North American Indians: A Very Short Introduction by Theda Perue and Michael D. Green

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Because I am studying American history with my young son this year, I find myself drawn to books about the subjects I’m teaching him. Obviously, my studies are simply for my own enrichment and enjoyment; much of what I’m learning will not be taught to my five-year-old child.

This was our second week of official school, and we focused on the Native Americans.1 My son enjoyed a few picture books, which I may discuss at another point. My book of the week on Native Americans (I did also read 1491 a few weeks ago) was one from the Very Short Introduction series from Oxford University Press: North American Indians by Theda Perue and Michael D. Green (August 2010). As is the case with all books in this series, the authors introduced the subject, touching on the history, the various perspectives, and their own take on matters, in less than 150 pages.

From my perspective, North American Indians was  a wonderful introduction to American Indian issues. A chapter discussed the known and unknown facts of the Indians in North America before Columbus, and subsequent chapters discussed the subsequent downfall of the Natives as Europeans and then Americans dominated the land. It was fascinating to me to see how simple cultural differences led to the Europeans’ domination: in situations where Natives were simply treating people with respect, Europeans interpreted their acts as weakness. The last chapter talked about current cultural challenges faced by American Indians, as well as the recent cultural renaissance in literature and art.

Obviously, in 130 pages, no book can do more than only introduce such a complex issue. There is little discussion of various tribes and heritages, and even major events in history are glossed over. No more can be expected. I am also not familiar with either author, and I don’t know their relationship to the Native American communities today. I don’t know if there is bias in this book. From my perspective, it seemed well rounded and fair.2 However, despite the brevity of the book, I found it to be a helpful one to help me better understand the Native American position in the world today.

I wish that the Europeans and then the Americans had not been so insensitive to those already living here and that the great umber of complex cultures could have survived to teach us today. It would be incredible if we could better understand. As it is, we must recognize the tragedies of history.

  1. My plan is a combination of Elemental History and my own researched picture books (see here). More about Elemental History later.
  2. One Amazon reviews indicates that the reader found it incredibly racist. I’m at a loss to what they found in here that was racist. Maybe the Americans as being domineering and rotten?

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

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