The Plains Indians / Edition 1

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For the Plains Indians, the period from 1750 to 1890, often referred to as the traditional period, was an evolutionary time. Horses and firearms, trade goods, shifting migration patterns, disease pandemics, and other events associated with extensive European contact led to a peak of Plains Indian influence and success in the early nineteenth century. Ironically, that same European contact ultimately led to the devolution of traditional Plains Indian society, and by 1870 most Plains Indian peoples were living on reservations.

In The Plains Indians Paul H. Carlson charts the evolution and growth of the Plains Indians through this period of constant change. Carlson examines, among other aspects of these tribal groups, the horse and bison culture, the economy and material culture, trade and diplomacy, and reservation life. In its examination of cultural change, The Plains Indians relies heavily on Indian voices and stresses an Indian viewpoint.

Carlson argues that the Plains Indians were neither passive recipients of these cultural changes nor helpless victims. They took what was new and adapted it to and integrated it into their own culture. Even when faced with a significantly altered life on the reservations, the Plains Indians, "without abandoning their cultural base[,] . . . adopted sedentary lifeways and shifted toward new life patterns, new sodalities, and different characteristics of community."

Carlson also investigates the role of the environment in the lives of the plains tribal groups. The ecological exploitation of bison was an integral part of their society; both their material and spiritual worlds depended on bison. The Plains Indians, while not living in perfect harmony with the environment, to some extent adjusted their hunting practices, religious ceremonies, and social organization to the seasons, the bison, and other environmental factors, such as the herding requirements of their horses.

The Plains Indians is a clear, well written narrative history of the Plains Indians during a vital and well known era in Indian and American history. Those interested in Indian anthropology and history will value this cohesive overview of Plains Indian society and culture.

PAUL H. CARLSON professor of history at Texas Tech University. He has written numerous articles on frontier history and Texas history and is the author of five previous books, including Empire Builder in the Texas Panhandle: William Henry Bush and "Pecos Bill": A Military Biography of William R. Shafter.

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Editorial Reviews

Kansas History
For college students and other with little understanding of the subject, The Plains Indians would be an ideal introduction.
Library Journal
So much is published nowadays regarding American Indians that one might well question the value of yet another book on the most written about Indian population. Yet the literature leans heavily toward books about specific individuals or tribes; general studies or overviews of the Plains Indians are relatively few in number, and those are often somewhat dated. Carlson (history, Texas Tech) has written an intelligent and readable survey of the Plains Indians during that significant period from 1750 to 1890 that saw the rapid rise and equally rapid destruction of the culture the Plains Indians built with the adoption of horses in the 1700s. The Plains story is depicted in a clear narrative style. Well illustrated, with ample notes this is recommended for both public and academic collections on the subject, perhaps especially where funds are limited: it is a good, general-purpose book if you can't buy a lot of the individual tribal histories. Index not seen.--Charles V. Cowling, Drake Memorial Lib., Brockport, NY
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780890968178
  • Publisher: Texas A&M University Press
  • Publication date: 9/28/1998
  • Series: Elma Dill Russell Spencer Series in the West and Southwest, #19
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 870,806
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.61 (d)

Meet the Author

PAUL H. CARLSON professor of history at Texas Tech University. He has written numerous articles on frontier history and Texas history and is the author of five previous books, including Empire Builder in the Texas Panhandle: William Henry Bush and "Pecos Bill": A Military Biography of William R. Shafter.
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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Ch. 1 The People and the Plains 1
Ch. 2 First Arrivals 20
Ch. 3 Horse and Bison Culture 36
Ch. 4 Economy and Material Culture 51
Ch. 5 Social Organization 67
Ch. 6 Society and Social Conventions 81
Ch. 7 Ceremony and Belief Systems 110
Ch. 8 Trade and Diplomacy 124
Ch. 9 War and Peace 142
Ch. 10 Reservation Life 163
Epilogue: The Twentieth Century 183
Notes 195
Bibliography 217
Index 237
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