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The rediscovery of America : Native peoples and the unmaking of U.S. history
2023
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Publishers Weekly Review
"American Indians were central to every century of U.S. historical development," argues Yale historian Blackhawk (Violence over the Land) in this sweeping study. He begins with the arrival of Spanish explorers in Mexico and Florida in the 16th century, before shifting to French and British colonization efforts in the Northeast and the Ohio River Valley. In both instances, Native communities endured extreme violence and devastating epidemics, while employing fluid survival strategies (fighting, relocating, converting to Christianity, trading, intermarrying) that influenced imperial ambitions and behavior. Blackhawk also makes a persuasive case that in the wake of the Seven Years' War and the expulsion of French forces from the interior of North America, "the growing allegiances between British and Indian leaders became valuable fodder in colonists' critiques of their monarch," helping to lead to the Revolutionary War. In Blackhawk's telling, "Indian affairs" remained a potent political and social issue through the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the New Deal and Cold War eras, as the removal of more than 75,000 Native children to federally funded boarding schools between the 1870s and 1920s and the dispossession of nearly a hundred million acres of reservation land during the same time period gave rise to a new generation of activists whose efforts to regain Native autonomy reshaped U.S. law and culture. Striking a masterful balance between the big picture and crystal-clear snapshots of key people and events, this is a vital new understanding of American history. (Apr.)
Kirkus Review
A wide-ranging study that moves Indigenous peoples from the periphery to the core of continental history. "Indigenous absence has been a long tradition of American historical analysis," writes Blackhawk, a professor of history and faculty coordinator for the Yale Group for the Study of Native America. In recent years, this has changed thanks to the efforts of a new generation of historians to count marginalized groups such as women and ethnic minorities in the larger narrative. By the author's account, American history represents an "epic encounter" between empires, Native and European, each conditioning the other. For example, pressures on the nations of the Iroquois Confederacy by British/American collision with the French Empire in North America pushed Iroquoian peoples into the Ohio River Valley, creating further conflict among Indigenous groups. In his lucid exposition, Blackhawk rightly notes, "while violence was an essential institution of colonialism, it was never enough to achieve permanent goals of empire." While violence may have secured certain short-term goals, it introduced still more instability into an already unsettled situation that endangered everyone involved. "Once it is initiated," writes the author, "none can predict its ultimate course." Blackhawk locates some of the most fraught moments of westward expansion in the years of the Civil War, when a preoccupied Abraham Lincoln left matters of Native policy largely to his generals in the West, advocating instead an abstract program of "assimilation, land cessions, and eventual disappearance." Violence naturally ensued, with new Native confederations such as alliances of the Sioux and Cheyenne against the U.S. Army leading to Little Big Horn. The author closes with an analysis of the doctrine of "termination," which attempted to dismantle Native communities, assimilate their members, and steal away their treaty lands, plans that eventually failed. Even today, though, Blackhawk notes that conflict exists as interest groups attempt to erase "the hard-fought gains of the modern sovereignty movement." A well-reasoned challenge for future American historians to keep Native peoples on center stage. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Summary
Winner of the 2023 National Book Award in Nonfiction * National Bestseller * A New Yorker Best Book of 2023 * A New York Times Notable Book of 2023 * A Washington Post Notable Work of Nonfiction of 2023 * An Esquire Best Book of 2023 * An NPR "Book We Love" for 2023 * A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2023 * A Tribal College Journal Best Native Studies Book of 2023 * A Michigan Notable Book of 2024 * A Powell's Books "Best Books of 2023: Nonfiction" * A Barnes & Noble Best Book of 2023 * Finalist for the 2024 Los Angeles Times Book Award, history category



A sweeping and overdue retelling of U.S. history that recognizes that Native Americans are essential to understanding the evolution of modern America



"Eloquent and comprehensive. . . . In the book's sweeping synthesis, standard flashpoints of U.S. history take on new meaning."--Kathleen DuVal, Wall Street Journal



"In accounts of American history, Indigenous peoples are often treated as largely incidental--either obstacles to be overcome or part of a narrative separate from the arc of nation-building. Blackhawk . . . [shows] that Native communities have, instead, been inseparable from the American story all along."-- Washington Post Book World , "Books to Read in 2023"



The most enduring feature of U.S. history is the presence of Native Americans, yet most histories focus on Europeans and their descendants. This long practice of ignoring Indigenous history is changing, however, as a new generation of scholars insists that any full American history address the struggle, survival, and resurgence of American Indian nations. Indigenous history is essential to understanding the evolution of modern America.



Ned Blackhawk interweaves five centuries of Native and non‑Native histories, from Spanish colonial exploration to the rise of Native American self-determination in the late twentieth century. In this transformative synthesis he shows that



* European colonization in the 1600s was never a predetermined success;



* Native nations helped shape England's crisis of empire;



* the first shots of the American Revolution were prompted by Indian affairs in the interior;



* California Indians targeted by federally funded militias were among the first casualties of the Civil War;



* the Union victory forever recalibrated Native communities across the West;



* twentieth-century reservation activists refashioned American law and policy.



Blackhawk's retelling of U.S. history acknowledges the enduring power, agency, and survival of Indigenous peoples, yielding a truer account of the United States and revealing anew the varied meanings of America.
Table of Contents
List of Mapsix
Introduction: Toward a New American History1
Part IIndians and Empires
1American Genesis: Indians and the Spanish Borderlands17
2The Native Northeast and the Rise of British North America48
3The Unpredictability of Violence: Iroquoia and New France to 170173
4The Native Inland Sea: The Struggle for the Heart of the Continent, 1701-55106
5Settler Uprising: The Indigenous Origins of the American Revolution139
6Colonialism's Constitution: The Origins of Federal Indian Policy176
Part IIStruggles for Sovereignty
7The Deluge of Settler Colonialism: Democracy and Dispossession in the Early Republic211
8Foreign Policy Formations: California, the Pacific, and the Borderlands Origins of the Monroe Doctrine250
9Collapse and Total War: The Indigenous West and the U.S. Civil War289
10Taking Children and Treaty Lands: Laws and Federal Power during the Reservation Era329
11Indigenous Twilight at the Dawn of the Century: Native Activists and the Myth of Indian Disappearance365
12From Termination to Self-Determination: Native American Sovereignty in the Cold War Era408
Notes449
Acknowledgments551
Index553
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