Jennings ( The Invasion of America ) argues that the true founders of North America were the Indians who established civilizations here long before the arrival of Columbus, Cortez and others. Synthesizing previously published material into a provocative essay, he forges a history that contradicts European explorers' assertions that the natives were primitive savages. Starting thousands of years ago with the first Indian arrivals from Asia and moving into the 20th century, with its continued immigration from abroad, Jennings traces the history of the peopling of the continent, persuasively demonstrating that the ``savages'' were often more ``civilized'' than the newcomers. While he describes various Indian cultures in rich detail, he simplifies the salient points of his argument, dulling the book's overall impact. Photos not seen by PW. (Oct.)
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This bold, fresh book sifts once more through the disparate, conflicting facts and fictions surrounding the complex histories and cultures of Indian peoples of North America. The author aptly calls it an essay, for here he explores his thoughts and feelings on pre-Columbian cultural history, the European ``invasion,'' and the prospects of Indian self-determination in the years to come. A historian who is no stranger to controversy, Jennings attempts to avoid romanticizing, to treat Indians as bearers of a creative human cultural tradition, and to reject the concept of race in understanding Indian-European interaction. In this absorbing, insightful book, he may well have produced one of the most enduring and genuine contributions to the encounter literature of this quincentennial year. Highly recommended for lay readers and scholars alike. For other books related to the quincentennary, see ``Rediscovering Columbus,'' LJ 8/91, p. 120-22.--Ed.-- William S. Dancey, Ohio State Univ., Columbus
When Jennings, a well-published historian and former director of the Newberry Library Center for the History of the American Indian, writes about America's founders he is not referring to sixteenth-century Europeans. No, America's pioneers were Indians who, some 40,000 years ago, worked their way across what is now Siberia to somewhere along the west coast of what is now the United States. Jennings summarizes a variety of theories about this migration but all add up to the fact that the Americas share one common history--that of American Indians. This sweeping, innovative narrative embraces the whole complex and diverse cycle of the creation and destruction of the many cultures and civilizations of Mexico and North America long before the arrival of the Europeans--the trauma and assimilation of invasions and colonizations, the rise and fall of city-states, and the redefining of frontiers. After chronicling the classical era of Amerindian history, Jennings plunges into the "dark ages" of the European conquest, which brought new and more horrible weapons, alien beliefs and conflicts, unknown hence fatal diseases, and every conceivable form of fraud and exploitation. Jennings tackles this immense amount of material with verve, drawing on numerous sources, making unexpected connections, and challenging old, erroneous assumptions. An ambitious, paradigm-breaking and -making treatise.