparisons cross centuries, and distinctions within Native society are frequently and perhaps necessarily blurred. Despite this minor caveat, White People, Indians, and Highlanders deserves a readership interested in colonialism and ethnic identities on both sides of the Atlantic. With brilliant insights from the literatures and experiences of both Scottish and Native American studies, Calloway demonstrates the value of placing Native American and Scottish history in a much wider context than they normally appear.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Stricken Field: The Little Bighorn since 1876. By Jerome A. Greene. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, May 2008. Cloth: ISBN 978-0-8061-3791-9, $34.95. 384 pages.
Review by Robert E. Meyer, DePaul University

In Stricken Field, author Jerome Greene faces the daunting task of producing an “administrative history” of the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument (as the dust jacket identifies this volume) that transcends the dull recounting of a bureaucracy implied by such a characterization. For the most part he succeeds, although not without considerable attention to the mundane. In Chapters 2 through 6, Greene dutifully chronicles developments in such matters as the electrical system, plumbing fixtures and dimensions of the caretaker’s quarters. These chapters tell the story of the battlefield from the first attempts to memorialize the site in the form of rough wooden markers where the bodies of the Seventh Cavalry troopers were found after their 1876 defeat, through the establishment of Custer Battlefield National Cemetery, under the control of the War Department until 1940, to the current administration of the site by the National Park Service.However, this workmanlike narrative is happily augmented by a wealth of fascinating tidbits, such as the fact that Gen. Philip Sheridan, who considered Custer his protégé, sent a detachment under his own brother, Lt. Col. Michael Sheridan, to the Little Bighorn in 1877 to remedy the scandalous condition of the graves dug immediately after the battle, which, due to the harsh Montana winter weather and the intervention of wild animals, no longer fully contained the corpses that had been committed to them. Also of interest are the references to participation of members of the Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, and Crow tribes at memorial observances, as in 1926 when former adversaries White Bull, a Lakota warrior, and General Edward S. Godfrey, one of Custer’s lieutenants in 1876, exchanged symbolic gifts, with White Bull receiving an American flag, and Godfrey coming away with “a prized wool blanket” (64). In this passage, Greene comments on the symbolism of the exchange, calling it a “none-too-subtle message . . . that the tribesmen, once demonstrably hostile to the government, were now acceptably subordinate to it” (64).Each of the last four chapters of the book contains its own separate chronology. Chapter 7, “National Park Service Interpretation” sets up the struggle to control the meaning of the memorial, with those favoring a celebration of American military exploits and sacrifice (and glorification of Custer) eventually giving way to a broader view. Chapter 8, “Research and Collections,” tells of how the collection of artifacts and documents at the Little Bighorn grew, while Chapter 9, “Support and Interest Groups,” deals primarily with the history of the Custer Battlefield Historical and Museum Association (CBHMA). Disputes between this group and the National Park Service reflect the conflicts associated with reassessment of the battle, as the CBHMA opposed the appointment first of Barbara Booher and then Gerard Baker, both Native Americans, to the position of superintendent, and objected to the sale of Dee Brown’s Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (subtitled “An Indian History of the American West”) at the park’s bookstore.Throughout these sections, as in the book as a whole, Greene, a former Research Historian for the National Park Service, handles his material objectively and expertly. Extensive endnotes serve as evidence that Greene has studied not only the voluminous published literature, but has pored over letters, memos and other documents to piece together the fabric of his narrative. Occasionally, however, definitions of technical terms with which historians and archivists are no doubt familiar (e.g., “accession” and “interpretation”) are either delayed or completely omitted, leaving the uninitiated reader to grope for meaning.The emotional peak of this book—and it is a tribute to both to the material itself and to Greene’s treatment of it that such a phrase is appropriate—occurs in Chapter 10, “Indian Memorial,” with the account of the movement to have the Lakota and Northern Cheyenne dead honored at the Little Bighorn site, an effort which came to fruition with the dedication of a new memorial in 2003. Greene points out that, in 1925, a letter from Mrs. Thomas Beaverheart of the Northern Cheyenne requesting “that a marker be placed on the battlefield to indicate the spot where her father, Lame White Man, had fallen in battle” (170) received no response from the superintendent. Since this was during the period when the site was administered by the War Department, it is not surprising that attempts to honor those who defeated a regiment of the U.S. Army were unwelcome. Greene notes that, after the site came under the administration of the National Park Service, this “military perspective” (227) remained unchanged, at least to begin with, partly because the superintendent from 1941-1956, Edward S. Luce, was a former member of the Seventh Cavalry. Things changed gradually as members of the American Indian Movement (AIM), most prominently Russell Means, prodded (sometimes harshly) the white establishment to a more inclusive vision. One important adjustment involved changing the name of the site from Custer Battlefield National Monument, a name that was offensive to those Native Americans who had pushed, in 1972, for a plaque honoring warriors who “opposed the hostile aggression of the United States government” (227), to Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, its current name. As he does throughout this book, Greene explains the conflicting motivations of the interested parties in dispassionate terms. He departs from this measured approach only in the last paragraph of Chapter 10 when he offers the following opinion: “In the final analysis, the Indian Memorial is in the correct place at the correct time” (238).The Lakota and Cheyenne won the Battle of the Little Bighorn, but lost the larger conflict of which it was a part. At the time, their victory was seen as an abomination, their defeat as the justified subjugation of a savage and anachronistic way of life. In the broadest sense, this volume serves as a reminder that it is necessary, though painful, to look at events of the past through a series of new lenses, and to recognize that the truths we embrace are sometimes honored at the expense of other, equally valuable truths.
The Nez Perces in the Indian Territory: Nimiipuu Survival. By J. Diane Pearson. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, June 2008. Cloth: ISBN 978-1-59213-870-8, $34.95. 383 pages.
Review by Bradley Montgomery-Anderson, Northeastern State University, Oklahoma

The Nez Perces in the Indian Territory is an absorbing account of a period when the Federal government used relocation to Indian Territory as a means of punishment for what it viewed as recalcitrant tribes. Following their 1877 defeat in Montana, Chief Joseph’s followers were relocated to a small reservation in the north central portion of the Indian Territory. Author J. Diane Pearson fills a significant gap in their story; the previous literature on this tribe focuses on the war and the attempted flight to Canada. Pearson’s substitution of the designation “Nez Perce” with the group’s self-designation, Nimiipuu, indicates the indigenous perspective she presents. The Nimiipuu survive a harrowing seven-year ordeal that includes an eight-month stay at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and an initial attempt at relocation at the Quapaw agency in the northeastern corner of the Territory. After ten months of substandard living conditions and bureaucratic incompetence, the Nimiipuu were finally settled near present-day Ponca City, Oklahoma, on what was intended to be their reservation. Pearson deftly traces the journey and paints an intimate portrait of the Nimiipuu as they tried to adjust to a new way of life while at the same time steadfastly refusing to give up hope of returning home. What makes her account of this experience especially remarkable is her presentation of the variety of attitudes toward the prisoners and their plight. At many stages of their journey the prisoners were treated as celebrities: a circus-like atmosphere prevailed as spectators hunted for souvenirs, gawked at ceremonials, and constantly sought to meet with Chief Joseph. Throughout the work, Pearson emphasizes Chief Joseph’s diplomatic attempts to improve his people’s living conditions, as well as his persistent efforts to leave the Territory.Such persistence was necessary as the Department of the Interior and the Army argued over expenses, and inept bureaucrats failed to supply adequate provisions. Pearson’s depiction of the Nimiipuu’s journey to and experience on the Indian Territory reservation reveals an intriguing cross-section of late nineteenth-century attitudes towards Native Americans. Throughout the text she provides local newspapers’ reactions to the presence of the detainees, as well as accounts of groups that are sympathetic to their cause. Pearson does an excellent job of using such sources to portray the social and economic complexity of the world into which the Federal government had thrust the Nimiipuu. For example, she makes an insightful comparison between the experience in northeastern Indian Territory and at the Oakland sub-agency in north central Indian Territory where they spend the greater part of their exile. The local population at their would-be reservation was “more progressive than eastern Kansas and Southern Missouri, and people were more accepting of American Indians’ participation in economic and social structures” (171).Pearson is at her best when she portrays the Nimiipuu’s adaption to the complex lifeways, both economical and cultural, of the Kansas-Indian Territory border region. It is fascinating to read about the economic and social interactions with the border town of Arkansas City, Kansas, as well as the experience of the Indian students at nearby Chilocco Indian Industrial School. Pearson devotes a chapter to the topic of Indian schools and discusses the experiences of Nimiipuu students at the local school as well as at the more famous Carlisle school in Pennsylvania. Another chapter explores the role of religious communities during the exile. This is an important topic, as the religious groups played an essential role in the Nimiipuu return to the northwest. An initial group of widows and orphans returned in 1882 when an Idaho Presbyterian church voted to accept them into their community. In the end it was a memorandum submitted by Kansas Presbyterians that gained the attention of Congress, and in 1885 the Nimiipuu left the Oakland agency and returned home.The name “Oakland,” the focus of so much activity in the book, is no longer found on modern maps of Oklahoma; the reader’s ability to grasp the role of such places in the detainees’ relocation is limited by the book’s lack of maps. The only map in the entire book is a large-scale map showing the prisoners’ journey to and return from the Indian Territory. While the focus of the book is the Nimiipuu experience, the reader could better understand this experience if it were presented in a broader national context. For example, the Meeker Massacre of 1879 and subsequent relocation of the Colorado Utes receive no mention; it would be enlightening to have an occasional glimpse of how such incidents impacted, either positively or negatively, the public’s view towards the plight of the Nimiipuu as well as their effect on Federal policy. The book ends somewhat abruptly with a brief description of the remainder of Chief Joseph’s life. The Nimiipuu were resettled in two different areas, with religious affiliation being the prime determiner of who went where. The Nez Perces in the Indian Territory would be improved by a short epilogue that briefly shows how these communities fared and what contacts were maintained between them. In her foreword, Patricia Penn Hilden alludes to the Oklahoma Nez Perces—those Nimiipuu who married other Indians and stayed in the Territory—but no mention is made of the continued survival of this part of the Nimiipuu community. These limitations, however, do not seriously detract from the book; its central goal is achieved. Pearson’s portrayal of how the tribe maintained its identity and culture through a catastrophic and poorly-organized relocation admirably succeeds in making an important contribution to the literature on the Nimiipuu experience.
Art from Fort Marion: The Silberman Collection. Joyce M. Szabo. With foreword by Steven L. Grafe. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, March 2008. Cloth: ISBN 978-0-8061-3883-1, $49.95. 197 pages.
Review by Emily E. Auger, Ph. D.

Joyce M. Szabo is an established scholar who has published several books on the art of the indigenous peoples of the American southwest, including Howling Wolf and the History of Ledger Art (1994). This earlier book takes a fresh view of the subject of Karen Daniels Petersen's Howling Wolf: A Cheyenne Warrior's Graphic Interpretation of His People (1968). Szabo's latest book rediscovers the subject of Peterson's Plains Indian Art from Fort Marion (1971), that of the art produced by Native Americans who were taken from their homelands and traditional way of life on the plains in the 1870s and incarcerated at Fort Marion for several years prior to being released to a quite different way of life on the reservations designated for them. Whereas Peterson's Plains Indian Art from Fort Marion has only eight color and fifty-eight black and white plates, Szabo's Art from Fort Marion: The Silberman Collection is distinguished by having almost all of its 128 plates showing drawings, photographs, and other objects in either color or sepia. But whereas Peterson addresses eleven major and fifteen minor artists and includes a pictographic dictionary showing the stylized ways in which Fort Marion artists represented headdresses, men, women, hairstyles, tribal affiliations, and so forth, Szabo includes only seven artists, all of whom were previously discussed by Petersen. Five are Cheyenne: Bear's Heart, Cohoe, Howling Wolf, Making Medicine, and Squint Eyes; and two, Kiowa: Zotom and Etahdleuh. These differences are in part the product of Petersen's attention to art at Fort Marion as a general subject and Szabo's more specific focus on selected materials from the Silberman collection.Arthur and Shifra Silberman began collecting Native American art long after Arthur left Europe in 1941 to make Oklahoma his permanent home. The couple became interested in and began purchasing Native American art; then, in 1975, they founded the Native American Painting Reference Library in Oklahoma City and contributed their collection of paintings to it. In 1995, the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum purchased this Reference Library, which was soon followed by the Silberman's art and archival material, thus considerably expanding the Museum's previous emphasis on cowboys and ranchers to include the American Indian. In 1997, the Silberman Gallery opened at the Museum with rotating displays of American Indian art drawn from the collection of over 2,500 paintings, prints, drawings, and other objects, including 88 drawings, a vase, a fan, and a shield which were among the many works produced by Native Americans held at Fort Marion as prisoners between 1875 and 1878. All of these Fort Marion works are illustrated in Szabo's book, thus furthering the already positive influence the Silbermans have had in terms of expanding the already familiar visual history of cowboys and ranchers in the west.
Although the text is slightly vague on this point, all of the Silberman collection's Fort Marion works were evidently purchased during or after the 1960s and 1970s when Native art had gained a certain market credibility, and collections and individual pieces gathered by others were occasionally to be found at auction. The adoption of such western forms as the easel painting and perspective systems by Native artists at the Santa Fe Indian School had furthered public acceptance of their work in the Southwest earlier in the century, as did the publications of Dorothy Dunn, and later, those of Karen Daniels Petersen. The support provided by these and other individuals, organizations, and institutions tended, however, to discourage images showing anything other than a romanticized "traditional" Native way of life; this preference has had a stultifying effect on the Native art of many regions in North America. The Silbermans' interest was not, fortunately, so limited; thus the most important features of the present volume include, like the collection it represents, not only its many images of the formerly traditional ways of hunting, camping, and courting, but its many images showing signs of the Americanized West, such as trains, ships, right-angled architecture, the American flag, and soldiers in uniform, not to mention the Indian warriors on horseback carrying umbrellas, from the point of the view of the Fort Marion prisoners. More unique items illustrated and discussed by Szabo include the fan painted by Howling Wolf, the vase painted by Bear's Heart, and the shield painted by an unidentified artist. The point in the text where these items appear as the sole exemplars of their respective types is one at which the reader may be frustrated by the limits, while remaining appreciative of the benefits, of a study defined by a particular collection: could there not have been at least two or three fans? At least two painted ceramics? And how can there possibly be only one shield! Szabo, however, provides at least some interpretive and stylistic analysis for many of the images and all of the artists, and while her study cannot serve as a comprehensive art history of the area or the period due to the limitations of the collection on which it is based, it contributes to that larger objective through its attention to the art produced at Fort Marion as part of a vital and ongoing visual tradition that did not immediately lapse into the past tense with the arrival of Euro-Americans, nor even with the incarceration of the men who were to become, as Szabo shows, the artists whose works are among those most truly representative of this particular period in American history.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

from University of Oklahoma Press September 30
Journey to the West: The Alabama and Coushatta Indians
by Sheri Marie Shuck-Hall

Friday, August 22, 2008


from University of Oklahoma Press
Women Who Pioneered Oklahoma: Stories from the WPA Narratives
edited by Terri M. Baker and Connie Oliver Henshaw
under review by Carolyn Johnston, Eckerd College, Florida

Monday, August 18, 2008

from University of Oklahoma Press
Stricken Field: The Little Bighorn since 1876
by Jerome A. Greene
under review by Robert Meyer, DePaul University
from University Press of Kansas
Voices from Haskell: Indian Students between Two Worlds, 1884–1927
by Myriam Vučković
under review by Staci Pratt, University of Southern Mississippi