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In the Hands of the Great Spirit: The 20,000-Year History of American Indians
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In the Hands of the Great Spirit: The 20,000-Year History of American Indians

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  268 ratings  ·  21 reviews
The story of the American Indians has, until now, been told as a 500-year tragedy, a story of violent and fatal encounters with Europeans and their diseases, followed by steady retreat, defeat, and diminishment. Yet the true story begins much earlier, and its final recent chapter adds a major twist. Jake Page, one of the Southwest's most distinguished writers and a longtim ...more
Hardcover, 480 pages
Published March 25th 2003 by Free Press
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Average rating 3.99  · 
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 ·  268 ratings  ·  21 reviews

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Dec 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A few years ago I took a college level course dealing with history. I got into a dispute with the teacher about time lines. She refused to draw one for the class while I vehemently defended time lines, stating that they put things into perspective and helped students find their way through a confusing array of facts.

Well, we never got a time line and since she was the most beautiful teacher I've ever had, I was distracted enough during her lectures that the time line was forgotten, but I stand b
Apr 04, 2010 rated it it was ok
Broad to a fault, the scope of this one-volume history dabbles in everything you need to know about Native American history without telling you anything you probably already didn't. There are no stylistic merits to speak of, beyond a generic readability that slips by unnoticed and un-relished. It isn't that Page doesn't respect his subject; it's that his respect lends an air of detachment, as if he were afraid to engage with it and bring something new to the discussion. If you have somehow manag ...more
Jonna Higgins-Freese
Aug 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I've never before read a history book whose author had such a wry and self-deprecating sense of humor:

"not being witless, they . . . "

Regarding the inadvertent aspects of the invention of agriculture: "People living in more permanent sites would tend to disturb the ground underfoot, leading to colonization by opportunistic weedy plants (as every lawn tender knows)" (56).

"By 700 BC, whatever was going on at Poverty Point . . . "

Pre-maize horticulture: "Other plants that became widely cultivated,
Apr 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
An excellent and well-balanced history of native Americans. The book is readable and the author writes with a dry humor. The book can plod a little, but perhaps this is inevitable given the book’s scope. Page’s writing is lively, sympathetic and clear.

Page’s judgment is particularly good. Much of the writing in this field can be emotional or of an ax-grinding nature. Page does a good job describing the diversity and complexity of American Indians. Page presents Indians as a people struggling to
Rita Walton
May 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Really informative interesting, well-written with a good, personable style.
Woods N.
Dec 13, 2017 rated it liked it
Lots of good information, but this should be 4 books instead of 1.
Eva Göllner
Sep 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I picked up this one at the gift shop of Monument Valley, the kind of thing you buy at these places, right? But then I not only actually started reading it on the plane home to Germany, I also finished the whole 20.000 Year History of the Amercan Indian three weeks later. There's a natural limit to how much you can convey on a little over 400 pages, so the sheer amount of facts and stories is a little overwhelming. But the book gave me an inkling of an understanding of the big picture, apart fro ...more
Oct 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
Oh to begin to fill the huge gaps in my knowledge of Native Americans! The more I read the more I realize how little I know. The more I read, the more I realize that our education is actual more than lacking the full picture it is an offense to the truth.

Most of us know little to nothing of the true civilization and huge populations that existed before Contact. This book goes into detail about not only culture and also geographic, ethnographic, anthropology and archaeology. Stories are interlac
May 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
Excellent book, well researched, written to help one to know the American Indians and get a complete picture of who they are. The story is tragic. The Indians were treated inhumanely even into the 20th century. It is estimated there were 18 million Indians in what is now the 48 United States. One hundred years ago there were only a quarter million alive. Today there are several million, a difficult number to determine because many whites and blacks claim to be Indians, for profit. For 500 years ...more
Wayland Smith
May 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
This was a remarkably well researched history of the people that eventually became known as American Indians. While the history of the various nations in the times since the Europeans are important, there is a lot more to their story, and this helps fill in some of those blanks.

Archeology plays a major part of this book, since there's not much else left from thousands of years ago. Page does a great job of assembling information from what remains, and telling a long, complicated story.

Tori Tee
May 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
An amazing insight into the long history of the 'first Americans'. A great balance between detailed recounts of events, yet a broad enough stroke through the history to explain the major parts of the history for the last 20,000 years.

A wonderful book, concise yet still detailed, full of emotion and accuracy in the telling of the the tragic events, but not being too romantic over the good times either.

A must read for anyone interested in developing their knowledge of this remarkable group of peo
Jun 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book provides a very broad overview of Native Americans in North America. Of course, spanning 20,000 years in less than 500 pages leads to an overload of information. However, the stories and facts shared by the author are discussed in great detail throughout. Being from the Midwest region of the U.S., I'm already quite familiar with important figures and events that occurred in this region (i.e. Tecumseh versus William Henry Harrison), so I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about European/A ...more
Mar 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: american-history
This is a fairly concise account of the '20,000-year history of American Indians', going right from the very first inhabitants of the continent all the way up to the present day. It's very thorough and broad-ranging but, as is inevitable, it lacks depth in a lot of places, if only because there's just so much material and history to get through. It's well-written and engaging, if a little too colloquial at times. It's not quite as heart-wrenching as Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, which I'd heart ...more
Jan 13, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book gives an incredible overview, bringing history and values of native peoples of North America through centuries up to present day struggles for justice including issues around water, land rights, gambling, and community health.
Mar 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015
I wanted to get an overview of many years and many different cultures. He pulled this off without being too crazy. Also, since there was a passage on Mormon's I was able to gauge his accuracy, and he seemed pretty well-balanced.
Aug 24, 2012 marked it as to-read
Shelves: 2012-new
Feb 11, 2015 added it
Shelves: book-collector
Very interesting. \n\nPacked with information. I'm sure I didn't really absorb a good portion of it.
Dec 09, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not a bad book at all. The value is in the details as I already know Europeans treated American Indians terribly from the first contact.
Dec 23, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very well written and quite informative. I can not say I read this book cover to cover, more of a purusing sort of read. I found it quite to my liking for content and historical understanding.
Diskor Toomingas
Mar 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Feb 18, 2008 rated it really liked it
Excellent recollection of the times of Native Indians
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James Keena "Jake" Page, Jr. was the founding editor of Doubleday's Natural History Press, as well as editorial director of Natural History magazine and science editor of Smithsonian magazine. He has written more than forty books on the natural sciences, zoological topics, and Native American affairs, as well as mystery fiction.
“Burials in Cahokia could be astonishingly elaborate. In one, a man was buried on a bed of twenty thousand beads of shell. Nearby three people were buried at teh same time along with eight hundred arrowheads and a host of other objects. These were probably close relatives, sacrifieced at the death of the great man. Also nearby, more than fifty women between the ages of eighteen and twenty-three were interred, evidently strangled as part of a funeral ceremony.” 1 likes
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