Native Peoples of North America
Susan Stebbins, University at Albany
Pub Date: 2013
ISBN 13: 978-1-9423410-2-4
Publisher: Open SUNY
Conditions of Use
It is a challenge to write a comprehensive text on First Nations in the U.S. and Canada. This is very comprehensive for an introductory text and read more
It is a challenge to write a comprehensive text on First Nations in the U.S. and Canada. This is very comprehensive for an introductory text and covers many important terms and experiences. There is room for an instructor to expand on areas the book did not have room to cover and provide alternative points of view. For example, there are different viewpoints on the outcomes of John Collier’s work that the book did not have room to cover. In the different sections of the book focusing on the topic, the Bering Strait Theory is not consistently presented as an explanation less accepted in the field of First Nation Studies, First Nation cosmologies, and by Indigenous intellectuals.There is a note in the Suggested Resources section of Chapter One that includes recent archaeological scholarship about origins of First Nations in the Americas. In the introduction, it is pointed out that “Much truth can be found in the oral traditions of any society…The stories of a society can tell…us as much as any other source of information if we approach them with an open mind.” (p. 17). On a different topic, the simple lack of immunity argument explaining Native Peoples’ community member losses due to epidemic disease is also something that has been made more complex in the academic literature and that is not something included in the text. Additionally, the concept of appropriation of First Nation artistic motifs could be covered in more depth in the chapter on art, as well as in the chapter on religion. The book does not include an effective index or glossary, but it does include a section listing videos pertinent to the book content.
The text would benefit from many more in-text citation. There are places in the text I would have wanted an in-text reference, although there are a few in-text citations. Besides these issues, the book rates highly in accuracy.
In terms of longevity, there are some statistics that have changed such as the number of U.S. federally recognized tribes. The text is interesting in two ways in regards to relevance. One aspect of the text is to get readers to compare pre-colonization period European societies and histories and Canadian and U.S. First Nation societies and histories. A second aspect is that the text does integrate both Canadian and U.S. First Nation experiences and examples in the entirety of the text. Each chapter has a set of questions that help the mainstream identified student or reader make the chapter content relevant to their life.
Many terms from anthropology are in bold text and explained using tribally-specific First Nation examples and context from both historical and in contemporary periods in a way that shows the non-static experiences of Native Peoples. Culture is described as “a web” (p. 4) and other terms included are “biological determinism,” "Social Darwinism," "race," and "racism," and "phenotypically" (p. 6). Manifest Destiny is discussed on page five and the painting, Spirit of the Frontier by John Gast 1872 is included as an illustration on page 34. Anthropological kinship terms and terms from the anthropology of religion are included in the book. The chapter titled, “Status, Rank, and Power” include useful terms related to tribal governments including the way two kinds of governments, the community system and the government adopted through Western influence/coercion, in a community may co-exist. Terms are made clear in the book, but there is not a glossary compiling all the terms together. The book is written in an accessible style.
The text covers examples and contexts from the United States and Canada and keeps an anthropological focus with some historical background included. The voice is consistent—using a friendly first person voice that directly addresses the reader at many points in the text.
There are a few guideposts included in the narrative to see information in other chapters of the text, but the chapters are lengthy and would also be divisible, in that one chapter could be assigned as a reading. There are no subheadings within the chapters. The chapters are divided into content that work well conceptually as divisible from the book: Chapter 1 In 1491…, Chapter 2: All our Relations, Chapter 3 Resources and their Distribution, Chapter 4 Status, Rank, and Power, Chapter 5 Religion and Spiritual Beliefs, Chapter 6 Is There a Word for Art?.
The Introduction is not as organized in terms of the flow of the content as the rest of the chapters. However, the actual chapter sections themselves have strong organization, structure and flow. The First Nation-specific origin and “how things came to be” stories at the beginning of some of the chapters work well for the text. The concluding chapter addresses the mainstream identified student to think critically about the course material and particular concepts such as sovereignty.
The photographs are crisp and clear and help illustrate aspects of a chapter. The maps and diagrams in the text are difficult to read and out of focus (in the pdf format) even when trying to enlarge the image. This is unfortunate because they would be useful as content.
The grammar is well-polished. The text has some (rare) repetitive word and spelling errors. For example, Greg Sarris’s name is misspelled on page 168. The Native American Graves and Repatriation Act is referred to as NAGPA instead of as NAGPRA.
The book does not address Native students (in comparison to how chapter questions may be written directly to students who are members of First Nations). There is one example in the book that refers to living in dorms as students, which is relevant to some students but not to commuting students. At one point in the conclusion, the book uses the pronouns “we” and “us” in a series of questions that the reader may guess to be directed to mainstream identified readers. The book has plenty of strengths for mainstream identified readers to think critically about ethnocentrism, misunderstandings, and assumptions.
The strengths of this book are in the depiction of contemporary and historical examples and experiences of specific First Nations in the U.S. and Canada and the introduction of terminology used in anthropology. The book is very useful as an anthropological text. Certain chapters may be useful for ethnic studies, religious studies, and Native American government courses.
This textbook is a concise introduction to the study of Native peoples of North America (including the United States and Canada) from an read more
This textbook is a concise introduction to the study of Native peoples of North America (including the United States and Canada) from an anthropological perspective written for an intended audience of undergraduate students. Using examples from a variety of native cultural groups, the text addresses topics ranging from pre-colonial times to colonial devastation and from religion and art to political and economic systems. The textbook provides a comprehensive foundation of theses topics that can easily be supplemented with additional instructor-selected materials.
The text is accurate and in general is free from errors or inappropriate/biased perspectives.
The book provides a contemporary treatment of native peoples of North America as dynamic and vibrant cultural groups. Each chapter provides a short example of an oral story that introduces the reader to the chapter’s theme. This adds an emic perspective to the prose.
The text is written in clear and engaging prose. It is accessible to a undergraduate student audience.
The text is internally consistent in terms of its organization, structure and content.
The text is organized into six topical chapters including an introduction and a conclusion. The chapter topics align with typical themes that are frequently taught in an undergraduate cultural anthropology course. This text could easily be divisible into smaller readings and supplemented with ethnographies and other reading materials.
The topics in the text are well organized and follow an internal logic/structure that flows well from one chapter to another.
The text is free from interface issues and appears to be professionally formatted. The images supplement and support the text and are appropriate.
The text contains no obvious grammatical errors.
A strength of this text is in how it presents the material from both emic (native) and etic (non-native) perspectives. It also approaches the topic by respectfully, presenting the varied cultural and historic experiences of native people without essentializing them.
The textbook should be listed under Social Sciences and not humanities.
One difficulty with a review for this book is that it is suggested for use in an Introductory Anthropology course (by Schwarz, the book reviewer, not read more
One difficulty with a review for this book is that it is suggested for use in an Introductory Anthropology course (by Schwarz, the book reviewer, not the author herself), as I will do next quarter, for use in an Introduction to Native Nations course. It could be used for either. I think it might be better accepted for a Native Nations course because it clearly acknowledges the limitations of comprehensive example of Native nations' cultures in a single book. It does give some attention to archaeological work which could easily be supplemented by a course teacher. The topics it does cover are comprehensive for such a class and do cover areas critical for Native Nations in a way that should intrigue students of all backgrounds. I usually have Native American students in my courses and I look forward to their reaction to this book. As a text for an Introductory Anthropology course this would need significant supplements which to me makes it an appealing choice. I would think several ethnographies could be used with this text and a good deal of in class material as well. It could be a good choice for someone wanting to avoid a "canned" publishers package and interested in creative course development. Major cultural anthropology course topics are covered in an introductory level, however less in depth than I would like, again an issue that can be supplemented.
The book is general error free. I do not think the discussion of cross-cousins is accurate for a society with moieties or any unilineal society where a parent's sibling of the opposite sex would have children which did not belong to their lineage, clan, or moiety.. A mother's brother's children and a father's sister's children would be marriageable in that case. This is important in anthropology for understanding just how significant culture is in defining who we see as kin, and how culture determines so much about our life that is not "just human nature" (as I hear from students). There are a few typos. Other topics are presented in an accurate manner.
The book is both up-to-date and should remain relevant for a significant period of time. Updating should be relatively easy and straightforward.
I think the clarity of the book is outstanding but I am exciting about seeing my students' reactions this Winter quarter.
The book is clearly consistent in both its terminology and framework. I am an anthropologist who using a historian's book for another course that I teach and think this work should also be clear to historians who have some knowledge of anthropological principles. I almost did not find this book for review because it was not listed under the social sciences and think it could be listed both there and with the humanities.
I think in general the book is modular. There are some references to material presented earlier but those are explained or could be modified for use in a class using only modules.
There is a clear logic to the presentation of the material from an anthropological point of view. For use outside of anthropology the author does include a summary of the organizational principles in the introduction might be helpful as well as specific ideas for other disciplines.
No navigation problem using my Surface. That is the only platform I tried. Images were great. I do require that my students submit doi references for articles in references so that I can access them more easily. They don't often submit a .pdf so I don't know if that is possible for references.
I found no problems with the grammar although there were a few typos.
I think the material was presented with respect and cultural awareness. The book is about Native American Nation in North American and did include some references to other populations as appropriate. I have found that college students, for the most part, know far too little about the original inhabitants of North American and this volume addresses that issue well. I agree with Stebbins that knowledge of the diversity of Native nations that existed and continue to exist is a critical component of education for college students today.
I almost did not find this book for review because it was not listed under the social sciences and think it could be listed both there and with the humanities. That would have been sad and I am glad this has been made available.
As a brief text, It covers most areas and ideas of the subject with a few exceptions. I have iterated comments appropriately in each section, read more
As a brief text, It covers most areas and ideas of the subject with a few exceptions. I have iterated comments appropriately in each section, particularly in 'Relevancy'.
Overall this text seems very accurate. The Introduction and Chapter 1 seem to lack some precision in discussing the practicalities of NAGPRA and other concepts more properly focused on by archaeologists including some of the more recent burgeoning information on the peopling of the Americas. On this topic it was very thin. Using David Hurst Thomas 1999 version of Skull Wars is perfectly valid, but there have been much more recent impacts of DNA studies that should be layered onto this information. The Chapters 2-6 had a higher accuracy integrity although it seems as though Bonvillan 2001 was cited as the primary source for much of the cultural information. Many contemporary tribal entities have accessible and well written and cited tribal histories online. As a researcher and a writer that comes from an academic background, I feel as though these are valid sources to find histories as contemporary Native groups tell them in their own voices.
Because of the subject matter, much of this content is up to date, however, with a few exceptions there is a heavy dependence on sources from 2000 and earlier. Much needed is a comprehensive overview of the theories surrounding the peopling of the Americas that incorporates recent discoveries and the resulting implications. Information that addresses the new DNA technologies cannot be ignored by cultural anthropologists and historians alike as they are playing new roles in the stories we tell of the past. The chapter on art and music as a form of advanced technology is an important comment on what we are taught to valorize and why. I can't see this chapter losing relevancy any time soon. It is a very important chapter and understanding that art is all around us as technology is wise.
This text is written clearly and is accessible. Terminology is highlighted and explained in clear language. Concepts- particularly difficult ones related to gender and race- are explicit and comprehensible for an undergraduate audience.
This text is internally consistent with a clear progression of conceptual ideas.
This book is not overly self referential and Chapters 2-6 would be excellent as a base reading supplemented with more contemporary publications both from the academy as well as contemporary tribal source publications.
This text is divided into six chapters with an introduction and a conclusion. The chapters are based on some of the expected divisions that we have historically seen in texts of this type- topics that the colonial powers that be consider to be of importance and relevance: resources, status, rank, religious beliefs, and technology. Having said this, I think that internally these topics are approached with a counter colonial subtext and the author uses these topics to create a text that addresses the points of view of peoples who see the world in other ways. The use of oral historical narrative at the beginning of each chapter gives validity to the histories of the groups discussed in the text.
This text is free of significant interface issues and distortion. There are a couple of half blank pages where the image has pushed the text to the next page. It is easily searched with the 'look-up' (looks like a magnifying glass) function on my tablet.
Grammatical errors were very few and overall it is written in an accessible voice. There are a few typos, particularly in the introduction and first chapter. The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act should be 'NAGPRA', not 'NAGPA'. It is 'Beringia', not 'Beringa'.
'Cultural Relevance' is one area that would be expected to be high from this particular text but therefore a reviewer needs to pay extra close attention. A key component of this curriculum is to emphasize the variances and nuances in Native American cultures in pre-contact, contact, and contemporary contexts. Although because of the length of this text is brief some generalizations are made between regions, however, there is also caution in making those generalizations. Those that are made seem to be in line with the contemporary presentation of tribal identities. The impact of settler colonialism on the social structure of Native American groups is represented in a way that seems very accessible. Also cogent is the relaying of certain aspects of tribal recognition, land allotments, assimilation, etc. that have a continuing impact. The increasing instances of peoples who self identify as Native American but are not included in communities and membership roles has been contributed to, and complicated by, issues surrounding blood quantum, the recent historic un-recognition of tribes, assimilation practices of the mid 20th century, etc. The marked increase in people self-identifying as Native American on the U.S. census could be considered more fully here in this text, especially with the 2010 census results, but it is mentioned and a critical thinking student will start to make these connections on their own. A couple of things that might be included in an updated version might be the impact of the new genetic identity that people are forming and recent instances that DNA has played in Native America identification. The published 2015 results of Kennewick Man could be an important example. The mitochondrial DNA of Kwäday Dän Ts'ìnchi was identifiable to a specific clan. As anthropologists we may want to consider this new embodied identity and recognize that this may have an impact on identity as contemporary tribes figure out how to relate, or not to relate, this information to their own self governance. Also relevant is the use of oral tradition and storytelling as a basis for understanding and intersecting with the modular concepts by which this text is presenting. Much appreciated is the recognition that these stories are as relevant as the Western originated stories about these peoples as viewed from the outside. The images chosen to illustrate the text were interesting and well connected to the written narrative. They always offered more information to connect these concepts together.
Native peoples of North America presents an assessment of Indigenous peoples in the U.S and Canada from an anthropological perspective. As such, the read more
Native peoples of North America presents an assessment of Indigenous peoples in the U.S and Canada from an anthropological perspective. As such, the text speaks to the discipline of Anthropology but also addresses the historical influence of Native enslavement and the mission system, imposed conversion, Native American health disparities, colonialism’s altering of food acquisition and the impact of post contact agricultural colonization. The text also provides an analysis of adaptations to spiritual and ceremonial practices, conflict between and among Indigenous populations with the onset of the reservation system, issues of Environmental Justice, and the arts. Pre-Columbian and contemporary information is presented and each chapter incorporates narratives by Indigenous populations that coincide with the theme of the chapters.
Content of this text is accurate, well researched, impressively comparative.
The content of this text is up-to-date and reflects well the scholarly positions within the fields of Native American Studies, Ethnic Studies, and Native American History. The content is relevant and the text is arranged in a way that if necessary additional information can be implemented easily.
The text is written in lucid, accessible prose and provides definitions of terminology.
This text is internally consistent in framework and in the use of terminology.
This text can be easily realigned with subunits within a course and is divisible into smaller readings for students.
The topics in the book are well organized.
The book is free of interface issues.
The book is well written, and contains no grammatical errors.
The book speaks to the historical and cultural experiences of Indigenous populations in North America and approaches the history of colonization with integrity. The text does not however fully interweave the interconnections between Native American populations and other marginalized racial/ethnic groups.
Table of Contents
- Chapter 1: In 1491…
- Chapter 2: All Our Relations
- Chapter 3: Resources and their Distribution
- Chapter 4: Status, Rank, and Power
- Chapter 5: Religion and Spiritual Beliefs
- Chapter 6: Is There a Word for Art?
About the Book
Native Peoples of North America is intended to be an introductory text about the Native peoples of North America (primarily the United States and Canada) presented from an anthropological perspective. As such, the text is organized around anthropological concepts such as language, kinship, marriage and family life, political and economic organization, food getting, spiritual and religious practices, and the arts. Prehistoric, historic and contemporary information is presented. Each chapter begins with an example from the oral tradition that reflects the theme of the chapter. The text includes suggested readings, videos, and classroom activities.
About the Contributors
Dr. Susan Stebbins (Doctor of Arts in Humanities from the University at Albany) has been a member of the SUNY Potsdam Anthropology department since 1992. At Potsdam she has taught Cultural Anthropology, Introduction to Anthropology, Theory of Anthropology, Religion, Magic and Witchcraft, and many classes focusing on Native Americans, including The Native Americans, Indian Images and Women in Native America. Her research has been both historical (Traditional Roles of Iroquois Women) and contemporary, including research about a political protest at the bridge connecting New York, the Akwesasne Mohawk reservation and Ontario, Canada, and Native American Education, particularly that concerning the Native peoples of New York. She currently is the Special Assistant to the President for Diversity at SUNY Potsdam, where she continues to teach Native American Studies.