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Philosophical History


Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences



Native Americans, Archaeologists, and the Mounds by Barbara A. Mann (American Indian Studies: Peter Lang)  Ever since eighteen-century European settlers stumbled up the mounds, explanations and interpretations of them, often ridiculous and seldom Native American, have appeared as sober scholarship. The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990 (NAGPRA) has intensified the debate over who “owns” the mounds – modern descendants`of the mound builders or Western archaeologists. Native Americans, Archaeologists, and the Mounds is the first cogent look at all the issues surrounding the mounds, their history, their preservation, and their interpretation.

Barbara Alice Mann, Lecturer of English at the University of Toledo, noted author and speaker on the culture and history of Native Americans of the eastern woodlands, wrote this book at the behest of elders of the Native American community of Ohio, many of whom have been engaged for decades in the preservation of the Ohio valley mounds, as well as in the effort to repatriate and rebury the human remains and grave goods seized from the cemeteries of their ancestors.

Using the traditions of those Natives descended from the mounds builders as well as historical and archaeological evidence, Mann places the mounds in their Native cultural context as she examines the weighty issues enveloping them in the twenty-first century. Archeologists have attempted to keep control of the mounds, as much to cover up their own inaccurate and stupid interpretations as for any monetary gain.

Ward Churchill, Professor of Ethnic Studies, University of Colorado at Boulder says: “Native Americans, Archaeologists, and the Mounds is a tour de force…in its breadth and significance. Displaying conversance with an astonishingly broad range of traditional understandings as well as the relevant corpus of eurocentrist literature, Barbara Alice Mann compellingly demonstrates, time after time, that the former are vastly more consistent with available evidence than are the latter. She is thus able not only to reconstruct the reality of Mound-Builder culture in the Ohio River valley far more coherently and convincingly than have past researchers, but to offer the beginnings of an overall history of the interactivity of these ill-perceived and oft-ignored people with their more familiar modern descendants to both the north and the south.”

Read Native Americans, Archaeologists, and the Mounds to hear the truth about how our society has consistently misunderstood and plundered this valuable piece of Indian heritage. Mann’s is a clear voice, not to be confined to a backwater of academia, but to be read widely by the general public.

Source Material for the Social and Ceremonial Life of the Choctaw Indians by John Reed Swanton, (Contemporary American Indian Studies: University of Alabama Press) this classic Amerindian ethnography originally published in 1931 by the Bureau of American Ethnology has been reissued with a foreword by Kenneth H. Carleton. Swanton's long association with the Choctaws is evident in his thorough descriptions of their customs and way of life and in his sensitivity to the preservation of their native culture. Many contemporary scholars consider this book the most comprehensive ever published on the Choctaw people.

Excerpt: The history of the Choctaw people since they first came to the knowledge of Europeans may be illustrated from many documentary sources and is capable of elaborate treatment. A few salient points are all that the present work calls for.

    Halbert has pointed out that the "Apafalaya" chief and river and the "Pafallaya" province mentioned by the De Soto chroniclers Ranjel and Elvas, respectively, evidently refer to the Choctaw, or a part of them, since the Choctaw were known to other tribes as Pansfalaya or "Long Hairs." They were then, it would seem, approximately in the territory in southeastern Mississippi which they occupied when they were again visited by Europeans. There are notices of them in some Spanish documents dating from toward the close of the seventeenth century, and they immediately took a prominent position in the politics of colonizing nations when the French began settling Louisiana in 1699. Like the Creeks and Chickasaw, they were subjected to pressure from the Spaniards, English, and French, especially the two latter nations, each of whom enjoyed the support of a faction. These internal differences eventuated in civil war during which the Sixtowns, Chickasawhay and Coosa Choctaw supported the French interest and were finally successful, peace being made in 1750. The ascendency of the English east of the Mississippi, secured by the peace of 1763, soon tended to allay all remaining internal difficulties. With the passage of the Louisiana Territory into the hands of the United States an end was put to that intriguing by the representatives of rival European governments of which the Choctaw had been victims.

    The Choctaw were never at war with the Americans. A few were induced by Tecumseh to ally themselves with the hostile Creeks, but the Nation as a whole was kept out of anti-American alliances by the influence of Apushmataha, greatest of all Choctaw chiefs. However, white settlers began pouring into the region so rapidly that the Mississippi Territory was erected in 1798 and Mississippi became a State in 1817. Friction of course developed between the white colonists and the original occupants of the soil, whose removal to lands farther west was clamorously urged by the settlers and ultimately agreed to by the Choctaw themselves at the treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek, September 27 and 28, 1830. By this treaty they secured a tract of land along Red River, in the southeastern part of the present State of Oklahoma, to which the bulk of the tribe emigrated in 1831, 1832, and 1833. The first emigrants suffered cruelly, but those who went later sowed their fields promptly and experienced fewer hardships than the Indians of most of the other expatriated tribes. A portion held on in their old territories, though bands of them joined their western kindred from time to time, 1,000 in 1846, 1,619 in 1847, 118 in 1848, 547 in 1849, 388 in 1853, and more than 300 in 1854. A considerable body still remained, numbering 1,253 in 1910 and 1,665 in 1930. In 1855 the Chickasaw, who had at first enjoyed the privilege of settling indiscriminately among the Choctaw, were given a separate territory west of the latter, and an independent government. The history of the Choctaw national government in Oklahoma would constitute an interesting contribution to our knowledge of native American capabilities in the handling of their affairs under a frame imported from abroad. Like the governments of the other four red republics of the old Indian Territory, it is now of course a thing of the past, the Choctaw being citizens of Oklahoma and of the United States.

  There are two forms of the Choctaw origin legend, and both are suggested in the following passage from Du Pratz, which perhaps contains our earliest reference to it:

    According to the tradition of the natives this nation passed so rapidly from one land to another and arrived so suddenly in the country which it occupies that, when I asked them from whence the Chat-kas came, to express the suddenness of their appearance they replied that they had come out from under the earth. Their great numbers imposed respect on the nations near which they passed, but their wholly unmartial character did not inspire them with any lust of conquest, so that they entered an uninhabited country the possession of which no one disputed with them. They have not molested their neighbors, and the latter did not dare to test their bravery; this is doubtless why they have grown, and augmented to their present numbers.

Art of the North American Indians: The Thaw Collection edited by Gilbert T. Vincent, Sherry Brydon, and Ralph T. Coe a luxurious and inclusive examination of Native North American art. While the collection records began with a personal interest on the part of Eugene and Clare Thaw in Native art featuring the American flag, it grew beyond that theme, as they sought to create it representative collection of masterpieces to be given to the public. The result is an extraordinary assemblage of rare and important examples of North American Indian art. Objects date from 500 BCE to the present day and give an effective and comprehensive overview of the highest artistic levels of Native cultures throughout North America.

The book it includes general introductions to eight cultures areas-Woodlands. Plains, Southwest, California, Great Basin, Northwest Coast, Northern Athapapaskan, and Arctic as well as 34 regional sections. Superb color photographs of 260 objects by John Bigelow accompanied by detailed discussions, and 510 black-white photographs of the remaining objects are interspersed throughout the text. The majority of works are from the historic period, but both ancient and contemporary pieces are also included. As a record of a fine collection this book is more than catalogue it is a visual record of North American Indian material arts culture, that casts too wide a net to be as inclusive as it hopes.

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