Academic journal article Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society

American Indians in U. S. History

Academic journal article Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society

American Indians in U. S. History

Article excerpt

American Indians in U. S. History. By Roger L. Nichols (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2003). Pp. viii, 421. Illus., notes, bib., index. Cloth $39.95). Pp. xii, 242. Maps, photos. Paper, $21.95).

With American Indians in U.S. History, Roger L. Nichols sets out to provide an affordable, readable narrative text for students of Native American history. He certainly succeeds in that sense, though both the typical merits and failings of this approach are predictably present. The book covers American Indians from pre-history to the early twenty-first century. Major issues in American Indian history, from ecology and cultural adaptation to casino licensing and religious expression, are duly covered. Like most books made for student consumption, this synthesis weaves a narrative that at times is quite illuminating and Nichols does a good job stating important points bluntly.

When discussing the clash of religions between Natives and Europeans, he notes that the animism inherent in Indian beliefs - the concept that most every being or object possessed a spirit - was literally "heretical" to Christians. (27) One of the more endearing features of the book is Nichols's liberality in including specific, sometimes jarring details when discussing salient events. When Jesuit priests tried to stop the torture of war captives in one village, the chiefs"ordered holes burned in the hands and feet of the victims to mock the crucifixion story." (39) The device is equally effective when covering more modern issues. Of recent decades' debates over hunting and fishing rights, specifically if old treaties with Indians should continue to be honored, he notes how a bitter conflict ensued in the 1970s in Wisconsin over whether the Anishinabe Indians could continue to spearfish, over the objections of non-native sportsmen. Bumper stickers reading "Save a Walleye, Spear a Pregnant Squaw," were seen on pickup trucks during the controversy. (206)

In a similar vein, Nichols does well to include, whenever possible, the actual names of Indian actors in events: from Nemattanew, the shaman whose 1622 murder helped spur the Powhatan Confederacy to attack Jamestown, to William Weatherford and Peter McQueen, the "Red Stick" Creeks who led the attack on Ft. Mims in 1813, to Ellen Ferryman, the Seneca woman who railed against Indians serving in the U. …

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