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Reviews The Indian Heritage of America. By Alvin M. Josephy, Jr. (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1968. 384 pages, photographs, maps, $10.00.) Man’s Rise to Civilization as Shown by the Indians of North America from Primeval Times to the Coming of the Industrial State. By Peter Farb. (New York: E. P. Dutton Sc Co., Inc., 1968. 332 pages, photographs, maps, $8.95.) These two recent volumes ride high on the crest of the current flood of books about American Indians. The Indian Heritage of America by Alvin M. Josephy, Jr., a Commissioner of the Indian Arts and Crafts Board of the Department of the Interior, editor of The American Heritage Book of Indians, and author of several previous books, outlines the social patterns of Indian life in North, Central, and South America. The material is drawn from commonly accepted sources; very little new source material is presented; and most controversial issues are gracefully skimmed over. It is an impersonal, conservative, and somewhat staid text, amplified by statistics, outlines, and classification tables, which can be set on a nearby shelf for reference to factual data. Peter Farb is Curator of American Indian Cultures at the Riverside Museum, New York; consultant to the Smithsonian Institute; and author of four books for the Time/Life Nature Library. His current long-title book is a popular anthropology, the November 1968 selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club. In it Mr. Farb restricts himself to the Indians in North America, but he also approaches his subject from a sociological viewpoint, one much nar­ rower than that of Mr. Josephy. His premise is the theory of cultural evolution as stated by the anthropologists Elman R. Service, Leslie A. White, and Julian H. Stewart—i.e. the differences and similarities in human cultures 304 Western American Literature stem not from man’s biology nor personality, but solely from his social be­ havior. With this axe to grind, he vigorously outlines the development of Indian society from the Band, through the Tribe and the Chjefdom, to the State, along the general line of mankind’s cultural evolution from savagery to civilization. None of his selected Indian groups deviate from this pattern in their relations with other men and their environment, their institutions, religious systems, legal codes, and customs. The Plains Indians are called “Make-Believe Indians” because their picturesque culture was artificial, not aboriginal, and did not last very long. The author discounts the religious belief common to all tribes in a universal life-force impenetrating earth, plants, animals, and man, and which motivated their vision quests. The visions themselves he re­ gards solely as hallucinations produced by the seekers’ isolation, starvation, thirst, pain, dehydration, and delirium. . . . In short, the Indian, as man everywhere, is but a social animal developing on a horizontal level in response to sociological pressures, without the vertical dimensions given by spiritual insights and the instinctual forces of the unconscious. The immediate popular success of such a book, it seems to this reviewer, reflects the tenor of our time. We are in danger of succumbing everywhere to the fallacy that man is but a social unit in a vast economic or political aggregate of helpless masses. He is a Social Security number, a bank account number, a telephone number, a dozen numbers soon to be combined into one master number which will identify him from birth to death in a computerized civilization. Preyed upon and swayed by mass communication media, he is losing the simple dignity of man, the intuitive assurance that he is a citizen of that vast universe which embraces our living earth, the plant and animal kingdoms, and mankind. It is this view of himself that always has characterized the American Indian and set him apart from the Euro-American who still upholds the dualism of man and nature. Man, according to us, is created apart from nature that he may by divine will exploit it for material ends. This viewpoint also religious in nature, is largely responsible for our materialistic culture and present ecological crisis, rather than our “social behavior”. But to the Indian, as to other peoples throughout the world, man and nature are one within...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 303-305
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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