Facing East from Indian country : a Native history of early America

by Richter, Daniel K.

Format: Print Book 2001
Availability: Available at 7 Libraries 7 of 8 copies
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In the beginning, North America was Indian country. But only in the beginning. After the opening act of the great national drama, Native Americans yielded to the westward rush of European settlers.

Or so the story usually goes. Yet, for three centuries after Columbus, Native people controlled most of eastern North America and profoundly shaped its destiny. In Facing East from Indian Country , Daniel K. Richter keeps Native people center-stage throughout the story of the origins of the United States.

Viewed from Indian country, the sixteenth century was an era in which Native people discovered Europeans and struggled to make sense of a new world. Well into the seventeenth century, the most profound challenges to Indian life came less from the arrival of a relative handful of European colonists than from the biological, economic, and environmental forces the newcomers unleashed. Drawing upon their own traditions, Indian communities reinvented themselves and carved out a place in a world dominated by transatlantic European empires. In 1776, however, when some of Britain's colonists rebelled against that imperial world, they overturned the system that had made Euro-American and Native coexistence possible. Eastern North America only ceased to be an Indian country because the revolutionaries denied the continent's first peoples a place in the nation they were creating.

In rediscovering early America as Indian country, Richter employs the historian's craft to challenge cherished assumptions about times and places we thought we knew well, revealing Native American experiences at the core of the nation's birth and identity.

Published Reviews
Booklist Review: "Most American histories treat North America's indigenous peoples as ancillary to the more important story of the establishment of a European nation in the New World. What would happen if one shifted focus and transformed the usual bit-players into stars? Richter, a prominent historian of early America, makes that shift and produces what may, for its impeccable use of primary sources, smoothly well-wrought prose, and passionate argument, become a classic. From the point of view of those already long established in North America, the Europeans' arrival wasn't a first step on the path of progress; it was an event that precipitated brutal, bloody fights over resources and land--fights often represented as cultural and even religious conflicts. Although many may not welcome Richter's analysis of such icons as Pocahontas, the princess of the Potomac who married for love, and Kateri Tekakwitha, the saintly Iroquois who recognized the true god, he helps us see how self-serving of the European settlers and their descendants the standard depictions of those Indian "legends" are. In their stead, he presents more nuanced, human portraits of Pocahontas as a noble woman entering a political marriage and of Tekakwitha as an orphaned girl wriggling into the new space opened by Christian missionaries. --Patricia Monaghan"
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Publisher's Weekly Review: "At the center of this bold and thoroughly astonishing history of Native Americans are narratives of three Indians generally known to Euro-Americans: Pocahontas, Blessed Catherine Tekakwitha and the Algonquin warrior Metacom, also known as King Philip. Telling each of these stories a romance, the life of a saint, the destruction of a "noble savage" from the European and then the Native American perspective, Richter elucidates an alternative history of America from Columbus to just after the Revolution. Taking his cues from historian Carl Becker's famous assertion that history is "an imaginative creation," Richter, director of the McNeil Center for Early American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, recasts early American history from the Native American point of view and in doing so illuminates as much about the Europeans as about the original Americans. After explaining the vast scope of Native American culture probably more then two million native people lived east of the Mississippi in 1492 in villages that were "decentralized and diverse, but not disconnected" Richter reconstructs the Native American experience of the European. Using a variety of sources missionary tracts, official state art (the seal of the Massachusetts Bay Company featured a native with the words "Come Over and Help Us"), military reports and religious writings by both Europeans and Native Americans he describes a world far more layered than that of accepted U.S. history. Exploring the varying complexities of different native peoples' relationships with England, France and Spain, he argues that the Native Americans were safer during the colonial era than after the Revolution, when the idea of a white, democratic country took hold. Gracefully written and argued, Richter's compelling research and provocative claims make this an important addition to the literature for general readers of both Native American and U.S. studies. (Dec.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved"
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Additional Information
Subjects Indians of North America -- First contact with Europeans.
Indians of North America -- History -- Colonial period, ca. 1600-1775.
Indians, Treatment of -- United States -- History.
United States -- Discovery and exploration.
United States -- Politics and government -- To 1775.
Publisher Cambridge, Mass. :Harvard University Press,2001
Language English
Description x, 317 pages : illustrations, maps ; 25 cm
Bibliography Notes Includes bibliographical references (pages [257]-300) and index.
ISBN 0674011171 (tpk.)
0674006380 (alk. paper)
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