In her book North American Indians: A Comprehensive Account, Alice Kehoe appears to give a straightforward account of the history of North America from the point of view of the Native Americans. The textbook covers the periods from when humans first inhabited the North American continent, some fifteen thousand years ago, and continues through to the present. Due to the immense size and diversity of the North American continent, the text is written so that each chapter covers a geographical region of the continent. The regions covered range from the rich lands of Mexico, through the eastern and western United States, through the forests of Canada, and concluding at the Arctic Circle. Each chapter covers the region’s history, people, culture, ways of life, and the circumstance that caused its cultural identity to collapse. The book culminates with chapters on the trials and tribulations that the Native American nations will face as they enter into the twenty-first century and a chapter on how anthropologists view American Indians. The author emphasizes several key points and occurrences in the history of the natives of North America and their impact on the Indian populations.
While her book discusses the heritages, languages, knowledge, technology, arts, and values that have been passed down through generations; it seems that Ms. Kehoe’s intention is to point out the injustices that have been perpetrated on the Native American population by the Europeans and Euro-Americans over the last five centuries. She also describes the devastation that was brought upon the Indian populations by the early European settlers of American and Mexico. She lists several examples of diseases decimating tribes, and over hunting by the
Europeans and Euro-Americans causing a shortage of available game, resulting in famine. Ms. Kehoe also discusses the exploitation of the Native Americans and the unjust treaties that were imposed on them, and then subsequently violated.
Although current historical references and works now seem to give a fairly accurate portrayal of the injustices done to the Indians, I remember earlier school texts referring to the Indians as primitive savages who were eventually educated and brought the benefits of civilization. I remember reading of the massacres perpetrated by the Indians against the early western settlers, and of how Indians attacked and burned villages during the early colonization of American and the revolutionary war. The books that I read, and movies I watched, usually portrayed the Indians as the bad guys. No reference was ever made to the injustices or atrocities inflicted by the whites. These earlier books and films have not portrayed this part of history accurately.
Based on what I have read, researched, and gathered from this text and other sources, I must concur with Alice Kehoe in her assessment of the negative and devastating effects that European colonization has had on the Native American populations of this continent.
One of the most devastating effects seems to be the deterioration of Native American culture and traditions as they have slowly and painfully been assimilated into American, Canadian, and Mexican societies.
Since the anthropological concept of culture is defined as everything that a people have, think, and do as members of a society, it is important to understand this when dealing with the history of the Native American populations. The various natives of North America developed different cultures due to their diverse ecology. The author emphasizes that an understanding of cultural geography is an important backbone in the historical study of Native Americans.
By knowing the geographic location of a tribe, it is possible to predict its major food resources, nomadic or sedentary settlement, political structure, and so forth.
The text states that cultural areas exist…