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AmySea

AmySea

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Famous Indians : A Collection of Short Biographies

Famous Indians : A Collection of Short Biographies - United States Bureau of Indian Affairs I read this 1966 edition of Famous Indians : A Collection of Short Biographies, and it was written by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs. It was a neat little government publication, cool pictures and portraits, and I do think that the Bureau did a reasonably good job of trying to present these Native American personages in a fair and balanced light for the time the book was written. Occasional prejudices and patronizing comments do find their way into this text, but having recently looked at numerous 1800s-early 1900s documents from this agency, it's clear that the Bureau was trying to be more fair and balanced.

That said, I can't help but feel like I'm not hearing the whole truth of who these people were and how their experiences vis-à-vis white settlers really played out. If this book had been written and published by Native Americans, I wonder how differently these biographies would have read. And I can't help but wonder that, because there is a distinct lack of Native American voice here. Also lacking is context. The book blends these 22 individuals into two types--those Native Americans who were friendly to white settlers, and those Native Americans who hated white settlers. Individualism is lost here, as each biography reads like a catalog of gracious acts or hostile acts coupled with dates. There is no real or lasting sense of who these people were as individuals.

As the subtitle says, these biographies are short, so I guess if I want more meat I have to look elsewhere. Ultimately, though, I come away from this little government publication feeling like the biographies weren't just short, they were perfunctory--and that still seems patronizing.