Reference Books

NATIVE AMERICA IN THE 20TH CENTURY: AN ENCYCLOPEDIA, ed. Mary B. Davis, Garland Publishing, 1000A Sherman Avenue, Hamden, CT, 06514. 800/627-6273 1994, 1996 832 pages pages, 26 maps, indexes, photos. 0-8153-2583-5. Hardcover: $95, paperback $25

Cutting to the chase here, if you have any interest or professional responsibility regarding Indian people, history, or culture, this encyclopedia is a must-have. Its recent issuance as a sturdy $25 paperback means it is affordable by almost any individual. No encyclopedia is "the final word" for indepth knowledge or for research, but I find that the convenience, clarity, and reliability of this one makes it the first I consult on almost any question. That's why it's getting an unprecdented double thumbs up.

This single-volume encyclopedia was deservedly designated a Library Journal Best Reference when it came out in hardcover in 1994. In the fall of 1996, it also came out as a $25 paperback. As a hardcover it is a must-have for every school and college library. At $25, it becomes a must for classroom level availability, and individuals and teachers, college students, parents can also afford it and should buy it. Though it has been prepared for adults, some 5th and 6th graders will be able to use it. All classroom teachers who are doing anything about "'Native Americans" in diversity or minority study should have this available and use it frequently.

The emphasis is on Indian people today and recently, unlike most materials prepared for elementary and middle schools, where everyone's running around in loin cloths (men) or tasking care of the tipi and kids (women). That Indian people of a great many tribes are still here and taking part in many important modern developments, as well as preserving languages and culture will become manifest to those who use this reference, and that manifestation is very much needed in non-Indian schools. The involvement of a great many knowledgeable Indian people, very close to much of what they describe, contributes greatly to accuracy, coverage of usually ignored matters, and lends energy and interest in the writing itself.

Here also clear overviews of such complex and important matters as Allotment or Treaties. The Subject index, at the front of the book groups related entries which are alphabetically separated -- under Art are grouped 16 entries on the arts, from Architecture to Textiles. The subject index groups all tribes for which there is an entry by geographical areas. The editor says "In a book this size, organizatiuon and delineation of article topics is a major endeavor." It has obviously been given much thought and efgfort, and the result shows.

This reference was 6 years in the making. Many Indian people were involved as authors of entries (as well as serving as editors and members of the project advisory board). The editor says all were willing to do peer review, and the result shows. The writing is clear and interesting. All entries are signed, and you can look up the qualifications (and tribal membership) of contributors. For almost all the articles (all the longer ones) there is a list of further readings, or source materials. Articles are cross-referenced to related ones. Many entries are illustrated, but color would have greatly improved all the illustrations about Native arts and crafts.

Some entries, such as basketry, have clear diagrams indicating how some of the basket types are made. The entry Land Claims has a general discussion, several brief case studies (Pueblo tribes, Navajos, Calif0ornia tribes), a large map showing adjudicated claims areas for the entire U.S. and a full-page map-diagram illustrating Navajo-Hopi land conflicts. You can consult the subject index at the front of the book for more entries that deal with land claims. For fine detail, the general index at the back of the book is extensive. I note that casinos are covered under the topic-title Gaming. While this is the way it is almost always mentioned in formal discussions, the law, and position papers, a cross-entry would have helped those who aren't aware of what's going on with tribal casinos.

The encyclopedia is not totally free of error; nothing like this really can be at present. The one error of editorial judgement was asking Ward Churchill, a white man who has made a career from pretending to be Indian, to write about the American Indian Movement. In 1990-1994, the Indian press was full of accusations and counter accusations from AIM's founders, as Churchill created his own faction of AIM. In such a circumstance, a neutral observer should have been asked to write about AIM, not the person who split the organization and is a leader of one faction who is often publicly attacking others in press and physically. This aside, the major weakness of this encyclopedia is inadequate coverage of Canadian Native and Inuit matters. An environmental topic that deserves an entry in itself, not a random scattershot in other entries is Dams and their effects on Indian land.

There are very good indexes. Of course entries are by alphabetical order, but it's also possible to find many names and topics within articles using the general index, and a list of topics organized in outline form helps find many entries whose titles weren't just what you're trying to look up (most of these are also cross-referenced to at the end of each entry in the related group).

<>p>Especially good are most of the entries about tribes. These often are written by a pair of authors -- one a tribal member, and one a university scholar (who may or may not also be a tribal member). History and the current situation are covered well. Some tribal entries are especially strong, Cherokee (Eastern and Western are covered), Kumeyaay, Pomo and Paiute are exemplary. "Oklahoma Tribes" is not adequately covered by a paragraph merely containing the names of all the tribes no living there who have entries.

The maps will be valuable to everyone (in the U.S.). There are 9 large maps that divide the country by regions corresponding roughly to locations of BIA area offices (which are indicated on the maps). Reservations are outlined, where large, shown by dots or triangles where very small tracts Call-outs show the many small tribes in California and the southwest. Non-Indian teachers and students can learn what tribes live in their state or (for a few Eastern states that have no federally or state recognized tribal entities) nearest, then look them up for more information. With 28 maps -- some of which show historical progressions (such as losses of land over time) a map index is very necessary but these by-state reservation maps are all grouped together, except for Washington state. Tables and graphs also clarify comparative, numerical, or statistical data. A set of graphs of mortality statistics shows the Indian health situation in brief, grim images. But a big set of poorly-hatched and badly keyed bar graphs doesn't contribute much to the "Economics" entry.\, and should have been done over with better software.

In summary, lookups will generally find answers to varying depths on most topics, and pointers for further research if followups are needed. Encyclopedia prose style generally is not sprightly, but most of the entries communicate interest and involvement of their writers, rather than academic detachment. The ditor, in an Aknkowledgement describing the 6-year project, says:

"My contacts with the enclopedia's contributyors were the highlights of the project. Almost all were strangers, yet they spent their time and effort to make this book what it is. Many not only worked on their own articles but read and commented upon those of others as well."

Reviewed by Paula Giese

File: r921

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Native American BOOKS, text and graphics copyright Paula Giese, 1996

Last Updated: 12/26/96