Skip to navigation – Site map

Frederick E. Hoxie, ed. The Oxford Handbook of American Indian History

Caroline Williams

Index terms

Top of page

Full text

1Frederick E. Hoxie, ed. The Oxford Handbook of American Indian History

2Oxford University Press, 2016.  30 chapters. Pp. 644. ISBN: 9780199858897.

3Caroline Williams

4University of East Anglia

5Often, students try and understand Native American histories through the eyes of the colonizer, leaving so many gaps and silences left up to the imagination, that are consequently fueled by imagery and misperceptions in popular culture. The surface histories seem well-known—wars, trails of tears, casinos—but the sub-surface culture and knowledge—economic infrastructure based on knowledge of the land, religion, kinship, interrelatedness—what makes a society or a nation, rarely gets seen or heard. What these chapters collectively do, is scratch away at that surface culture we are all so familiar with, uncovering what it is to be Native American in the 21st century, by providing multiple voices on the overarching theme of American Indian History. The authors are careful to illustrate the agency and activism enacted by indigenous peoples as players in their own history, employing varying techniques such as storytelling to illustrate their points. The Oxford Handbook of American Indian History offers three very different ways of understanding the diverse histories of what are today 567 distinct indigenous nations.  Split into three partsthe chronological, the regional, and the thematic historiesthe authors of this collected works each bring unique perspectives and voices together to showcase the diversity of experiences, reactions, and continued adaptations that indigenous peoples faced as players in the global economies.

6While part 1—consisting of 8 chapters—is essential reading for any scholar wishing to teach Native American history, and provides a great starting point for students wishing to launch into any of the many topics covered, the voices of Native American peoples are missing; incidentally this is exactly what Wesson states in his opening chapter: “the most meaningful sources of information about the ancient past may prove to be living Native American peoples” (35). Starting with creation stories, oral traditions, or voices of elders, would have grounded this volume, by placing the history from an Indigenous point of view. That being said, part 2—which has 11 chapters—does exactly that, it relates the regional and tribal histories in specific stories of the people. Students studying a particular time (part 1) and place (part 2) would be wise to read the corresponding chapters in conjunction with each other. For students who are learning about regional histories, the chapters in part 2 provide a much needed context of not just the historical events that underpin todays nations, but the sacred history, ceremony, language, and ties to the land, which underpin indigenous worldviews and provide any student with the base knowledge needed to then be able to critically understand the history. The big themes section—totaling 11 chapters—connects the topics from the past into the contemporary, with the often unforgotten history between World War II and the present day.  While this book could never be a comprehensive history of everything, a mention of some of the cutting edge research from the past few years on Native Designers of High Fashion, American Indian graffiti muralism, and advertising and television, would have nicely complimented the existing scholarship on indigenous peoples as players in the global economies.

7Overall, the strengths of the edited collection are the attention payed to gender, agency, and activism, and the approach that Native Americans continually adapted their economies and infrastructure from time immemorial in order to meet the needs of their communities.  This transformation has continued into the present day, and is the only reason that Native American peoples did not vanish, but continue to thrive as players in a global world. As the first of its kind, and written by the leading experts in the field, this book is a must for scholars who are introducing Native American history to students who may not have otherwise been taught the subject from an indigenous point of view. What follows is a chapter-by-chapter breakdown.

Introduction (pages 1-14)

8Hoxie has written the complex introduction in an approachable manner, making it easy for American History scholars to understand the flawed scholarship based from the Turnerian framework which underpins the publics ongoing perceptions about Native Americans. Hoxie explores the new questions arising from Native American scholarship of the 70s onwards, and lays out the necessity for this book, giving an overview of what the important questions are for anyone teaching American history today. This book is a must for American Historians. The introduction ends with an example from Louise Erdrich's the Round House written as a visualization of Tribal/Federal jurisdiction in terms that the readers can understand. The example echoes Hoxie's point, the need for students to both understand the genocide that has taken place while simultaneously recognizing the "remarkable story of indigenous survival" (13).

Part 1: Major Chapters in the Native American Past (pages 15-169)

9Cameron B. Wesson starts the chronological historiography chapters, with the normal western academic choice, the archaeological examination of pre-contact. By examining the problems faced by archaeologists in regards to data and theory, Wesson makes some very sound arguments that resonate across every disciplinary field; the historic and prehistoric archaeologists "had little contact with each other or with the Native American societies they studied" (19). The chapter has some great starting points for anyone wanting to explore this era further, and introduces readers to the complexities of relying on archaeological findings to substantiate culture in contemporary Native American societies. The analysis of the archaeological information is crucial as it underpins everything we think we know about Native American cultural history, and could easily be the topic of its own book. After giving "the faintest outlines regarding the diversity of cultural practices in North America immediately prior to sustained contact with Europeans" Wesson leaves the reader with a lasting thought: "In the end, the most meaningful sources of information about the ancient past may prove to be living Native American peoples" (35).

10Robbie Ethridge introduces the "shatterzone" in his chapter on invasions and early settlements. This concept is a useful tool to help students understand the regional areas in which life dramatically changed. Ethridge provides useful statistics and dates that scholars have agreed on, for instance the "90 percent loss of Native life after contact" but breaks down the contributing factors, such as "incorporation into the modern world economy, slaving, internecine warfare, dropping fertility rates, violent colonial strategies such as genocide, and general cultural and social malaise from colonial oppression" (45). In this chapter, Ethridge paints a unique picture of agency within Native Nations, and collaboration across nations, showing indigenous people as players in this historical story, while simultaneously reinforcing the diversity of experiences depending on geographical region, economy, gender, and societal governance.

11Kathleen DuVal challenges common perception of the eighteenth century by explaining it as "reorganized but still [a] Native world" (58).  Elaborating on the theme of Native American peoples as players in a global economy, DuVal explores themes of global consumerism, highlighting the choices made by Nations to seek weapons, horses, to expand territory, to make alliances, and to forge alliances and fight back against European invasion. This chapter is a great reminder of the deliberate and strategic planning that Native American peoples enacted as players in the eighteenth century global history.

12Moving forward to the American Revolution, Claudio Saunt offers a new term for the diverse experiences during the era, suggesting that it "might be better understood as the Age of Imperial Expansion" (77).  While this is an impossible task to complete in ten pages, Saunt offers an important overview of the differences experienced between the small bands in California all the way up to Alaska, compared to the Plains Nations, and Nations in the East.  Together with DuVal's chapter, the reader is able to form a picture of just how different and unique each Nation's experience was depending on political and economic structures. This chapter is a must read for students who have a tendency to underestimate the different Native American experiences prior and during independence.

13John P. Bowes' chapter takes a geographical look "east from Indian country" between the War of 1812 and the massacre at Wounded Knee (1890) to explore the era through a frame work of not just the wars themselves, but the violence and genocidal acts initiated through federal Indian policy in an effort to free land for both natural resources and later the "desire for land" (93-109).  Bowes highlights acts and policies such as removal, and as with other authors in this collection, gives specific examples of how removal played out in the lives of Native American peoples at different times and at different ways. The Oregon Trail, and the California Gold rush as well as Richard Henry Pratt's infamous boarding school experiment are introduced, giving students a starting point for further research.  One of the strengths of this chapter is the detailed overview of an era that "did everything in its power to curb Indian freedom and to eliminate Native people as a physical and cultural presence in the American landscape" and yet despite best efforts to "Kill the Indian," "American Indians survived the assault" (106).

14Paul C. Rosier's chapter exploring the adaptation of Native American peoples between 1890 and 1960 creates a much needed narrative to replace the more commonly known story of the "vanishing Indian." Rosier looks historically at events throughout this seventy-year period, highlighting a few prominent political organizations: The Society of American Indians and The National congress of American Indians—to show the agency and active political participation of American Indian peoples in their own history.  Rosier also explains the Federal Government policies: Allotment, Federal Indian Boarding Schools, New Deal, Indian reorganization Act, Voluntary Relocation Program, and Termination—to show the diversity of reactions to such policies.  This important chapter—which explains the beginning of the Pan-Indian identity—places American Indian people as players in American history, with their own distinct identity as both Nations, and as a Pan-Indian community.

15Choosing to start the chapter with a sport theme—Billy Mills winning the 1964 gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics—and ending with Chris Eyre's iconic film Smoke Signals, Robert Warrior's chapter "The Indian Renaissance, 1960-2000: Stumbling to Victory, or Anecdotes of Persistence" paints a picture of the era in American history which is best known for its occupations and activism. After using Mills to introduce the era, Warrior moves onto the various movements that took place during this period. From the NIYC (National Indian Youth Council) which began in 1961, and led its support to activists fighting for treaty rights, the first occupation at Alcatraz Island (1964), and moving on to Deloria's tenure in the NCAI (National Congress of the American Indian), Warrior points to the "the most significant areas of American Indian activism in that period" (131). As the 60s turned to protest, and the Civil Rights movements took centre stage in the USA, Warrior turns his attention to the most recognizable events of the era such as the Alcatraz occupation, the rise in visibility of American Indian scholars and artists, the Trail of Broken Treaties Caravan, the Wounded Knee occupation, and the American Indian Movement (AIM).  By highlighting these events, Warrior (as with other scholars in this collection) place American Indian peoples as players firmly within the American master narrative. While mentioning the various self-determination legislation—the 1978 American Indian Child Welfare Act, the 1978 American Indian Religious Freedom Act, the 1990 Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, the 1990 Native American Languages Act—Warrior is quick to point out the deficiencies in the Rehnquist court, which led to limitations on tribal laws and consequently self-determination. In short, what this chapter illustrates for the reader is the inequality of American Indian life in the USA and the incredible ongoing efforts of activists to bring attention to and remedy such inequalities.

16Paul DeMain who incidentally "ran the vice-presidential campaign of Green Party candidate Winona LaDuke," concludes the Major Chapters in the Native American Past by bringing us up to 2015. DeMain, continues along the activist theme by highlighting successful campaigns such as Idle No More, explaining the role that new media has had and continues to have in not just activism, but in the creating awareness of Native America. DeMain is quick to point out that when problems occur, Native Nations are of the first to respond—the 2010 Gulf Oil Spill—and that American Indian peoples are actively leading the way in environmental issues. The strength of this chapter to complete the historical section is that it firmly places American Indian peoples and Native Nations in the present day, destroying imagery that the earlier chapters could verify, and instead showing a separate but equal race of people who are continuously adapting new technologies, the same as they have since time immemorial.

Part 2: Regional and Tribal Histories (pages 171-393)

17Jill Doerfler and Erik Redix begin part two with a much needed Native perspective, starting their chapter on The Great Lakes with an Ojibwe creation story. This grounding in oral tradition will not suit those who feel that history is all about quantifiable facts; which they address promptly by quoting Gerald Vizenor's stance that stories are about people (173). As a Native Studies scholar, I found this chapter refreshing and the style familiar as Doerfler and Redix normalized practices and terminology—such as oral tradition, ceremonies, kin networks, and utilizing Native American names—providing an informative and detailed history of the Great Lakes.  Starting with the fur trade—and giving an example of Bamewawageshikaqay (Jane Johnston Schoolcraft)—moving on to removal, treaties, Dakota 38 "the largest mass execution in US history" (184), allotment, boarding schools, WW I, WW2, and the Vietnam war, termination, relocation, AIM, and casinos, this chapter provides a much needed solid foundation for students in introductory courses.  

18Timothy J. Shannon complements the previous chapter with an in-depth history of the Iroquoia. Examining the Iroquois League through its origins, warfare, diplomacy, and through the treaty-making process and the creation of reservations and international boundaries, Shannon explains some of the fundamental structures to Iroquoian society; the importance of ceremony. Building off this, Shannon explores how the Iroquois gained attention across the Atlantic, as literature was published on the "eloquence and gravitas" of their treaty making process (209).

19James Brooks turns attention to The Southwest with his general overview of the area.  Starting the chapter with the concept of "life as movement" Brooks explains the history of the nations in the region who are often seen as "sedentary agriculturalists" (218).  Paying particular attention to the Zunis, Hopis, Hohokam, Oo'dham, Western Apaches, and Navajos, Brooks takes the time to explain the importance of ceremony to the Hopi—and Southwest—ecosystem (224), the "centrality of women" within Apache life (226), and the Navajo Long Walk and Stock Reduction Program (229).  This short chapter would have benefited from a few more current aspects of life in the Southwest, such as the hate crimes in Farmington, uranium mining, second generation Navajo relocates, and the increased use of Peace Maker courts on the Navajo Nation, as well as topics such as the increasing use of tradition food to combat high levels of diabetes among the Tohono O'odham, and the boarder issues within the Tohono O'odham nation.

20Jeffrey Ostler introduces the reader to the history of The Plains with a short passage by N. Scott Momaday. Using this literary text as a starting—and ending—point, Ostler tells the reader more than just a plotted history, he interweaves place, sacred history, ceremony, and language (the peoplehood matrix) as a way to understand the people and the region. For students and scholars who are unfamiliar with the interwovenness of ceremony into everyday life, this chapter provides some concrete examples to explore from—Old Woman Who Never Dies (235). The chapter covers all of the expected history, horticultural nations, equestrian nations, small pox epidemics, conflict, peace, reservations, boarding schools, Wild West shows, the Ghost Dance, paying attention to the sometimes forgotten role of women in the plains nations. Ostler ends his chapter by providing some great primary and literary resources for further research.

21Andrew H. Fisher begins the chapter with a scene from Smoke Signals pointing out that the history of the Pacific Northwest is often passed by because the nations there did "more fishing than fighting and produced fewer of the feathered braves on horseback that the Americans so admire" (253). That is not to say that the history of the Pacific Northwest is not without bloodshed; Indian fishing rights spurred some of the most violet hate crimes, such as "Native fishers being clubbed, tear-gassed, and dragged" (267) from areas which had been reserved for "off-reservation rights to hunt, fish, and gather at 'usual and accustomed' places" (261), which is reminiscent of the Tribble brothers (181). The chapter sees all too familiar stories of adaptation, conflict, assimilation, reservations and reserves, treaty making and breaking, battles and wars, allotment, termination, and tribal sovereignty. This chapter offers a unique strength: The Pacific Northwest nations cross the boundaries between Washington, British Columbia and Alaska, and as such the author explains how this unique area was affected by and is a player in the global economy.

22William J. Bauer Jr. takes us down coast to California where the history of indentured servitude and casinos is explained in relation to the indigenous population. After giving a brief introduction, Bauer tells the Tongva creation story, to illustrate the connection to place, to people's experiences, and to show the importance of indigenous knowledge. Californian natives offer another example of people who "changed their economic strategies in order to secure political sovereignty and maintain social cohesion" (275); they could not do so this without this indigenous knowledge. California natives were successful acorn harvests, using advanced prescribed fire techniques to cultivate the land, and creating a currency to trade throughout the region (279). The arrival of Spanish into the region changed all this as the "Spanish cut down oak trees and their livestock consumed grasses and acorns on which California Indian subsisted" (283). The indigenous population once again adapted, working for the Spanish, when the gold rush hit California. This was another turbulent time, when women and children were taken on as indentured servants, up to the ages of 25 or men and 21 for women (286). Genocide took hold, as ranchers tried to rid the native Californians from their land, leading to reservations, and treaties in a government effort to protect indigenous peoples. The story ends—after the termination of Rancherias and their reinstatement—with the "California Indians' ability to adapt and seek control over their lives" this time in the form of casinos and the Cabazon decision (293).

23Rosita Kaaháni Worl gives an account of Russian and American influences on the Alaska Native groups, and the near annihilation of the Aleut. While explaining the subsistence lifestyle and the different worldview—“it is not the people who govern land, but rather land and the spiritual beings of the land [who] prescribe relationships among humans as well as human relationships to the land" (311)—Worl takes the reader through the main landmarks in Alaska Native history: Russian traders, the sale of Alaska, the continued and all too familiar threats on subsistence life, the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, before ending with some cultural problems—"depressed economies in rural villages"— and cultural solutions—"cultural and linguistic revitalization" (312). Worl's chapter is strengthened by three strong examples of successful Alaska Native activism: the fight against Project Chariot and the Rampart Dam, and the "restrictions on the sale of stick and tax exemption for underdeveloped lands while also allowing for the enrollment of… those Natives born after 1971" (309, 311).  

24Christine Snyder writes a very comprehensive history of The South explaining the regional distinctiveness through the local creation stories, linking the history of the people to the land.  Snyder is quick to point out the continued adaptation of people from that region, highlighting the move to village life after the ice age. Snyder incorporates the ceremonial aspect of Mississippian culture, and thoroughly explains the leadership and politics of the once "smaller, independent communities" (319) into the "handful of powerful nations" (322) that we would recognize today. Highlighting some of the well-known historical landmarks—disease, wars, slavery, treaty-making, the Marshall Trilogy, removal, and ending with the increased economic benefits of casinos—Snyder also tells of the changes in gender roles with in the region. As this chapter continually tells the importance of place, ceremony, sacred history, and language this is a must read for students who sometimes struggle to understanding indigenous cultures from their own western framework.

25Neal Salisbury provides a much needed history of The Atlantic Northeast; an area in which the indigenous population often vanish from the American history books after the 1800s. The chapters start with the Ice Age and provides the adaptation that the regional groups went through up to the present day. Highlighting, as in previous chapters, the change to cultivated crops, and women's roles as the "principle food producers" (337) in societies, Salisbury explains the importance of wampum as a ceremonial object, and later as a currency, and a product to be sold in the global markets. Attention is paid to the languages, leadership, and economies, as the Atlantic Northwest peoples worked in conjunction and against the increasing newcomers to their lands. The ensuing invasions, wars, trading, land loss, removal, dispersion, and intermarriage, are all discussed as Salisbury explains the effect on the genders: women remaining "the principle source of continuity in Native communities," while men were fighting in the wars (348). As the numbers of non-native people continued to increase and America won the war of Independence, the indigenous population steadily declined until the beginning of the twentieth century, when "Native peoples devised striking new means of engaging with one another and with the non-Native world," such as the "Mohawk 'high steel' workers" (354). The 1960s brought the new wave of indigenous activism as AIM and others used the anniversary of the Mayflower and Thanksgiving to bring to light issues of injustice and civil rights (355). Again, ending with the casinos as a source of renewed economic stability, Salisbury manages to explore the all too common historical patterns, while still showing the cultural uniqueness of the groups in this area as well as the regional similarities encountered.

26Troy D. Smith gives a brilliant overview of Indian Territory and Oklahoma, paying attention to the original inhabitants, as well as the nations who were removed to the area. Explaining in detail the Wichita-Caddo Confederacy, "probably the largest indigenous group occupying the land that would later become Indian Territory," (361) Smith explains the interactions with the first visitors to the area, before continuing on to explain the Spanish, French, Spanish, and American possession of the region. The chapter swiftly moves on to removal, as the details around the "Five Civilized Tribes" expedition to Indian Territory are explored, paying careful attention to the internal decision making process and the piecemeal way that groups moved to the area. Two main strengths of the chapter are the way that Smith then continues with the other tribes that were removed to the region (366), and the affect that the Civil Ware had in Indian Territory, particularly in light of the slave trade within Native Nations (368). The allotment process and particularly the Curtis Act which "enforced allotment on all member of the Five Tribes" (374) is explained at bring more upheaval to economic life as the land was opened up to settlers. Before the chapter closes, Smith introduces the reader to the Meriam Report, explaining the failure of allotment and the boarding school system, which leads to the "revival of tribal governments and tribal culture in the formal Indian Territory" (375). Smith skips forward a few decade as the chapter ends with some figures from the 2010 census.     

27Gregory E. Smoak finishes the regional section with The Great Basin history which illuminates the environmental "obstacles and possibilities that human actors—both Native and non-Native—engaged with, transformed, and were transformed by, within the context of their own cultures and historical experiences" (377). Offering a Coyote creation story to link the local groups to the land, Smoak explains that life in the basin region was based on "small 'family clusters' … as much artifacts of history as they were the result of an unforgiving environment" (379). There were key differences in the diverse groups living in the region, from those who lived in the heart of the basin, and subsided on pinon nuts to the fishing communities who lived on the edges of the basin (381). Smoak points out that the kinship system in the region was bilateral, with many people multilingual, which made movement easier as need arose (381). Although no one came to the Great Basin before 1776, the local communities had felt the effects of "disease, horses, guns, and the market economy" (382).  The introduction of horses divided the region into two; "the groups to the north and east… because the Utes… and those to the south and west [the] Paiutes" (382). An accelerated change occurred when the need for labor arose, and the Utes took advantage of this economic opportunity, aiding nearby Paiutes and Shoshones (383). Smoak gives a thorough overview of the interactions with the Mormons and the local communities, explaining the creation of a Mormon reservation (384), before the federal government made and ratified treaties creating further reservations (386). Of particular interest is Smoak's explanation of Wovoka and the Ghost Dance (387). Smoak gives an interesting examination of the litigation brought forward by the Western Shoshones, as a way to gain compensation for broken treaties, ending in the forced settlements (390), before ending with a list of potential sources and scholarship for those wishing to conduct further research.

Part 3: Big Themes (395-614)

28Brenda J. Child begins part 3 with a review of gendered work roles within Ojibwe culture.  Using the story of Naynaabeak's quest for a fishing permit, Child highlights women's "spiritual and economic responsibility for water" and land, explaining that "water was a gendered space… [and that this] was a feature of an indigenous legal system that marked territory on a lake and demonstrated the power of women" (398).  The chapter explores how the reserved rights of the Ojibwe included wenji-bimaadiziyaang (from what or where we get our living, our life) and the conflict over fishing rights—as a result of the reservation and allotment systems—which directly relates to changes in "women's economic authority, family relationships, and patterns of work and subsistence" (402). Child then uses this analysis to explain gender and labor in other indigenous communities, offering a review of some of the more seminal works.

29David Jones offers a strong and insightful argument into the competing narratives of the causes and consequences of the populations decreases in the early contact periods. Starting off with the debate on population figures pre-contact, Jones explains that the well-known "virgin soil epidemic" theory is detrimental to the agency and resilience shown by indigenous peoples, producing a long-lasting racist attitude—leading to the view that Americans are Superhuman with their natural immunity and divine right to the land—that echoes into the current day. Jones offers an opposing theory of depopulation: "the epidemics among American Indians, despite there unusual severity, were caused by the same forces of poverty, malnutrition, social stress, dislocation, economic inequality, and environmental vulnerability" (422). This latter theory would account for the differing times, rates, and responses to diseases across the indigenous populations of the Americas.

30David Delgado Shorter takes the reader on a historical analysis of the term "spirituality," arguing that the use of the word "misconstrue[s] indigenous realities and therefore further[s] the colonization of Native peoples and their land" (440).  Arguing instead that the term "related" should be used, Shorter states that the supernatural/ natural binary that occurs from the use of the term spirituality can never really rely in complexity of non-hierarchical relations to "humans and other-than-humans sharing and withholding power" (449). The strength of this chapter is the relationship between terminologies—that are widely used and accepted in academia—and the constant reimagining of the imagery with popular culture, which has a detrimental effect on "public policy and legal discourse" (441).

31Anya Montiel's chapter "Native American Expressive Arts" "serve[s] as a beginning point for an exploration of the breadth of Native expressive culture over the past century" (455).  Chronologically reviewing the scholarship in the field, Montiel "addresses some of the discussions surrounding the 'Indianness' of Native art as well as the tensions artists felt regarding outsiders' expectations for their creations" (455). For anyone who needs a starting point, this chapter "provide[s] an overview of the critical scholarship in the field produced by Native and non-Native practitioners, academics, and curators" (455). What Montiel does well in this chapter, is to introduce the reader to the issues of racism faced in the world of art, and the continued expectation that one has to be "traditional" to be an Indian artist.

32Scott Manning Stevens gives a reflection on the usefulness of museums as a tool for decolonization. Taking the stance that museums "will likely always be there" (475), Stevens argues that they provide an "important opportunity and means of cultural self-representation" (492). By giving a historical account of museums, explaining the importance of NAGPRA, and ending with the economic impact of casinos for creating tribally owned cultural centers, Stevens also intertwines the impact of identity—in a similar way to the previous author—on what shapes a museum and the ongoing fight between what is expected—and not expected—of Native American culture. This chapter along with the others in this section, provide a much needed analysis of the twenty-first century American Indian experience.

33Alexandra Harmon provides a historic account into the actions of indigenous peoples as active participants in the economic development of their nations. While stating that anthropologists have largely been responsible for "describing cultures" as opposed to "chronicling change," and that historians have been ambivalent on the "strategic Indian engagement with European-initiated market economy," (497) Harmon asserts that Native Americans have always been economic actors, continually adapting to changing circumstances from first contact to the present day. Harmon also argues that some individuals did and do work for their own gain, but that others worked for the good of the community, "after all, they could not fulfill the ideal of generosity without acquiring wealth to share" (503). Harmon pay attention to the recent surge of economic activity among casino tries, showing the difference in ethos between western and indigenous cultures, enterprises owned by a nation for the good of local communities.

34Lisa Brooks' chapter provides the reader with an overview of prominent indigenous intellectuals, using two specific works—"the Quiche Maya Popol Vuh and the Iroquois Great Law of Peace—as important hubs in the network of an indigenous American intellectual tradition" (513). Paying specific attention to the problems that women have faced trying to be heard as intellectual voices in the Victorian era—a time when women were not afforded a say in American politics—Brooks points to various prominent people and organizations—from Winnemucca to NAISA—and their unique ways of adding to the ongoing conversations surrounding indigenous intellectual history. This is a must read for students who often think of indigenous peoples in a separate realm from American intellectuals.

35Colin G. Calloway takes the reader through the history of treaty-making, starting with the colonial era and finishing with present day executive orders. Offering a scene of treaty-making from 1833, Calloway explores the interactions between the two sovereign nations as equal entities, each trying to understand the others rituals and processes—for example the importance of wampum and the importance of the written word, as two systems which each group had to come to understand in order to continue negotiations. While Calloway attributes the nations agency in negotiating treaties in the colonial era, attention is paid to the divisive tricks used to negotiate treaties post 1783. The role of the Supreme Court in interpreting treaties—domestic dependent nations, wards to guardian, plenary power, cannons of construction, reserved rights—is laid out, as treaty-making and its successors—agreements and executive orders—are explored in modern America.

36Coll Thrush makes some relevant and interesting points about the lack of scholarship on "Urban Native Histories." Stating that there is a growing literature on urbanities before European arrival and after the second world war, yet the period in between is missing. As a way to fill in the gaps, Thrush suggests an agenda for the field of Native urban history, including "Native biographies of major American cities… Native histories of urban space beyond the big cities… Histories of diverse Native urbanities… and Native histories of empire's metropoles" (561-563). This chapter is again one of those that students or scholars new to American Indian history/ literature/ studies should consider reading as it informs the reader on some of the key aspects of the twenty-first century American Indian experience.

37Dustin Tahmhkera provides a review of the scholarship on "pop cultural representations of American Indians" (573). Starting and ending with a tribute to Sherman Alexie—the author of the most watched film by Native Americans: Smoke Signals—Tahmhkera frames this chapter through the term "recognizably Native" as it corresponds to three waves of scholarship: "(1) non-Native producers' distorted nonrecognition and exclusion of the recognizably Native… (2) Natives' negotiations in pop culture amid mixed perceptions of the Indian… and (3) prorecognizably Native representation and expression in pop culture" (574).  This chapter reviews some of more well-known scholarship on Native pop culture studies, and ends by suggesting what the future might hold; more investigations into non-Native perceptions, but also a deeper focus on decolonizing pop culture.

38Michael Witgen ends the collection by placing "American Indians in the World History." Exploring the history in terms of "mutual discovery," (591) as opposed to the distorted history of a "meeting of the savage and the civilized" (599), Witgen suggests that historians complete a reading without "privileging the ideological fantasies of discovery, conquest, and erasure" (600). Throughout this chapter—as with other in the book—Witgen places Native Americans as players in the global market, once again showing their agency, and active participation in their—and America’s—history.

Top of page


Electronic reference

Caroline Williams, « Frederick E. Hoxie, ed. The Oxford Handbook of American Indian History », European journal of American studies [Online], Reviews 2017-1, document 4, Online since 14 March 2017, connection on 21 June 2018. URL :

Top of page

About the author

Caroline Williams

University of East Anglia

Top of page


Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License

This text is under a Creative Commons license : Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 Generic

Top of page
  • OpenEdition Journals