Last year I read The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie. Its targeted audience is teenagers and young adults, which I am noLast year I read The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie. Its targeted audience is teenagers and young adults, which I am not (have not been for several decades), but I enjoyed the book a lot for its honest portrayal of life for reservation Indians. The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven is the same author's more famous prior work dealing with the same subject but aimed at more a more adult and literary audience.
While I fully appreciated the majority of the stories and passages in this book, I too often felt the author was trying too hard to impress the higher literary crowd with confusing, ambiguous, and even non-sensical wording and sentences. Some reviews of this book call it "magical realism," a genre that I associate with One Hundred Years of Solitude which I did not like much at all, mostly because of its surrealistic theme and feel.
Overall, this book enlightened me on what it must be like to be born and raised an Indian on a reservation in the United States. Despair and sadness seems to be the overwhelming theme there, and such is reflected in this book. One story of inspiration and hope, however, especially caught my attention. It tells of a young man who is accompanied by a semi-outcast of the tribe on a faraway trip to collect his deceased father's belongings. It seems to me that the outcast young man would have been a holy man or spiritual leader in the former days of full Indian culture, but in today's world he was only looked upon as a strange story teller and dreamer of visions. At one point the outcast tells about an experience he once had with his traveling companion's father:
I remember when I had this dream that told me to go to Spokane, to stand by the Falls in the middle of the city and wait for a sign. I was only thirteen. So I walked all the way, took me all day, and I finally made it to the Falls. I stood there for an hour waiting. Then your dad came walking up. What the hell are you doing here? he asked me. I said, Waiting for a vision. Then your father said, All you're going to get here is mugged. So he drove me over to Denny's, bought me dinner, and then drove me home to the reservation. For a long time I was mad because I thought my dreams had lied to me. But they didn't. Your dad was my vision. Take care of each other is what my dreams were saying. Take care of each other.
The story of the non-treaty Nez Perces, led by Chief Joseph, White Bird, Toohoolhoolzote, Looking Glass, and Palouse leaders Hahtalekin and HusishusisThe story of the non-treaty Nez Perces, led by Chief Joseph, White Bird, Toohoolhoolzote, Looking Glass, and Palouse leaders Hahtalekin and Husishusis Kute, has always fascinated me ever since I first heard my father describe their long sorrowful journey to me when I was a young teenager. Since then I have managed to read nearly every book available on the subject (about 15 in all).
Hear Me, My Chiefs is one of the most important of all the books on the subject. The author, L.V. McWhorter, was the first person to actually try to get the story of the Nez Perce War from the Indian point of view. His research and interviews with then living participants of the war revealed numerous errors, exaggerations, and outright lies that had been perpetuated by the white victors and history writers of the time. We owe a debt of gratitude to him for his diligent work and for keeping alive the history of so many people who were so devoted to their own people and their culture -- people who were willing to fight and die for the just cause of simply trying to maintain their superior way of life which their people had lived for generations. Names of great fighters like Wottolen, Rainbow, Five Wounds, Wounded Head, Shore Crossing, Red Moccasin Tops, Swan Necklace, Yellow Wolf, Ollokot, Two Moons, Yellow Bull, Peopeo Tholekt, Lean Elk, and many others are kept alive because of McWhorter's work.
The story of the Nez Perce is, or should be, a cautionary tale for us today. Money-driven interests and politics led to the destruction of an entire people and their way of life. Normally good people who were driven by greed, false senses of duty and obligation, misplaced priorities, and apathy allowed themselves to do the bidding of the powerful interests that wanted Native populations destroyed at any cost. People are the same today as they were then. What happened to the Nez Perces (or to the European Jews or numerous indigenous people worldwide for that matter) can happen again to any group of people that just happens to be in the way of someone's idea of "progress"....more
This book was a little too "scholarly" for my tastes, but it was still quite interesting. It covers the period of time from the European discovery ofThis book was a little too "scholarly" for my tastes, but it was still quite interesting. It covers the period of time from the European discovery of America up until the end of the War of 1812 -- the period that saw the complete upheaval (I hesitate, but just barely, to use the words "systematic destruction" or "ethnic cleansing") of Native American culture in what is now the eastern United States. It is a fascinating and extremely sorrowful history that I became aware of only because of my own curiosity and research. I certainly never was taught any of this in school (I wonder why? [sarcasm]).
I learned a few new things, and lots of information that I was already familiar with was presented from a distinct perspective -- from the Indians' point of view, as the book's title indicates. Definitely worth reading, but I would recommend it only to those who are fairly well acquainted with this history and are looking for increased elucidation....more
First of all, I commend author Kevin Carson on his effort to put together this book. As far as I can tell, he is not a professional historian or a wriFirst of all, I commend author Kevin Carson on his effort to put together this book. As far as I can tell, he is not a professional historian or a writer, but someone like me -- someone who has a great interest in this most fascinating of conflicts. But he has certainly done a much better job than I could have of writing a book which offers a short, interesting, and readable description of all the major battles that were fought between the non-treaty Nez Perce and the U.S. Army and nearby settlers in 1877.
The problem I have is that other books offer more detailed, more accurate, and more interesting reading about the subject (see my Nez Perce shelf). I have read 12 other books on the subject of the Nez Perce and the war of 1877, so I am more than a novice on the subject (although I will never claim to be an expert either). A few glaring errors and several subtle errors and confusing comments made my reading experience less than it should have been. Also, at least for me, the white and army perspective was over-emphasized while the Indian perspective seemed somewhat lacking. The maps and pictures were excellent though, especially compared to other works. Even so, it still could have used more and better maps. ...more
Anyone who knows me at all knows that I am an avid reader of Native American historical non-fiction. Over the years and throughout many of the books IAnyone who knows me at all knows that I am an avid reader of Native American historical non-fiction. Over the years and throughout many of the books I have read I have come across references to Black Elk. He was not a major player in the pivotal events that resulted in the devastation of his people's (the Lakota's) lives and culture, but he was a witness to so much of it. Most importantly, he willingly opened up and shared his story with the author of this book who sought out his story.
Hearing the Lakota side of the stories of their battles with the U.S. to hold on to the land and to maintain the culture that they loved so much was so eye-opening and personal to me. My heart aches for the victims of this American holocaust.
After relating his personal experiences during the massacre at Wounded Knee, Black Elk unloads the sorrows of his heart in these tearful words:
And so it was over.
I did not know then how much was ended. When I look back now from this high hill of my old age, I can still see the butchered women and children lying heaped and scattered all along the crooked gulch as plain as when I saw them with eyes still young. And I can see that something else died there in the bloody mud, and was buried in the blizzard. A people's dream died there. It was a beautiful dream.
And I, to whom so great a vision was given in my youth, -- you see me now a pitiful old man who has done nothing, for the nation's hoop is broken and scattered. There is no center any longer, and the sacred tree is dead.
When I was a teenager back in the 70's a Navajo teenager came to live with a family near us for the duration of a couple of school years. The idea wasWhen I was a teenager back in the 70's a Navajo teenager came to live with a family near us for the duration of a couple of school years. The idea was that by living off the reservation and attending white schools this young man would have advantages that would help him and others in the future. Although he generally seemed to get along well with all of his peers, and I believe we all respected him equally as one of us, it was still evident that because of his background and his culture, and perhaps also because of his genetic heritage, his way of seeing and thinking about things was vaguely different from ours. I never understood exactly what that difference was or why, but I think all of us recognized that it was there. We also realized that it would probably be impossible for us to truly understand these differences.
Author Sherman Alexie does an excellent job of describing the complexities and conflicts of a teenage Indian boy who chooses to get his education off the reservation in this semi-autobiographical book. I have studied dozens of books about the history of Native Americans, but this is the only book that has come close to helping me to understand the struggles that living on "the rez" poses for so many today.
The story follows Arnold Spirit as he deals with inferior educational opportunities, resentment, racism, alcoholism, poverty, despair, and death -- at levels that are mostly unheard of for most American youngsters. He also experiences many of the themes familiar to most American teenagers, such as love interests, family concerns and conflicts, friendship issues, and popularity. For the most part, Arnold handles himself well, and he is rewarded for his efforts even as he constantly has to weigh his actions and decisions in the context of his two different worlds.
This is really a very good and very memorable book. Its target audience is young people, but I highly recommend it especially for adults. While mature young people should be fine with it, the language and some of the themes seemed a little strong or harsh for younger or less mature readers.
In my younger and more vulnerable years a certain college professor of mine gave me some advice that I have been turning over in my head ever since.
"EIn my younger and more vulnerable years a certain college professor of mine gave me some advice that I have been turning over in my head ever since.
"Everyone," he said, "should learn something about everything, and everything about one thing."
I took that advice to heart. I had always, from the time I was a small child, yearned for and actively sought out broad-based knowledge -- the somethings about everything -- but I had not, until a little over 25 years ago, decided upon a specific subject about which I wanted to learn everything. Then I began studying native American history. I was more than enthralled. It was so fascinating. Finally I had discovered a subject that I truly wanted to know everything about.
But it was the specific story of the Nez Perce people that especially caught my attention and my interest. So over the past several years I have managed to become somewhat of an expert on the subject, albeit an amateur one. I have read nearly every book on the subject, and this one is the latest.
Nez Perce Summer, 1877 is certainly the most thorough telling of the story of the 1877 war from the perspective of the U.S. military. Details of military communications, maneuvers, strategies as well as biographical details of military personnel that are not described in any other work abound in this one. It is also one of the best for describing the routes taken by the various military parties and the Indians themselves. It is a very commendable effort.
For my part, however, because my sympathies and my interests lie more closely with the Nez Perce, I found some of the military-related details to be a little excessive, leading me to consider this tome slightly less interesting than some of the other histories I have read on the subject -- purely a matter of personal taste....more
Nathaniel Philbrick has become one of my favorite authors. I've still yet to read his perhaps most famous book In the Heart of the Sea, but I have reaNathaniel Philbrick has become one of my favorite authors. I've still yet to read his perhaps most famous book In the Heart of the Sea, but I have read, and thoroughly enjoyed, his Sea of Glory and Mayflower; and now I have finished his latest: The Last Stand.
Each of these books was intriguing and interesting from the first page to the last. The Last Stand of course is the story of George Armstrong Custer and the last days of the free Lakota people. My sentiments are always with the Lakota. Their life on the plains seems so appealing to me, and I feel it is such a shame that such a precious culture and way of life had to be so ruthlessly destroyed -- that we and the native inhabitants of this land today no longer have the option of living that culture.
I very much enjoyed and appreciated this book. For me, the maps were wonderful. I always try to visualize the terrain and the troop movements when I read histories like this, and without good maps it is nearly impossible to do so. The author's ability to present each of the major players in this drama as a real person with both good and bad qualities was exceptional....more
Yellow Wolf is a name I first heard more than 40 years ago. My father had read a little about the Nez Perce War of 1877, and he spoke occasionally aboYellow Wolf is a name I first heard more than 40 years ago. My father had read a little about the Nez Perce War of 1877, and he spoke occasionally about the mistreatment of the Nez Perce and the heroism of the few warriors who fought the government soldiers while protecting their tribe and families as they were chased over a thousand miles from their homeland. Yellow Wolf was just one of those warriors, and because of the foresight and dedication of L.V. McWhorter we have his first-hand account about this sad and embarrassing episode in our nation's history.
Because of Yellow Wolf and McWhorter many important points of the "official" history (written of course by the white victors of this war) have been questioned and even proven to be false. The capacity of the military leadership to brag and exaggerate their "successes" -- not just in this war, but in every war I've read about -- never fails to sicken me. In the case of this war, they would have surely gotten away with their deceit had it not been for the dedication of McWhorter and perhaps a few others along with willing Indian participants like Yellow Wolf who managed to bring the Indian side of this story into the public light.
This is the 13th book on this specific subject that I have read. Needless to say, it is probably my favorite subject to study, yet I still feel myself to be far from an expert. This book is probably my favorite of them all. But I would only recommend it to people who have read at least one other more contemporary book about the war. Spoken in Yellow Wolf's own manner of speech (so different from modern white communication) and omitting most geographical and military details, it would leave less educated readers a little confused. But for me this book was excellent and unforgettable. ...more
The fascinating history of the Comanche Indians and their interactions with the white civilization that encroached upon their homeland. The brutalityThe fascinating history of the Comanche Indians and their interactions with the white civilization that encroached upon their homeland. The brutality described in this book is relentless and sometimes hard to read, especially knowing that these events (kidnapping, torture, killing, etc. even to young children) really happened.
No other tribe was so powerful, so free, so feared, or so successful for so long at keeping and maintaining their culture and their land against the white civilization that coveted it. Of course, in the end they could not prevail against the relentless onslaught of a seemingly inexhaustible population of whites.
This was a book that was interesting and well written from cover to cover. I almost didn't want it to end....more
I was a little leery about reading this book. Despite having won some major awards in its day and having very high ratings here on goodreads and on amI was a little leery about reading this book. Despite having won some major awards in its day and having very high ratings here on goodreads and on amazon, and despite its subject matter being exactly the kind of reading material that I generally devour wholeheartedly, I was still reluctant because of a couple of things. First, the book is promoted as being the true love story of the kidnapped white girl, Cynthia Ann Parker, and her Comanche husband, Nocona. I just don't do love stories, they always seem so unbelievable. Then, the picture on the cover of this book also scared me a little as it somewhat resembled the cover art on many typical romance novels, which I abhor. The fact that this book was written by a woman also scared me a little -- I was pretty sure she would really unrealistically sweeten up the love story aspect of this otherwise amazing history (yes, I know that sounds terribly sexist of me -- but I have since repented).
Well, I was mostly wrong. I very much enjoyed this great book of historical fiction. From previous historical books that I have read I knew quite a bit about the story of the Comanche Indians and of Cynthia Ann Parker and her famous son Quanah, the last great chief of the Comanches. Reading this book greatly added to my knowledge. Few stories in history are as amazing as this one, and reading about it for 600 pages was really a pleasure. For me, the best parts were the depictions of the life of the Comanche people as they roamed the vast prairies of modern-day Texas, surviving by hunting, raiding, and putting to use generations worth of ingenuity and experience.
Some people seem to have a problem with the violence depicted in this novel. But it really is not gratuitous. Nearly unimaginable violence occurred in this history. To ignore it or try to smooth it over would be wrong. My sympathies will always lean more toward the Native Americans, and I think this book tends to lean slightly that way also as the author seems to really attempt to truthfully tell the stories of many people (and many victims). But I believe when people learn the truth of this history, most people will recognize that wrongs were committed on all sides, but the Native American people as a whole suffered so much more....more
The stories of six boys and two girls who were kidnapped (in separate incidents) by Indians (Comanche and Apache) from their homes in the hill countryThe stories of six boys and two girls who were kidnapped (in separate incidents) by Indians (Comanche and Apache) from their homes in the hill country of Texas during the 1860's. The events surrounding their capture are shocking and disturbing because of their brutality. Yet, on the other hand, the lives these children led after being assimilated into their new families and tribes were exciting, adventuresome, and fulfilling to such a degree that they all suffered greatly upon being forced back into the white man's culture.
Probably the most distressing story was that of Temple Friend who was kidnapped at the age of 8 (in the most horrific Indian attack I have ever read) and returned to his family at age 13. After spending nearly all of his memorable life with the Comanches, Temple simply could not or would not make the transition, and after being "home" for only two years he slowly just died at the age of 15.
This was truly a good book. I loved every minute that I spent reading it. The only problem I had with it was that it didn't really tell the whole story -- but only because it could not be told without a lot of literary license, which would have turned this book into historical fiction. So much of what these captives and their captors could have told us has never been recorded, and those people who knew them are all dead now too. Nevertheless, the author did a fantastic job of putting together the pieces and creating a coherent and memorable story....more
In one of my college courses more than 25 years ago, the professor told his class that everyone should know a little about nearly everything and nearlIn one of my college courses more than 25 years ago, the professor told his class that everyone should know a little about nearly everything and nearly everything about one thing. I kind of took that advice to heart. I have tried to learn about as many different subjects as possible, and while doing so I discovered the subject that I wanted to become an expert about. The subject was the history of native Americans as their cultures clashed with the encroaching white culture. Later I narrowed the subject even more to the specific study of the Nez Perce or Nimipu (meaning the real people) as they called themselves. So, in accordance with my professor's advice, I have read close to 30 books on the general subject and exactly 12 books on the specific subject -- the latest being The Last Indian War by Elliott West.
This book was superb in every way. While it doesn't attempt to be the definitive description of everything that occurred during this episode, it did shed a large amount of new light (at least to me) on some important aspects. For just one example, a lengthy discussion on the background of electronic communication throughout the sparsely populated West enlightened me about the details of how the military was able to coordinate their pursuit of the Nez Perce. It also made clear how incomprehensible such technology was to the Nimipu, and how it led to their ultimate defeat.
In summary, this book was excellent in the analysis of the Nez Perce War. It was also very well written -- completely absorbing to read, and it gave good, but brief, descriptions of all the major events.
Great overall history of the Nez Perce war of 1877. But what makes this book really exceptional are the hundreds of pictures that accompany the story-Great overall history of the Nez Perce war of 1877. But what makes this book really exceptional are the hundreds of pictures that accompany the story-telling....more