This Indian Country: American Indian Activists and the Place They Madeby Frederick Hoxie
Frederick E. Hoxie, one of our most prominent and celebrated academic historians of Native American history, has for years asked his undergraduate students at the beginning of each semester to write down the names of three American Indians. Almost without exception, year after year, the names are Geronimo, Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse. The general conclusion is inescapable: Most Americans instinctively view Indians as people of the past who occupy a position outside the central narrative of American history. These three individuals were warriors, men who fought violently against American expansion, lost, and died. It’s taken as given that Native history has no particular relationship to what is conventionally presented as the story of America. Indians had a history too; but theirs was short and sad, and it ended a long time ago.
In This Indian Country, Hoxie has created a bold and sweeping counter-narrative to our conventional understanding. Native American history, he argues, is also a story of political activism, its victories hard-won in courts and campaigns rather than on the battlefield. For more than two hundred years, Indian activists—some famous, many unknown beyond their own communities—have sought to bridge the distance between indigenous cultures and the republican democracy of the United States through legal and political debate. Over time their struggle defined a new language of “Indian rights” and created a vision of American Indian identity. In the process, they entered a dialogue with other activist movements, from African American civil rights to women’s rights and other progressive organizations.
Hoxie weaves a powerful narrative that connects the individual to the tribe, the tribe to the nation, and the nation to broader historical processes. He asks readers to think deeply about how a country based on the values of liberty and equality managed to adapt to the complex cultural and political demands of people who refused to be overrun or ignored. As we grapple with contemporary challenges to national institutions, from inside and outside our borders, and as we reflect on the array of shifting national and cultural identities across the globe, This Indian Country provides a context and a language for understanding our present dilemmas.
What People are Saying About This
This Indian Country provides an invaluable exposition of the under-recognized political history of Native American intellectuals and activists. Judiciously framed and executed, it confirms Fred Hoxie's standing as the leading proponent and practitioner of contemporary American Indian history. (Ned Blackhawk, author of Violence Over the Land: Indians and Empires in the Early American West)
In this remarkable book, Frederick Hoxie portrays men and women whose weapons were words and whose battlegrounds were courtrooms, Congressional hearings, newspapers, and lecture halls. With ingenuity and tenacity, these Native American activists learned to navigate the corridors of U.S. power in Washington, D.C., a wilderness surely as daunting as any on the continent. Most remarkable of all, perhaps, these Natives didn't always lose in the ongoing contest for This Indian Country. (James H. Merrell, author of the Bancroft Prize-winning The Indians' New World and Into the American Woods)
For five centuries, European nations and the United States levied all manner of assaults on the lives, land, governments, and cultures of American Indians. Yet Indianness never died out. Frederick Hoxie has brought his rare talents to bear on why this is so. Using well-selected political activists, he shows that these sustainers all kept Indian existence alive so that modern political activists like Vine Deloria Jr. could ignite and carry out a broad-based revival in modern times. This is as good a book as we will ever have to bring deep insight into the long arc of Indian history. (Charles Wilkinson, author of Blood Struggle: The Rise of Modern Indian Nations)
This is a remarkable and absorbing book that shows why Indian peoples belong at the very center of American history. This Indian Country brings to life people who, unlike Crazy Horse or Tecumseh, would make terrible symbols and worse martyrs, but who made important history. These Indian lawyers, lobbyists, politicians and writers were usually flawed and sometimes failures, but they drew on American ideas, emphasizing treaties and citizenship, to defend the tribalism and local control that American Indian policy attacked. Without them Indian country and the republic itself would be far different places. (Richard White, author of Railroaded and The Middle Ground)
—Cleveland Plain Dealer
A master historian at his very best, Frederick Hoxie deftly turns a series of evocative biographies into a compelling new synthesis of American Indian political resistance. In doing so, This Indian Country redefines the terrain of Native American historical memory, even as it centers Indian people in the full sweep of the history of the United States. (Philip J. Deloria, author of Playing Indian and Indians in Unexpected Places)
Meet the Author
Frederick E. Hoxie is the Swanlund Professor of History and a professor of law at the University of Illinois, where he specializes in Native American history. He is the author of several books, most recently Talking Back to Civilization. He served as the general editor of The American Indians, a twenty-three-volume series that has sold more than two million copies, and as the series editor (with Neal Salisbury) for Cambridge Studies in American Indian History. Professor Hoxie is a founding trustee of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian and a former president of the American Society for Ethnohistory. He received his undergraduate degree from Amherst College and his Ph.D. from Brandeis University.
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