Good Books About Native Americans

On the other hand, some will say that you can't learn anything from books. That's just not so. The truth is that you have to be careful with books. Most books about Indians are garbage, but most books about anything are garbage. You have to weigh them against other resources and talking with people who know something. Oh, and let's lay one matter to rest. The fact that someone only tells you what you want to know doesn't mean that they know something.

For example, here's just a few of dozens of reasonably accurate resources:

Native American histories: Two of the best popular resources for information about American Indians are Indian Givers and Native Roots by Jack Weatherford. I didn't say they were perfect. No resource is perfect. Given what we have to work with, they're not too bad. And Jack Weatherford seems to know that there were actually Indians around before Columbus. Lots of 'em.

"Spirituality": There is no one Native spirituality or culture--there are hundreds. Here are some entry points. For traditional Lakota spirituality, read The Sacred Pipe by Nicholas Black Elk. For current Native Christianity, read Native and Christian (edited by James Treat). For the Native American Church, read One Nation Under God (edited by Huston Smith and Reuben Snake).

Identity: Indian identity is a recurring issue, so almost any Indian newspaper will periodically deal with it. The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver approaches the issue in a story with a Cherokee background.

Here's some general rules I've found that work for judging resources about Native Americans. University publishers try to be accurate. Since there isn't the demand for rigorous scholarship in the general public, you can pretty well guess that a mass-market book is not going to be particularly useful. In almost all cases, Indian sources themselves are fine. These rules aren't written in stone, but I've found that they generally work. Use your own judgement. Stay away from books with purple covers.

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