In the Hands of the Great Spirit by Jake Page: an extended book report

After finishing Blood and Soil I grew interested in the injustice against Native Americans by Europeans. Part of that injustice is the false education I received on Indian history. The Native Americans were no more savages than the warring tribes who overtook them by disease, famine, and outright genocide. I walked down the aisle in my public library where I might find American Indian history and came across Jake Page's In the Hands of the Great Spirit: The 20,000-Year History of American Indians. Jake Page seems to have credentials as a former Smithsonian and Natural History editor who has lived among the Hopi Indians for many years in the Southwest. He's written other specific tribal Indian histories as well. He synthesizes archeology, history, and anthropology really well. His writing style is almost conversational, but not informal. In the next few posts I will share some quotes on pre-contact history then highlight some of his research on the interaction between Indians and the church with a few atrocities mixed in to keep it real.
By the way, Page writes that their is no satisfactory noun to speak of Native Americans. He mostly uses Indians despite its geographic ignorance.
Today's quote is from his introduction.
The day before Christopher Columbus sighted land in the New World, a far more complex world existed in this hemisphere than most of us have been led to believe, and it had been here longer than most people could imagine until recently. Perhaps the most lasting misperception of the American Indians is that, in their pristine, pre-Columbian state, they were mostly hunters and gatherers. Part of this picture is also that, as hunters and gatherers, they lived gently on the land in a kind of benign ecological mutuality and in relative peace, until their life-ways were skewed by the coming of the Europeans.

In fact, most people in North America were not chiefly hunters of gatherers but agriculturalists. Most of them by far lived in villages, small and large. They had made significant changes in the nature of the American landscape, clearing plots of land, diverting streams, creating irrigation channels, building huge mounds, burning large areas to encourage new vegetative growth and the presence of such animals as deer. Fire was used as well as a herding device. The Indians were, tot he degree they were capable, engineers of the landscape. Even the buffalo hunters of the Plains had long been constructing clever arrangements of the land in which to trap their prey, and some evidence suggests that they were not always above wantonly killing more than they needed. (92)
I guess things would have turned out differently if they weren't vulnerable to European diseases which killed more than the Europeans themselves.

See more book reports and posts on Native Americans.


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