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Lewis and Clark Through Indian Eyes: Nine Indian Writers on the Legacy of… (edition 2007)

by Alvin M. Josephy Jr.

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132391,104 (3.07)1
Member:dougb56586
Title:Lewis and Clark Through Indian Eyes: Nine Indian Writers on the Legacy of the Expedition (Vintage)
Authors:Alvin M. Josephy Jr.
Info:Vintage (2007), Paperback, 224 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:nonfiction, native american, read2012, history

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Lewis and Clark Through Indian Eyes by Alvin M. Jr Josephy

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It’s always interesting to see through the eyes of the “other” in any event, whether it’s a mythologized, patriotic event like the Lewis and Clark Expedition, a battle or war or revolution, a protest, or a first date. In some ways, this book reminds me of Howard Zinn’s superb A People’s History of the United States, in that it takes a one-sided textbook event and gives us the other perspective. Of course this book is just focused on one small event in U.S. History while Zinn’s book covers Columbus through Clinton. But this small event had huge implications for both the explorers and the explored.

From the U.S. history perspective, there is no doubt that this was an epic and brave journey and achievement for the Americans. But a journey of discovery? Sort of, but the French and other white men had already been in almost all the places the expedition went through. This was not unpopulated wilderness, especially along the Columbia where there were large populations of Native American tribes firmly established.

One of the primary purposes was commercialism. President Jefferson directed the leaders to seek out “…the most direct & practical water communication across this continent for the purposes of commerce. As Bill Yellowtail writes, “Lewis and Clark [were] envoys of free-trade agreements, long prior to NAFTA and CAFTA and the WTO.” And most of the tribes they encountered were happy with the prospects of trade.

But the primary purchase was imperialism. The French did not sell us land in the Louisiana Purchase, they sold us “discover’s rights”. These rights were commonly used legal instruments employed by European colonial powers in their efforts to control resources throughout the world and justify the exploitation and elimination of indigenous peoples and cultures. As Vine Deloria, Jr. points out in the first essay, France claimed that it “owned” a large tract of the North American West simply because Frenchmen were the first white men to set foot there. A similar claim was held by Spain for the North American Southwest. So Jefferson purchased the release of those rights from France and sent his white men through the lands with rituals, gifts, and other activities that were common practice to establish a new “discover” of those lands under the new United States.

One of the most interesting things to me that came through many of the stories is just how un-newsworthy the expedition was to the tribes that encountered it. Stories were of course handed down, and in fact form the basis for some of the essays in this book. But for most of the tribes, it was not news. Most of them did not know the ramifications of this expedition and that soon their way of life would disappear under a subsequent wave of white settlers, soldiers, businessmen, and agents. Some tribes had oracular forebodings about the coming of the white men. That foreboding was well grounded. But the hopeful common thread I got from the contributors to this book was that despite what happened, many of their tribes are still here and still living on their land. I, for one, am glad of that. ( )
  jveezer | Jun 6, 2013 |
Essays by:
Vine Deloria, Jr
Debra Magpie Earling
Mark N Trahant
Bill Yellowtail
Roberta Conner
Gerald A Baker
Allen V Pinkham, Sr
Roberta and Richard Basch
N Scott Momaday
This is a short but interesting collection of essays from Native American written in conjunction with the elapse of 200 years since Lewis and Clark's "Corps of Discovery Expedition".
The essays begin with one by the late Vine DeLoria. His pragmatic spiritualism is always informative and entertaining. Next is Debra Magpie Earling. Her writing is very good, and I might try to read other books by her. All of the other essays are also interesting and well written. I think that for many Americans with European, or other non-native ancestry, the Lewis and Clark Expedition is just a mundane, mandatory part of our grade school American History lessons. It is very rare for any of us to have a grandparent who can pass on an "I remember when" story to us about events like this. But it is still part of the family history to many Native Americans. This makes sense upon thinking about it, but it is books like this that prompt that thinking. ( )
  dougb56586 | Jan 6, 2013 |
As the title suggests, this is a collection of essays by nine modern-day Native Americans whose tribal lands Lewis and Clark traveled through on their journey across the North American continent.

Perhaps the most surprising -- and revealing -- aspect of this book for me was that the coming of Lewis and Clark really wasn't a terribly noteworthy event for the tribes. They had met whites before in the person of trappers and traders, and Lewis and Clark were in many ways just more of the same. The Indians had their own lives, traditions, and history and weren't just waiting around to be encountered by intrepid explorers.

Anyone interested in a different perspective on the Corps of Discovery and its influence on the making of America will find much to think about. ( )
1 vote ElizabethChapman | Nov 15, 2009 |
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