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  • We Are an Indian Nation: A History of the Hualapai People
  • Jon Reyhner
We Are an Indian Nation: A History of the Hualapai People. By Jeffrey P. Shepherd. (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2010. Pp. 304. Illustrations, map, notes, bibliography, index. ISBN 9780816528288, $45.00; ISBN 9780816529049, $24.95 paper.)

With a foreword by the Hualapai Tribal Council Chairman and the cooperation of the tribal government in its writing, Shepherd's book can be considered an official history of the Hualapai Nation and a self-declared "narrative of survival and resistance that challenges dominant beliefs of the Hualapai as a conquered people" (2). His account gains strength because he was able to supplement archival sources with interviews and participant observation. Less visible is what may be missing from the book because of tribal concerns over "revealing sacred sites, sensitive religious practices, and valuable cultural properties," including any discussion of Christian missionary activity that is very prominent within most Indian nations (208).

When Father Francisco Garcés made contact with the Pai in 1776 they lived in thirteen decentralized bands of extended families sharing a similar culture on a six-million-acre homeland in what is now northwest Arizona. In the 1850s a rapidly increasing stream of immigrants encroached on their lands, leading to the Hualapai Wars from 1865 to 1869. Subsequently, some Pais served as army scouts in the U.S. Army's campaigns against the Yavapai and Apaches. The impact of the wars and encroachment on their lands cut the Pai population in half.

In 1874 the army forced 400 to 600 Pais to take a "long walk" to La Paz on the Colorado River. The survivors endured the oppressive heat of the Colorado River Indian Reservation until they escaped the following year. However, they found the springs that their livelihood depended on increasingly monopolized by the intruders. Shepherd notes that U.S. "military officials occasionally defended Indigenous lands, while Indian Office officials intimidated and neglected tribal members" (51).

In 1883 an executive order created today's million-acre Hualapai Indian Reservation bordering the Colorado River where around 450 Hualapai, about half the total population, took up residence. There they struggled with the Santa Fe Railroad and white ranchers for water and land and received little government attention until Franklin D. Roosevelt's Indian New Deal provided various programs, such as the Indian Division of the Civilian Conservation Corps. The Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 established a framework to set up a Hualapai Tribal government, and William O. Douglas, appointed to the Supreme Court by Roosevelt, wrote the Supreme Court decision in 1941 denying the Santa Fe Railroad's claim to every other section of the Reservation within twenty miles of the railroad.

Service in both World Wars I and II expanded the horizons of some Hualapai, [End Page 447] and they learned how to deal with, and often fight, local, state, and federal governments. The nation continues to battle today with the National Park Service over access to the Colorado River.

Central to Hualapai history is the nation's scarcity of water. Ironically one can argue that scarcity is why they were able to get such a large reservation considering their relatively small population. Unemployment continues to be a major problem for the nation's growing population. Tourism, including the recently built "Skywalk" at Grand Canyon West, is one of the current efforts to find employment for the nation's growing population.

Shepherd concludes, "Hualapais used the colonizer's tools to build their own conceptualization of what it means to be a nation and in the process found a sense of belonging in the midst of assaults on their language, culture, and identity" (129). We Are an Indian Nation is a valuable book that chronicles the impact of the settler society on one small Indian nation and how various U.S. government policies, including allotment, the Indian New Deal, relocation, termination, and self-determination, affected the lives of Indian people both positively and negatively. It is an excellent example of researchers working with the people they are studying. [End Page 448]

Jon Reyhner
Northern Arizona University


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