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The Book Report

January 23 - Native Americans
By Joan Cucinotta
Posted: 2023-01-27T17:12:49Z


At the January meeting, the Book Club members shared their separate readings on “topics related to Native Americans of North America.”

Here is a list of the readings we found informative and would recommend. Each item is followed by some noteworthy information discovered in the book. 

  1. Native American History: A Chronology of a Culture's Vast Achievements and Their Links to World Events by Judith Niles. Its book covers events from 20,000 BCE to 1999. This book is most notable and useful for its formatting. The two columns on each page list side by side the events for Native Americans occurring at the same time as events for Western cultures.
  2. Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Gramm. Non-fiction account. When the Osage tribal members began to reap enormous profits from the oil and minerals suddenly discovered on their reservation, many of them began to turn up dead, murdered, or missing with their land rights conveniently transferred to new white owners, some who had even married the victim just for that purpose. 
  3. Everything You Wanted to Know about Indians But Were Afraid to Ask by AntonTreuer. A good introductory book touching on all sorts of topics from simple things like “do Indians live in teepees” to more thoughtful questions regarding identity, politics, and citizenship status.
  4. House Made of Dawn by N. Scott Momaday. In this Pulitzer-winning novel, a young Native American soldier returns from WWII to his family home bringing his new understanding of the wider world back to the settled views of his Kiowa family in Oklahoma during the late 1940s.
  5. Alternative History of Pittsburgh by Fred Simon. Covers local events from 300,000 BCE to 1995.
  6. The Nutmeg’s Curse: Parables for a Planet in Crisis by Amitav Ghosh. Unlike the colonizers, indigenous peoples did not view land as a commodity, something separate from themselves and something to be used. The Navajo originating myth ties the people directly to the land, seeing its parts as sacred as any part of a cathedral.
  7. The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of the Native People in North America by Thomas King. For Native People, the land is not a separate thing. It is something that is sacred, is a home, and even provides a language.
  8. Two wonderful children’s books:

We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom (Author) and Michaela Goade (Illustrator). Caldecott winner 2021. The people lived in harmony with water until the arrival of the Dakota Access pipeline, represented here as a long, corrupting snake.

Frye Bread: A Native American Family Story by Kevin Noble Maillard. A book about Native American home life and the diversity among Native Americans themselves. 

9. The Great Retreat: The Nez Perces War in Words and Pictures by Pascal Tchakmakian. This book maps and describes the unsuccessful flight of the Nez Perces to Canadian asylum.

10. One member’s research into the Native American casino industry yielded interesting facts. These casinos have been fabulously successful, bringing in more revenue than the Las Vegas casinos combined. While they seem to be immune to corruption common in that industry, it’s hard to evaluate since the casinos do not have to maintain public records. Because they are often located in reservation and rural areas and because there aren’t enough native people to staff the casinos, these casinos have been a source of needed employment for the many white residents in the area. Some casinos are plowing the profits into community services like building hospitals or supporting scholarships.

11. Another member alerted us to a case currently before the U.S. Supreme Court, Brackeen vs Haaland, in which a white foster family is charging that the Indian Child Welfare Act is discriminatory because the Act places requests for the adoption of Native children by white families below requests made from Native families. The case questions whether being Native American is a racial or a political designation. The Native families consider themselves as part of sovereign nations primarily, not simply racially designated. The court’s ruling is expected this Spring. 

Our next meeting is February 17, at 10:30 A.M. at the Squirrel Hill library. The group plans to do separate research into the U.S. economy to help answer the following questions: What does it mean for the U.S. to have a balanced budget? What is the debt ceiling? Why does it matter?