Non-Fiction: History

The American Indian Wars

Written by: John Tebbel and Keith Jennison

Published By: Castle Books

Reviewed by Melissa Minners



            Before the Americas were explored and settled by the "white man", the region now known as the United States was populated by over one million Native Americans - six hundred different societies scattered over this entire country. Over four centuries, these proud peoples saw their numbers decimated, their traditions and culture destroyed. This book chronicles the interactions between the Native Americans and the "white man" dating all the way back to the 1500s. It tells of their struggles to cope with the new invaders of their land, their resolve to drive them out, the injustices heaped upon their peoples, and their ultimate defeat.

            The American Indian Wars by John Tebbel and Keith Jennison was first published in the early 1960s.  It reads much like the textbooks one might have received in a junior high or high school class.  The writing is very dry and can tend to put the reader to sleep despite their interest in the subject matter.  Throughout the book, one gets the distinct impression that the authors felt that quite a great deal of the atrocities brought upon the Native Americans were brought on by themselves.  The book cites instances when the tribes turned on each other.  There are often passages that describe the Native American people as uncommitted to the wars they waged.  There was much more reference to the horrific mutilations, torture and rape committed by Native Americans and very little about the atrocities committed on these people by the numerous invaders of their country.  The writers seem to be of the opinion that the Native Americans were all savages before they were “discovered” by explorers.  They seem to forget that a great deal of the savagery they imparted was taught to them by the very people who sought to “civilize” them.

            All in all, The American Indian Wars is plentiful in information.  The book discusses tribes that have long since been exterminated.  There is a great deal of information about the French, British, Spanish and American dealings with the Native Americans.  To their credit, the authors do point out the many times that the newcomers to the Americas used lies and trickery against the Native American peoples.  A history buff will want to add this to their reading list as a useful source of historical information.  But someone looking for an accurate portrayal of the events that led to the genocide of a land’s native peoples are better off looking elsewhere.



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