The story of the American Indians has, until now, been told as a 500-year tragedy, a story of violent and fatal encounters with Europeans and their diseases, followed by steady retreat, defeat, and diminishment. Yet the true story begins much earlier, and its final recent chapter adds a major twist. Jake Page, one of the Southwest's most distinguished writers and a longtime student of Indian history and culture, tells a radically new story, thanks to an explosion of recent archaeological findings, the latest scholarship, and an exploration of Indian legends. Covering no less than 20,000 years, In the hands of the Great Spirit will forever change how we think about the oldest and earliest Americans. Page explores every controversy, from the question of cannibalism among tribes, to the various theories of when and how humans first arrived on the continent, to what life was actually like for Indians before the Europeans came. Page dispels the popular image of a peaceful and idyllic Eden, and shows that Indian societies were fluid, constantly transformed by intertribal fighting, population growth, and shifting climates. Page uses Indian legends and stories as tools to uncover tribal origins, cultural values, and the meaning of certain rituals and sacred lands. He tells the story of contact with Europeans, and the multipower conflicts of the Seven Years War, the Revolutionary War, and the War of 1812, from the Indians' point of view. He explains the complex and shifting role of the U.S. government as expressed through executive decisions and through the role of the courts. Finally, he tells the fascinating story of the late-twentieth-century upsurge in Indian population and resources, which began as a social movement and exploded once casinos came into fashion.
My one and only grip about the book is the last chapter, where Page attempts to cover some of the current events and possible political future of the American Indians. This is the worst thing a well written historic account can do. Any predications based on current information of human behavior are bound to be wrong. In this case they weren’t too far off, but only scratched the surface of the issues faced by American Indians. Page even acknowledges the flaws of such a chapter, but goes ahead and throws in his own predictions. These sort of chapters should be left out.