Native Americans Today: A Biographical Dictionary

Native Americans Today: A Biographical Dictionary

Native Americans Today: A Biographical Dictionary

Native Americans Today: A Biographical Dictionary

Excerpt

Biography is my favorite mode of history. Some of our richest and most compelling history comes from personal stories with which most can empathize. The most personal of history cuts across racial and cultural barriers, and provides examples of human struggle and courage that reams of statistics and barrels of theory cannot match. Biographies are the most intimate of histories. They also serve very well as role models for young people. Native Americans, who are in the midst of a cultural and political revival, provide many such personal examples.

The scope of this collection of 100 biographical profiles begins in the late19th century and extends to the present day, profiling Native Americans and a few non-Natives who have significantly contributed to survival and revival of peoples who were widely labeled “the vanishing race.” They not only failed to vanish, they also often contributed to North America’s dominant culture. The subjects range from scholars and writers to activists to attorneys and athletes and those in the arts. These profiles sketch lives of Native Americans mainly from the last three generations. Most lived within the borders of the United States, with a few from Canada.

This work offers a substantial number of profiles at a depth of personal detail not available elsewhere. Many recent figures profiled here have not been included in other biographical dictionaries. Each profile states the individual’s importance, provides information on early life, and traces career trajectory and highlights. Numerous quotations from the subjects and the people who knew them give unique insight. At the end of each entry, a further reading section has recommended sources for more research opportunities, as does the selected bibliography.

The 1880s are really the beginning of the “modern” era for Native Americans because after that time, they were subject to immersion in Anglo-American society with no independent options. In 1879 the first boarding school was started, the same year that a federal court in Omaha defined the Ponca Standing Bear as “a person” under U.S. law. The last brushfire of rebellion at Wounded Knee in 1890 occurred the same year that the U.S. government declared the frontier closed.

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