In a series of powerful and moving documents, anthropologist Peter Nabokov presents a history of Native American and white relations as seen through Indian eyes and told through Indian voices: a record spanning more than five hundred years of interchange between the two peoples. Drawing from a wide range of sources - traditional narratives, Indian autobiographies, government transcripts, firsthand interviews, and more - Nabokov has assembled a remarkably rich and vivid collection, representing nothing less than an alternative history of North America. Beginning with the Indian's first encounters with the earliest explorers, traders, missionaries, settlers, and soldiers and continuing to the present, Native American Testimony presents an authentic, challenging picture of an important, tragic, and frequently misunderstood aspect of American history.
Peter Nabokov is professor of American Indian Studies and World Arts and Cultures at UCLA. His previous books include A Forest of Time, Native American Testimony, Native American Architecture (with Robert Easton), Indian Running, Two Leggings: The Making of a Crow Warrior, and Architecture of Acoma Pueblo
Of all the books that I had to read for my Native American Lit class, I liked this one the best. I was particularly fond of the format throughout the text. Each chapter began with a few pages of American Indian history on a particular topic, which was then followed by Indian autobiographies. This book provided an in depth look at North America's darker past that can't be found in a typical history textbook.
"There were twelve of us, but they are all dead now, except one sister. Most of them didn't even grow up. My big brother, Tom, and his wife were killed b the flu in 1917. I lost my own little boy thirty-five years ago. I was a hundred miles away, caught in a blizzard. A doctor couldn't be found for him soon enough. I was told it was measles. Last year I lost another baby boy, a foster child. This time they told me it was due to some intestinal trouble. So in a lifetime we haven't made much progress. We medicine men try to doctor our sick, but we suffer from many new white man's diseases, which come from the white man's food and the white man's living and we have no herbs for that"
By the time I got to John Fire Lame Deer's passage in Native American Testimony, 300 pages into this compilation of words from those that lived the worst of U.S. history, I started to cry. Lame Deer lived from 1900 to 1970, past the moves to reservations and the "official" Native American wars. And yet this man had lost all but one member of a twelve-member family. Should I ever live through such death and destruction, I would be the only member left in my family, burying a mother and father and two sisters. I cannot imagine this.
Lame Deer's story is not unique in Native American Testimony; it was one sad story in a sea of them, stretching across thousands of miles and hundreds of years. And while all these stories are sad, a few of them hit you the gut, squeeze your heart, make you cry.
This is a very instructive book. And while I can try to assuage my guilt while reading of such terror--I never took anyone's land or gave out small-pox blankets or any other egregious act against the conquered and oppressed, this book serves as a reminder that many of us benefit from the history outlined and retold with this book's pages, the history that has shaped and continues to shape the world as we know it.
A shocking retelling of American history that counters the dominant American narrative. The multiple Native American perspectives show a history of (cultural) genocide, betrayal and forced assimilation. Even though painful, this book is also an homage to the resilience and endurance of Native American cultures that are still so very much alive today!
There are not many occasions in which I don't want books to end. Sure, lots of books reel me in in certain ways, but it takes a rare emotional connection with a book for me to actually feel anguish that a book ended so soon. Native American Testimony ended about 26 years too soon, with its first-hand accounts ending before the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus's arrival in the Americas, when, of course, there is still much talk that has happened since that point. If editor Peter Nabokov were to compile yet another follow-up edition to this book and include Native American testimony from the past quarter-century, I would eat it up so fast. I was so hungry for more stories the more I got into this book.
Nabokov's collection of tales and accounts from indigenous sources span the entire 500 years that the foreword by Vine Deloria mentions; the sources included in this book are meant to show just what a huge time frame and huge upheaval has occurred since the arrival of the white man. It's a lovely, sad, harrowing, inspiring and uplifting set of stories from all over Indian Country. Some are oral tradition told by elders by the elders they knew when they were a child. Some are observations of events happening around them as the white man encroached on their territories, cultures and money. Some were memoirs of childhood or old age, a dichotomy of voices from different eras and different stories.
Yet despite the differences in content and speakers, Native American Testimony somehow had one theme in common: remembrance. At times the book was very sad, devastating, even; at other times it was nostalgic; and still at others it was a humorous glance back into time, with Native speakers jesting about their experiences with that special brand of reservation humor. Every short excerpt was fascinating and had something to offer me while I was reading, and I found myself inspired to read more and more about Native experiences—as if my reading list in that subject area isn't a million miles long already—writing down names of books and writers and thinkers and leaders to research later. I really can never get enough of Native American literature in any form, and I feel as though all the questions that were raised by this book were only begun to be answered here. I'm floored by the level of diversity in all of the chapters in this book, and I feel inspired to continue learning more and educating myself on this topic.
Nabokov merits praise for NAT in many respects. First, and foremost IMHO, is the tremendous diversity of NA voices he chose to represent their perspectives of their 500 years of interaction with the EuroAmericans who invaded, and in the process destroyed, their world. Some of them were famous people whom I have read about elsewhere: Tecumseh, Black Elk, Chief Joseph of the Nez Perces, Cochise, Crazy Horse, and Geronimo. There were many others whom I have not encountered in my studies of NA history and culture over the last few years.
Second, the author organized all of this in a highly systematic way according to the historical trends which evolved in the interactions between mainstream Euroamerican society and the NA nations. By providing a 4-6 page introduction summarizing the major issues and events of each of these eras he did an excellent job of putting these different voices in context for the reader.
Third, Nabokov made NAT highly readable through the use of a relatively direct prose. Dozens of drawings or photos of the individuals depicted in the book greatly enhanced my engagement.
Finally, there are no footnotes in the text but there are 17 pages of sources at the end of the book. Thus, readers can readily follow up on their own regarding some of these individuals or issues which are presented. More specifically, I came away with a handful of people whom I will study further in the coming months.
There is one relative flaw with NAT. While any one voice is generally brief there are so many of them that the book gets to be slow going towards the end. Fewer voices might have made it less comprehensive but somewhat faster paced.
Overall, I recommend NAT for anyone wanting to get a clear, powerful sense of the extent to which Native Americans have struggled valiantly with the assault EuroAmericans have inflicted on them since the time of Columbus. Unlike nonfiction books which tend to explore and explain issues conceptually this book does it on a very personal level. Thus, it is poignant if not distressing, at times.
Nabokov did such a fine job that I shall look to read other books written by him in the future.
This is the first comprehensive book on Native American history that I have read, but I have a feeling it's one of the most comprehensive books out there because the research is thorough and plentiful and comes from the voices of actual native people. I am not a Native American history scholar so I can't call out any holes in this, but I felt there were a wide variety of perspectives from different Native people without giving any empathy to the atrocities colonizers have committed and are currently committing.
No one book can cover the whole of an entire continent's history, but I appreciate Nabokov's attention to detail. I'm also grateful for the forward by Vine Deloria Jr. Without it I don't know if I would have gone into the book with as much humility and humanity as it requires. The way this collection is put together is very different from any textbook I have read and I think it's for the better because history really is a collection of experiences. And I have never personally seen a book that addresses history from the perspective that no person giving testimonial knew what would happen next, and makes the reader think about how political choices were made in the moment.
Overall I would gladly recommend this book to anyone looking for a comprehensive overview of Native American history from "prophecy to present". It answered a lot of questions and questioned a lot of answers.
Read portion of this book - after hearing about this book from a young friend who is attending college on a reservation in Menomonee County, Wisconsin. This "text book" type book provides interesting historical stories passed down orally from generations from most tribes living in North America. Some represented a time in the life of indigenous groups prior to European presence. I focused on those tribes that occupied the Wisconsin territories.
Such a thorough history and look at different periods and perspectives! Incredibly well documented and well worth reading. Some accounts and images will really stay with you, powerful symbols of grief and loss and incredible knowledge.
EXCELLENT! An excerpt (Little Hill - Winnebago) "It was not a good country. It was all dust. Whenever we cooked anything, it would be full of dust. We found out after a while we could not live there...There was not enough to eat. The first winter one party started down the Missouri River as far as Fort Randall, where they wintered. Before the superintendent left us (the first fall after we went there), he had a cottonwood trough made and put beef in it, and sometimes a whole barrel of flour and a piece of pork, and let it stand a whole night, and the next morning after cooking it, would give us some of it to eat. We tried to use it, but many of us got sick on it and died. I am telling nothing but the truth now. They also put in the unwashed intestines of the beeves and the liver and lights, and, after dipping out the soup, the bottom would be very nasty and offensive. Some of the old women and children got sick on it and died..."
This book is fascinating and very enjoyable. It is not a book to sit down and read all at once, but in small doses. (I found it easy to read during lunch breaks) and then come back to it later, again and again. The book is as described testimonies Native Americans. There is a lot of history in the book I have never considered and makes me want to read more of the Native American history. The book also makes me wonder why anyone would trust the American government. It shows some of the e short sightedness of our government and policies of the government can change and negate previous treaties as those in power desire. It could be a primer on what is happening Washington at this time, except they are doing it to all citizens.
Preliminary comments: this book is for school, a class in Native American literature. This is a really fascinating topic, the history of our country and the relationship (or lack thereof) with the people that were here when the white Europeans arrived. This particular book has the testimonies in print handed down through oral tradition so that you can read first-hand accounts and also the stories passed down through the generations about the events that were going on as far back as the 16th and 17th century through present day.
This took me months to read. The testimony is searing, and the editor/antholiger (just made that word up...) is good at contextualizing the testimony. It was a gripping read, at times, but I had to read it in sections and sometimes got lost... I would like to be in a class or group discussing how many things in the book are still relevant, like the relationship between archeologists and native peoples, and sacred places, and freedom of religion that is an earth religion...
Read this for my American Indian Studies class (diversity credit, yes!). Testimonials from various american indians on white relations very insightful and my teacher (full-blooded Chippewa) was a hoot.
Most Americans' knowledge of American history is through the eyes of the white majority who settled that. This book carefully gathers together a wealth of stories from numerous different tribes, and it covers five main periods of history from Columbus to the present time. I highly recommend it.