FACING EAST FROM INDIAN COUNTRY: A Native History of Early America

Daniel K. Richter, Author . Harvard Univ. $26 (336p) ISBN 978-0-674-00638-6

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.)

Reviewed on: 10/22/2001
Release date: 12/01/2001
Ebook - 336 pages - 978-0-674-04272-8
Paperback - 336 pages - 978-0-674-01117-5
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