Book Reviews of Native Americans of Calif. and Nevada.

1. "During the past several years there has been a great deal of attention devoted to Indian affairs, ranging from the adulation of hippies to academic symposia. Since much of the material was stereotyped, inaccurate, and either prejudiced or patronizing, there was a real need for a factual history of the Indians of the West Coast. A book which fills that need admirably is Native Americans of California and Nevada, by Jack D. Forbes.

"Dr. Forbes, who is of Powhatan Indian descent, writes from the viewpoint that American Indians have a significant history, a cultural heritage quite different from Anglo-American and Hispanic-American cultures. In pointing out the difference in basic character traits between the Europeans who invaded the Americas and the native inhabitants, he stresses the fact that the newcomers insulated themselves against the natives, considering themselves to be superior to other, culturally different populations. For example, he says that although the English of Virginia and New England were economically dependent upon native inventions (tobacco,  maize, hominy, squash, pumpkins, maple syrup, etc.) this did not lead to more favorable attitudes towards the Indians nor did this dependence lead to any early intellectual recognition of the presence of a modified culture.

"This supremely egotistical attitude was more apparent among the Spanish speaking people who entered the coastal regions of the West than anywhere else. These people were born to centuries of almost constant warfare, to conformity and religious intolerance. The Native Americans of California and Nevada possessed almost an exactly opposite way of life, featuring as it did the almost total absence of warfare in the European sense. The Indian idea of land ownership was also quite different. In their primitive and religious sense land was not regarded as personal property; it was like air, it was something necessary to the life of the race, and therefore not to be appropriated by any individual or group to the exclusion of others. The European concept of land ownership was based on occupancy, improvements, adding value to the property and taking profit from it. 'Given these differences,' Dr. Forbes points out, 'it is not at all surprising that a few hundred Hispanos, equipped with guns, steel-tipped lances, swords, leather jackets and pants, and horses, with years of aggressive military experience, were able to overcome in a short space of time many thousands of ill-equipped natives.'

"Although their communities were seriously reduced through disease, warfare, and abuse, the natives of California might have recovered from the Hispanic invasion if there had been more time between that period and the advent of the Anglo-Americans. This was a drastic change for which neither the Mexicans nor Indians were ready.

"The Indians were certainly not passive victims of the appropriation of property, destruction of native food supply, or of casual murder, rape, and enslavement. In the three decades between 1850 and 1880, there was a decline of about 80,000 in the native population, the drastic loss of life being almost entirely due to the Indians' efforts to defend themselves. After the period of violence ceased, some natives succumbed to the alien pressures, becoming more and more 'non-Indians.' But the majority resisted in passive ways, such as preserving their religions and ceremonial practices, maintaining some of their crafts, keeping their native language, and holding their sense of identity as a people. Gradually, a new generation of Native Americans began to discover ways of protecting themselves and of strengthening their position. One important step forward has been the continuing development of Indian-controlled organizations such as the National Congress of American Indians, and numerous local groups in California and Nevada. With infinite patience they have struggled for citizenship rights, to be compensated for land seized illegally, against poverty and discrimination.

"This handbook was written primarily for teachers and leaders in the field of Indian education, and includes some significant philosophy of their religious leaders. In this time of social strife we might all be doing ourselves a favor to heed some of these teachings, which focus upon the development of moral men who possess a deep awareness of their relationship with the total universe." (Celesta Lowe, "Echoes from the Archives: Perspective of the Native American," The Nevadan, February 7, 1971)

2. "Everybody knows the indigenous Americans--usually known as Indians--suffered at the hands of the invading Europeans and Anglo-Americans. But Jack Forbes tells it like it really was....Forbes' current volume is a history of the 'Indians' of California and Nevada since before the arrival of the Spanish. Following the Spanish conquest came the Mexican period and then the Anglo-American invasion. Each was a new disaster for the American native....

" 'The United States possesses many sordid chapters in its history,' Forbes writes, 'but perhaps none is more sordid than that relating to the conquest of California, typified by great brutality and callousness and what closely approaches genocide....The bulk of the Indians were conquered, and died, in innumerable little episodes rather than in large campaigns. This fact...serves to indict not a group of cruel leaders, or a few squads of rough soldiers, but in effect, an entire people; for the conquest of the Native Californians was above all else a popular, mass enterprise.'

The subsequent role of the federal government is equally inhuman. Forbes relates the illegal seizure of lands, the destruction of a culture and demoralization of the individual. Poverty and humiliation were maintained by a national 'Indian' policy that was inept, cruel, corrupt, and without the participation of the people it affected." (Robert H. Sollen, "Settling of California Proved Disastrous to Indian Culture," Glendale News-Press, August 9, 1970)