Treasures on the Shelves — Looking back over Native American history

Published 2:00 pm Wednesday, November 23, 2022

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American Heritage Month. Begun in 1990, the month highlights the traditions and contributions of the indigenous peoples of the United States, and with that in mind, I’ve chosen some books that I hope will help expand awareness of the Native American experience

“The Earth is Weeping: the Epic Story of the Indian Wars for the American West” by Peter Cozzens explores the political and military battles that ensued as part of the Manifest Destiny, the westward expansion for land that began in earnest after the Civil War. Cozzens offers a comprehensive exploration of both sides of the nearly thirty-year conflict, which expanded United States territory but at the expense of native lands and customs.

In 2023, Apple TV will stream Killers of the Flower Moon, directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Leonardo di Caprio. Until then, check out the book the movie is based on. Published in 2017 and nominated for the National Book Award, “Killers of the Flower Moon: the Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI” by journalist David Grann examines the Osage Reign of Terror, which took place in the 1920’s. The tribal lands in Oklahoma sat atop one of the largest oil reserves in the United States and as the Osage were due to receive the oil profits, members of the tribe began to be killed. The then newly-formed FBI undertook an investigation, with decidedly mixed results. If you enjoy true crime stories, this book is a fascinating account of a tragic episode of American history.

One of the most famous Native Americans is Pocahontas. The mythology surrounding her is immense: Indian princess who was the savior of John Smith, ambassador, even a Disney heroine. But how much of this is actually true? In “Pocahontas: Medicine Woman, Spy, Entrepreneur, Diplomat” Paula Gunn Allen explores the many facets of Pocahontas’ life from the Native American viewpoint. The alliances between the native population and the settlers at Jamestown were largely built upon her efforts and while the historical record has typically portrayed her as more of a secondary character in these events, this compelling biography shows she held great power in her own right.

“Keepunumuk” is the traditional word for harvest in the language of the First Nation people. In the beautiful children’s book of the same name, four Native American storytellers and illustrators have created a story of the ‘first’ Thanksgiving in 1621 that was celebrated by the Plymouth colony settlers and the Wampanoag tribe. The tale of the Three Sisters: Corn, Beans and Squash, highlights the nature of abundance and gratitude that we have come to celebrate during this holiday.

Happy Thanksgiving and happy reading!

Holly Howze is the branch manager for the Ripberger Public Library located in Kenbridge. She can be reached at