The Native American Experience
by Jay Wertz
The Lyons Press | 64 pp | $45.00 US | $48.95 CAN
When I opened "The Native American Experience" that I received for a Father's Day gift, it was a pleasant surprise because of the thirty facsimile documents contained within the coffee-table type book. The rare documents - that are in waxed-paper pockets throughout the book - contain maps, letters, newspaper clippings and other documents that provide the reader with a close look at history of American Indians.
In addition to the documents, "The Native American Experience" authored by Jay Wertz, contains over 200 photographs, illustrations and a narrative.
As Blue Clark, Muscogee-Creek, writes in the foreward to the book, "Native American history is messy. But beyond Indian warfare, which dominated early literature and motion pictures, were peaceful pursuits. Commerce, sharing, marriage, missions, and other interactions affected the relations between Native peoples and non-natives."
The rare documents provide historical perspectives to various American Indian tribes within the context of American history.
Personally, among the rare documents, I enjoyed the most are several pages containing the Navajo Talkers Course used to train Navajos in the military to be code talkers. "Code Talker" was the name given to soldiers in World War II from the US Navy and Marine Corp, who used American Indian languages to code transmissions and other military dispatches.
While the most famous of the American Indian tribes that participated in the code talkers program were Navajo, other tribes participated as well. The code talker program was one of the most successful in the history military programs because it was enabled the military to keep their operations secret because the codes were unbreakable.
The Navajo Talkers Course documents in "The Native American Experience" are dated February 1, 1945 and describe the course work involved in the training of the code talkers. The syllabus details a 176-hours of course work that was conducted at Camp Pendleton in San Diego.
"The Native American Experience" provides snippets of various key players in American Indian history - from the Ice Age to contemporary. The book never intends to provide the reader with an in-depth history of American Indian history, but a cursory overview of how American Indians fit overall into American history. The book is written and designed almost like an encyclopedia style that allows the reader to take a look at various topics pertaining to American Indian tribes: how they lived and how they survived diseases, among many other topics.
The book ends with a section on preservation of Native American heritage, which is so important to contemporary American Indians. It is easy to understand why so many non-Indians want to claim American Indian heritage, because as evidenced in "The Native American Experience,"American Indian heritage contains beauty.
A typical reader may not choose to read "The Native American Experience" cover-to-cover, but may instead choose to savor the book one chapter at time. To those interested in American Indians, "The Native American Experience" is a "must have" book.
posted July 2, 2011 11:57 am edt
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