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A Look at Early American Indian History Essay

In analyzing early American history before the 1870s, it’s vital to have a picture of the lives and lifestyles of the native American Indian people, who have witnessed the immigration of Europeans and other foreign people from a completely different perspective as many of the people who consider themselves to be mainstream Americans today.

The American Indian population and tribes have dwindled and suffered at the expense of the influx of migrating peoples into what was once their own land, and First Peoples, a book by Colin Calloway, takes a closer look at the history of Americans who were truly native, who freshly walked the shores and farmed the countryside of the great American continent. First Peoples is a documentary survey of the history of the first Americans, the Indian tribes who first roamed the American lands.

The introduction and chapters of the book are broken down into several intriguing parts, including American Indians in American history, American History before Columbus, The Invasions of America, Indians in Colonial and Revolutionary America, American Indians and the New Nation, Defending the West, Kill the Indian and Save Man (which begins the area of the book which analyses the Native American experience after 1870), From the Great Depression to Self Determination, and Nations within a Nation.

In introduction and first chapters of First Peoples, a total of six large sections of Calloway’s book, go into much detail about the experience of the Native American people in early America before the 1870s, from the roots of Native American life dating back as far as possibly 11,500 BC with the finding of the oldest Clovis spear points to the exploration of the varied tribal journeys until the mid 1800s AD. The introduction of the book gives a general overview of the theme of the book, the topics related to Native American history in the Americas and the documentation and sources used to feed knowledge into the introduction.

References noted in the introduction as well as references noted throughout Calloway’s documentary include the several noted here as well as many more: Abler, T. & Einhorn, A. “Bonnets, Plumes, and Headbands in West’s Painting of Penn’s Treaty. ” American Indian Art Magazine 21, 1996: 46. Banner, S. How the Indians Lost Their Land: Law and Power on the Frontier. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005. Brown, J. & Vibert, E. Reading Beyond Words: Contexts for Native History. Peterboro, Ontario: Broadview Press, 1996. DuBois, M.

& McKiernan, K. “In the Spirit of Crazy Horse. ” PBS series Frontline, 1990. Kipp, D. & Fisher, J. “Transitions: Destruction of A Mother Tongue. ” Native Voices Public Television Workshop, 1991. Lesiak, C. “In the White Man’s Image. ” PBS series American Experience, 1992. Steckler, P. & Welch, J. Killing Custer: The Battle of Little Big Horn and the Fate of the Plains Indians. New York: W. W. Norton, 1994. Usner, D. (1985). “American Indians on the Cotton Frontier: Changing Economic Relations with Citizens and Slave in the Mississippi Territory.

” Journal of American History 72, 1985: 297-317. In First Peoples, Calloway has utilized a large number and variety of sources, from scholarly books to journals, magazines to films, and the references are noted at the end of every chapter and at the end of the book. On can see that it is through the use of varied and substantial amounts of references and study that Calloway has been able to craft such a detailed and powerful documentary of American Indian life and history.

The first chapter of First Peoples focuses on the very early migration and creation theories related to American Indian tribes and the settlement of the first people who migrated across the bearing straight many thousands of years ago, the findings and studies of early fossils and civilizations, and the emergence over time of the Apalachee, Caddos, Chickasaws, Chocktaws, Cheyennes, Cherokee, Creeks, Hurons, Natchez, Iroquois, Mohawks, Neutrals, Petuns, Senecas, Shawnees, Timucua and other tribes.

Calloway discusses the hunting and farming ways of life of the native tribes, including the first buffalo hunters of the plains, the farmers of the southwest, the mound builders and farmers of the eastern woodlands, and the affluence of the West Coast. Finally, the chapter ends with a look at the arrival of the European colonists into a world which was already burgeoning with the cultures, battles, celebrations and struggles of the native peoples.

In summarizing the second chapter of First Peoples, one notes that Calloway analyses the confrontations of the American Indians with the early European settlers from 1492 to 1680. Through the influx of new people into America, the cultural landscape of America begins to shift and change around the new immigrants even more than it had between the tribal peoples. The Indians face off with the Spanish, French, and English colonists, aiming to balance survival with the struggle for power known as gold, god, commerce, priests, empires, and pelts.

The economic and religious impact on the American Indians after the arrival of the Europeans was profound, and both cultures, Indian and European, learned new ways of being and living, were educated by one another in their vastly differing stock holds of cultural history and backgrounds, and clashed together when the trade of goods and ideas seemed tipped too far in favor of one over the other.

The balance of power was not easy to manage, and more often than not, American Indians suffered more at the hands of the Europeans than vice versa. The chapter three, Indians in Colonial and Revolutionary America, Calloway takes a look at both Indians in colonial society and colonists in Indian society as they both draw together more closely and clash more violently.

The impact of the fur trade and other economic industries brought a reduced capacity to hunt and live off the land, bringing peoples together in tighter communities, resulting in the loss of European and tribal languages for the minority people pressing into the mainstream, the stealing and returning of captives, division within tribal communities, peace treaties, the removal of Indian tribes, and the banding together of tribes and colonists to fight against the most recent invading immigrating force.

In reading this chapter, one is able to more clearly understand the attempts at peace and unity merging and contrasting vividly with harsh battles and banishment of peoples. This era of American history is strewn with the movement of individuals, with change and newfound placement, with horrifying prejudice and necessary cooperation. In reading the American Indians and the New Nation, the fourth chapter of First Peoples, one is able to better understand the nation as it gained independence and began working together and a more unified system.

Although the emergence of a truly independent America involved new statehood and politics which banded together people from across the vast country, it also brought with it new laws aimed at cleansing Indian people from European and mainstream America. With the populations of American Indians ever dwindling and racism and prejudice haunting the beginnings of American history as an independent nation, the American Indians suffered the loss of political battles as well as the loss of tribal people to death and disease, alcoholism and suicide.

Chapter five, the last chapter focusing on American history before 1870, sees only further aggression against the American Indian people and tribes. Policies of detribalization find their ways onto the desks of politicians even as American Indian statehood is granted to Oklahoma. Indian children are removed from their tribes and forced in to state schools across the nation, even to the point of stripping Indian children from their families to live in permanent boarding schools for the effective Americanization or Europeanization of the Indian children.

The divisions and suffering within the American Indian families, cultures, and lifestyles during this time are still felt to this day. Although this chapter ends with a look at new American Indian leaders and furthering active attempts to overcome the racism and unfair practices of the European people against the American Indians, it’s important to note the devastation suffered by the American Indians at the hands of the European Americans and the troubling ripple effects of hate crimes against Indians which are still felt within American society today.

Overall, First Peoples is a wonderful book for the in depth study of historical life for the American Indian people and tribes, lending insight to the wellness and status of American Indians today in modern America. The creation of America as an independent nation is rife with struggles and diversity, with clashes and vibrancy.

The coming together of various peoples has often dealt the people with the most differences a worse deck, however, it is important to view the coming together of our patchwork of American cultures and to know what has happened before, so that people can make informed judgments about the history of yesterday and the future of tomorrow. Luckily, the harsh barbarianism of the past is less and less a part of present society, and prejudice and racism less and less a prominent fixture of modern society worldwide.

Although there are still differences to accept and divisions to heal, the world grows more peaceful with every passing decade. First Peoples lend true insight into the well researched history of the American Indians and shines light on what has gone before and what still goes onward in this changing and evolving American culture. Works Cited Calloway, C. First Peoples: A Documentary Survey of American Indian History. Macmillan, 2007.


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