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In the beginning, North America was Indian country. But only in the beginning. After the opening act of the great national drama, Native Americans yielded to the westward rush of European settlers. Or so the story usually goes. Yet, for three centuries after Columbus, Native people controlled most of eastern North America and profoundly shaped its destiny. In Facing East fr In the beginning, North America was Indian country. But only in the beginning. After the opening act of the great national drama, Native Americans yielded to the westward rush of European settlers. Or so the story usually goes. Yet, for three centuries after Columbus, Native people controlled most of eastern North America and profoundly shaped its destiny. In Facing East from Indian Country, Daniel K. Richter keeps Native people center-stage throughout the story of the origins of the United States. Viewed from Indian country, the sixteenth century was an era in which Native people discovered Europeans and struggled to make sense of a new world. Well into the seventeenth century, the most profound challenges to Indian life came less from the arrival of a relative handful of European colonists than from the biological, economic, and environmental forces the newcomers unleashed. Drawing upon their own traditions, Indian communities reinvented themselves and carved out a place in a world dominated by transatlantic European empires. In 1776, however, when some of Britain's colonists rebelled against that imperial world, they overturned the system that had made Euro-American and Native coexistence possible. Eastern North America only ceased to be an Indian country because the revolutionaries denied the continent's first peoples a place in the nation they were creating. In rediscovering early America as Indian country, Richter employs the historian's craft to challenge cherished assumptions about times and places we thought we knew well, revealing Native American experiences at the core of the nation's birth and identity.


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In the beginning, North America was Indian country. But only in the beginning. After the opening act of the great national drama, Native Americans yielded to the westward rush of European settlers. Or so the story usually goes. Yet, for three centuries after Columbus, Native people controlled most of eastern North America and profoundly shaped its destiny. In Facing East fr In the beginning, North America was Indian country. But only in the beginning. After the opening act of the great national drama, Native Americans yielded to the westward rush of European settlers. Or so the story usually goes. Yet, for three centuries after Columbus, Native people controlled most of eastern North America and profoundly shaped its destiny. In Facing East from Indian Country, Daniel K. Richter keeps Native people center-stage throughout the story of the origins of the United States. Viewed from Indian country, the sixteenth century was an era in which Native people discovered Europeans and struggled to make sense of a new world. Well into the seventeenth century, the most profound challenges to Indian life came less from the arrival of a relative handful of European colonists than from the biological, economic, and environmental forces the newcomers unleashed. Drawing upon their own traditions, Indian communities reinvented themselves and carved out a place in a world dominated by transatlantic European empires. In 1776, however, when some of Britain's colonists rebelled against that imperial world, they overturned the system that had made Euro-American and Native coexistence possible. Eastern North America only ceased to be an Indian country because the revolutionaries denied the continent's first peoples a place in the nation they were creating. In rediscovering early America as Indian country, Richter employs the historian's craft to challenge cherished assumptions about times and places we thought we knew well, revealing Native American experiences at the core of the nation's birth and identity.

30 review for Facing East from Indian Country: A Native History of Early America

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jason Palmer

    Another book that no U.S history teacher should be without. This book debunks so many myths and popular notions about the Native Americans that I came away feeling my mind had been purged of generations of stereotypes propogated both by Native Americans themselves and the popular media; and I have a BA in the archaeology and anthropology of the prehistoric Great Basin. There is no attempt to glorify,vilify, or neatly simplify any native tribe (or conglomeration of tribes that are now thought of Another book that no U.S history teacher should be without. This book debunks so many myths and popular notions about the Native Americans that I came away feeling my mind had been purged of generations of stereotypes propogated both by Native Americans themselves and the popular media; and I have a BA in the archaeology and anthropology of the prehistoric Great Basin. There is no attempt to glorify,vilify, or neatly simplify any native tribe (or conglomeration of tribes that are now thought of as one tribe) in this book. I didn't give it 5 stars because near the end the author kind of loses his train of thought.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Nisha

    Seriously, this is one very bizarre text to classify. At times, I'm deluded enough to think that the information is new and really perceptive, until I realize that most of the anecdotes are fiction. Richter creates these scenarios to make up for the lack of information of the time period, especially from the Indian POV. I did enjoy the chapter about the myths, like Pocahontas and King Phillip and all. It was a good try on capturing the Indian perception of facing east to European explorers and se Seriously, this is one very bizarre text to classify. At times, I'm deluded enough to think that the information is new and really perceptive, until I realize that most of the anecdotes are fiction. Richter creates these scenarios to make up for the lack of information of the time period, especially from the Indian POV. I did enjoy the chapter about the myths, like Pocahontas and King Phillip and all. It was a good try on capturing the Indian perception of facing east to European explorers and settlers, but at times, Richter takes too much poetic license in recreating the world that was not documented.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    "Read" for comps. Really read in November for Spring 2010 teaching. "Read" for comps. Really read in November for Spring 2010 teaching.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Alissa Gundrum

    Even though this book was a little hard to get into sometimes because of all the political and military details, I really loved how it gave me a different perspective of the English coming to America from the Native American point of view. In all of our history classes growing up, at least in all of mine, I only really learned about how the British felt about colonizing America, and never fully understood what life must have been like for the natives. This really opened up my mind and my eyes to Even though this book was a little hard to get into sometimes because of all the political and military details, I really loved how it gave me a different perspective of the English coming to America from the Native American point of view. In all of our history classes growing up, at least in all of mine, I only really learned about how the British felt about colonizing America, and never fully understood what life must have been like for the natives. This really opened up my mind and my eyes to the harsh reality of what these people had to endure for the American country to be created.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Sean Chick

    Excellent book. I have a few problems with the stylistic choices, but otherwise this achieves the goal of a different and refreshingly nuanced historical perspective.

  6. 4 out of 5

    David Nichols

    The importance of this seminal study seems to grow with each passing year, leading me to suspect that it will one day become a classic of American history. Daniel Richter’s originality and insight shine from the book’s very title, which argues that we can best understand early American history by centering our studies on the heart of the North American continent, on Native America. By doing so we realize that Europeans had virtually no effect on this continent until after 1600, and that their se The importance of this seminal study seems to grow with each passing year, leading me to suspect that it will one day become a classic of American history. Daniel Richter’s originality and insight shine from the book’s very title, which argues that we can best understand early American history by centering our studies on the heart of the North American continent, on Native America. By doing so we realize that Europeans had virtually no effect on this continent until after 1600, and that their seventeenth-century impact on Indians was indirect, taking the form of trade goods, ecological degradation, and new diseases. For the colonial era, Richter gives eastern Indians subjectivity and agency by using their own words and stories. Biographies of figures like Kateri Tekakwitha and King Philip, and the words of Wampanoag converts and Iroquois diplomats, remind us that Native Americans were skilled negotiators and innovators, but also that they strove to maintain social harmony and respect for their kinfolk. (Algonquian Christians, for example, refused in their own published confessions to denounce “pagan” family members.) Native Americans’ adaptability allowed them to preserve their autonomy well into the eighteenth century, even as Europeans encroached on their homelands from all directions, by developing what the author calls “the modern Indian politics” (164-166): trading with and entertaining offers of alliance from multiple European empires, so as to set each diplomatic suitor against one another and ensure none lost interest in their particular Indian nation. This “imperial world” collapsed after the Seven Years’ War, as both eastern Native Americans and white colonists developed separatist ideologies. Indian “nativism” inspired bloody but futile insurgencies against Anglo-American colonialism, notably during Pontiac’s War and in the early nineteenth century (Tecumseh’s era). White settlers’ Indian-hating, which grew with these insurgencies and which strengthened after the American Revolution, infused the policies of a new and racially exclusive settler empire, the United States. When this imperial republic grew strong enough it organized on its white constituents’ behalf a deadly campaign of ethnic cleansing, known today as Indian Removal or the Trail of Tears. FACING EAST was one of the founding texts (along with Alan Taylor’s AMERICAN COLONIES and Elizabeth Fenn’s POX AMERICANA, both published in 2001) of “continental history,” a historiographical school seeking to replace seaboard-centered histories of colonial America with studies of the entire continent and its peoples. Innovative for its day, FE now shows a bit of age when one considers the subjects Richter left out: the author paid little attention to the Native peoples of the Trans-Mississippi West, and with one or two exceptions he did not include many Indian voices from the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. His own interest, I think, centers on a chronological era when eastern Native Americans still retained some power and political maneuverability, still had the ability to make significant choices: between about 1600 and 1763 CE. That window of opportunity closed once the French Empire in North America collapsed (ending the “modern politics”) and land-hungry, Indian-hating American colonists gained their independence. I and other scholars disagree about the timing of this shift (I don’t think it happened until after 1812), but recognize that indigenous peoples in the eastern half of the continent faced something of a no-win situation by the early 1800s. Other historians, like Frederick Hoxie and John Bowes, have stressed that American Indians retained agency and demonstrated innovation even after the Removal era. Disagreements such as these, however, complement rather than undermine Professor Richter’s outstanding achievement.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    I haven’t read many books about the colonization of the North American continent, but this one appears to me to be a very good introduction for students raised on “Manifest Destiny” and the inevitable expansion of Europeans across the land. It is not an angry text, but it is a corrective for those who think that the way things are is the only way that they could be. Richter attempts to tell this story with an eye toward contingency, and he does so by trying to make the reader see things from the I haven’t read many books about the colonization of the North American continent, but this one appears to me to be a very good introduction for students raised on “Manifest Destiny” and the inevitable expansion of Europeans across the land. It is not an angry text, but it is a corrective for those who think that the way things are is the only way that they could be. Richter attempts to tell this story with an eye toward contingency, and he does so by trying to make the reader see things from the Indian perspective where possible. I say “where possible” because at times the evidence at his disposal is sparse, and it is often presented by whites trying to comprehend the native peoples they encountered. Still, there are fascinating accounts of “conversions” to Christianity, trade negotiations gone horribly wrong due to basic miscommunications, and, of course, the spread of alien goods and germs across a continent, so that they reached people who never came close to seeing a “white” person in their lives. I suspect that specialists in Native American studies or the early United States will only find the book of passing interest, but it appears to me to be a great tool for teaching students to un-learn what was drilled into them in High School.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Alexandria

    This book will, for better or worse, always be timely. Nationalism is almost always a problem and it is in large part due to the myths we tell ourselves. Many Americans tell themselves that the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock endowed with a passion for freedom and the rest if history. Except that's not how it happened. Not even a little bit. Richter does an excellent job of taking the stories we as Americans think we know and turning them inside out. He forces his reader - albeit gently - to lo This book will, for better or worse, always be timely. Nationalism is almost always a problem and it is in large part due to the myths we tell ourselves. Many Americans tell themselves that the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock endowed with a passion for freedom and the rest if history. Except that's not how it happened. Not even a little bit. Richter does an excellent job of taking the stories we as Americans think we know and turning them inside out. He forces his reader - albeit gently - to look at the people who were here before Europeans the way THEY viewed the centuries leading up to (and the decades just after) the American Revolution. He points out the things we aren't taught in history class - The Paxton Boys, colonial grievances with the British crown based on Britain's "overly-tolerant" policies with the Native Americans, the true story of Pocahontas. Myths are good and fine. But myths surrounding national identity can be incredibly harmful both to those who tell them and those they framed against. Richter's book is an excellent first step in reminding us that the myths we tell are not the reality of our history. And that we need to remember the facts of history so that we can do better moving forward.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

    Really brilliant. All of the familiar stories--contact, Pocahontas, King Philip--with a 180 degree spin, with a lot of unfamiliar stories--indigenous trade networks, the Indian face of the imperial wars--that radically reorients the story of American history. It's a shame that it ends with Indian Removal in Jacksonian America, rather than tracking the story beyond the Mississippi, because I'm sure that Richter would do some magic with those "familiar" stories too. But it does say "Early America" Really brilliant. All of the familiar stories--contact, Pocahontas, King Philip--with a 180 degree spin, with a lot of unfamiliar stories--indigenous trade networks, the Indian face of the imperial wars--that radically reorients the story of American history. It's a shame that it ends with Indian Removal in Jacksonian America, rather than tracking the story beyond the Mississippi, because I'm sure that Richter would do some magic with those "familiar" stories too. But it does say "Early America" in the title, so it's hard to complain about that.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

    Excellent in the differing perspective that Dr. Richter offers, but the work largely works off of what may have happened. Of course, history in the period, and with the specific groups here are difficult, and as the mongraph progresses further forward in time the historical analysis does get better as the sources expand, but conjecture is difficult to work with. I think the most important thing Richter does is the change in perspective, which is looking Eastward instead of westward as most histo Excellent in the differing perspective that Dr. Richter offers, but the work largely works off of what may have happened. Of course, history in the period, and with the specific groups here are difficult, and as the mongraph progresses further forward in time the historical analysis does get better as the sources expand, but conjecture is difficult to work with. I think the most important thing Richter does is the change in perspective, which is looking Eastward instead of westward as most histories do. Since Facing East, more historians have continued this practice and have done superb things with it. Overall, it was a good read, with a weaker opening but a strong conclusion and point. Would recommend, especially for those interested in Early Native American history and the interactions of Europeans and Native Americans.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

    Most histories of Native Americans in the 16th through 19th centuries focus on the westward push of Euro-Americans and the retreat of Native peoples and their cultures. However, by refocusing the story, Richter supports the claim that prior to 1776, Native Americans were able to adapt themselves to a (sometimes uneasy) coexistence with Euro-Americans while they also found ways to cope with the environmental changes caused by the animals, plants and microorganisms the Europeans and Africans broug Most histories of Native Americans in the 16th through 19th centuries focus on the westward push of Euro-Americans and the retreat of Native peoples and their cultures. However, by refocusing the story, Richter supports the claim that prior to 1776, Native Americans were able to adapt themselves to a (sometimes uneasy) coexistence with Euro-Americans while they also found ways to cope with the environmental changes caused by the animals, plants and microorganisms the Europeans and Africans brought with them. But the changing self-image of the European colonists changed their relationship to Natives and thus caused massive restructuring. Richter uses a wealth of specific examples and is successful in his aim to refocus the readers' attention on the experiences of Natives through their own voices, traditions and documents.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Anne

    This is a nonfiction book which examines the perspective of Indians in the formation of early America, instead of looking at it from the perspective of Europeans coming to America. I did enjoy the deep historical analysis into the primary sources which documented Native American voices, as well as Richter's complex analysis of early American history. However, Richter also takes a lot of liberties with history, using primary documents from European perspectives and writing "imaginings" from India This is a nonfiction book which examines the perspective of Indians in the formation of early America, instead of looking at it from the perspective of Europeans coming to America. I did enjoy the deep historical analysis into the primary sources which documented Native American voices, as well as Richter's complex analysis of early American history. However, Richter also takes a lot of liberties with history, using primary documents from European perspectives and writing "imaginings" from Indian perspectives. He also doesn't always stay on topic, trying to fit a lot into each chapter, though some are easier to follow than others. If you are interested in early Native American history, I recommend it, but otherwise it's a bit dull.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Joseph Stieb

    Following the appropriate title, Richter flips our view of the history of the then future United States by facing east from the Native experience and telling history from their perspective. Unfortunately, as Richter notes, anyone working on Native Americans in this period is looking at a limited set of sources, most of which "face west" and are written by Europeans. Bringing out the native experience requires some speculation and imagination, which Richter successfully brings to this book. He te Following the appropriate title, Richter flips our view of the history of the then future United States by facing east from the Native experience and telling history from their perspective. Unfortunately, as Richter notes, anyone working on Native Americans in this period is looking at a limited set of sources, most of which "face west" and are written by Europeans. Bringing out the native experience requires some speculation and imagination, which Richter successfully brings to this book. He tells imagined but plausible stories of natives encountering de Soto's march, Pocahontas, and Northern Indians meeting with French traders. Looking at the Pocahontas story, for instance, from the native perspective, tells us that Pocahontas was most likely playing a part in a ritual designed to adopt John Smith into the tribe rather than the Western story that she saved him out of love. One key point that Richter makes is that most natives probably encountered European things before European people. In fact, natives for hundreds of years were far more likely to encounter European trade items, diseases, pests, and even animals than people, given how small the colonial populations were until the 18th century. Disease was probably the most significant of these exchanges, killing 75-95 percent of the native population during the 16th century near Spanish colonized areas. The introduction of these items dramatically altered native societies and often created a mutual dependence between the colonists and the natives. For instance, the natives became dependent on superior European metal tools, while Europeans depended on natives for furs and pelts. Access to European goods and allies became a prerequisite for survival for many tribes, who would be overwhelmed by the guns and horses of neighbors with better connections. Richter also outlines the fascinating cultural differences that created so much tension between natives and Europeans. For example, the colonists viewed land as a commodity that an individual owned and exploited for his own gain. In contrast, natives viewed land as a resource that couldn't really be owned but merely used, like are or water. The agricultural Europeans required great amounts of land for farming and animal-feeding, causing consistent encroachment on loosely defined native territory. Another interesting division related to religion. Native religion was spiritual, lacking in doctrine, inclusive of other traditions, syncretic, not hierarchical, and featuring a morally neutral universe. Natives had to navigate a world of spirits who could be "mobilized" for good or bad. Natives often had little trouble adapting some Christian ideas to their animist practices. In contrast, . Consequently, there was no room for incorporating native beliefs in the Manichean Christian order. In general, Europeans lived a much more structured existence in always, which probably helps explain their strengths but also their moral and cultural shortcomings, especially in regards to understanding the natives on their own terms. Finally, Richter revises two major misconceptions about Native Americans. The first is that native society was relatively static until the Europeans arrived and punctured that equilibrium. In fact, Richter shows that natives were going through a process of decentralization in eastern North America as poor climate conditions broke up the larger kingdoms that had dominated this region during our Middle Ages. Second, Richter shows that natives did not simply copy European ideas and ways of life, but adapted them and blended them with their own practices and traditions. For instance, in a conversion narrative of an Indian Christian, the speaker subtly challenges the Puritan belief that sins against God are worse than sins against fellow humans (messed up belief btw) by implying that her sins against other humans were worse, in accordance with native morality's primary valuing of human relationships. I give Richter a lot of credit for not subscribing to the modern view of Europeans as "the bad guys" in this story. He convincingly shows that the destruction of the natives was not inevitable, demonstrating that there were long periods of detente and cooperation that could have endured under the right choices and circumstances. The key turning point that killed this possibility was the French and Indian War, which ended with British supremacy in Eastern North America and eventually the formation of the US. The natives now could no longer play the British and French off against each other, and they would soon face US land hunger and military power. The mutual dependence shifted against the natives, and they became less useful, more vulnerable, and more of a nuisance. Both sides started to see cooperation as impossible and each other as "separate creations," but the colonists/Americans had the power and numbers to overwhelm native antipathy. In sum, this book is a great introduction to the serious historical study of Native Americans and the colonial period.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    This is a revolutionary attempt to turn early American history on its head: the story, not of the European "discovery" of the New World (and, incidentally, its earlier inhabitants), but a chronicle of Native American discovery of Europeans (and, incidentally, the world from which they came.) Limiting himself to the "earliest" story, he "looks East" as various groups "see" Europeans for the first time (Spanish, French, Dutch or English), begin to understand a world very different from their own, This is a revolutionary attempt to turn early American history on its head: the story, not of the European "discovery" of the New World (and, incidentally, its earlier inhabitants), but a chronicle of Native American discovery of Europeans (and, incidentally, the world from which they came.) Limiting himself to the "earliest" story, he "looks East" as various groups "see" Europeans for the first time (Spanish, French, Dutch or English), begin to understand a world very different from their own, bringing incredible new challenges ( new technology, new religions, new diseases, entirely different ways of seeing and being in the world). This is the riveting story of several Eastern tribal groups (widely different from one another, but connected for centuries by trade, intermarriage, migration patterns and warfare) who were eventually surrounded by "the other" - Spanish to the south, French to the north and west, Dutch and English to the east, all more or less clamoring for domination of trade and influence and (eventually) land. It chronicles how these various Indian people sought in different ways to negotiate their way through the serpentine maze of "Old World" struggles being played out on their home turf, only to be eventually dominated by the English (who won the colonial struggles) and then by the Euro-Americans who won the revolution. Ignoring, cooperating, capitulating, converting, fighting, uniting against, conspiring with, moving on - nothing ultimately worked because as William Apes, the Pequot author who wrote "An Eulogy on King Philip" observed,"though they spoke of the self-evident truth that "all men are created equal," the White men did not see Indians as either equal or men whereas, looking East, the Indians understood whites to be mere mortals, just like every other human in the world." So where was this book decades ago when I was teaching American history? In those days, before we tried "to integrate" the story, at least by paying lip service to non-Europeans with a well placed paragraph or illustration here or there, the standard survey texts visited upon undergraduates took the usual and customary view that history began the day Columbus (or De La Salle, or the Pilgrims, or the Jamestown colonists, or Henry Hudson) set foot on the continent and flowed westward from there with barely a wrinkle. I was very fortunate to be teaching this course after Lerone Bennett Jr wrote "Before the Mayflower" surveying African experiences in the "New World" so my students read that along with their "standard" text, but I was unable to find a similar book highlighting the overall experience of Native Americans. The closest I came was a history of one particular tribe, the Chickasaw, from "discovery" to "removal." It was fine, but it did not present the scope and complexity of the real North American panorama "looking east" from Indian Country. I daresay this book barely scratches the surface. To dig more deeply would require a real revolution I don't think we are ready yet to undertake. But it is a start - a very important one - that suggests that turning around and facing a different direction sometimes changes everything.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Samuel

    The settlement of the American West is usually told, well, facing west. Daniel K. Richter has us face east instead by adopting the vantage point of Native Americans. He begins in St. Louis, where the Arch was erected to frame the westward gaze through "the gateway to the West." Ritcher points out that it is just as practical--perhaps easier even--to look eastward through the Arch and symbolically stand in the place of Native Americans. Although firsthand primary sources are largely lacking to tel The settlement of the American West is usually told, well, facing west. Daniel K. Richter has us face east instead by adopting the vantage point of Native Americans. He begins in St. Louis, where the Arch was erected to frame the westward gaze through "the gateway to the West." Ritcher points out that it is just as practical--perhaps easier even--to look eastward through the Arch and symbolically stand in the place of Native Americans. Although firsthand primary sources are largely lacking to tell this story in a traditional historical manner, Richter uses a creative method taking European accounts of contact and reconstructing possible viewpoints that Natives may have held as Europeans gradually arrived, invaded, and spread throughout "Indian Country." Ritcher also points out that most Native Americans encountered mysterious European objects sometimes years before they ever encountered Europeans first hand. This sort of material culture precursor to direct cultural contact is a very interesting perspective. It is easy to assume that Native Americans must have felt apprehensive about large numbers of white settlers immediately. It is more likely, however, that they had no way of knowing just how relentless European settlement would be--what quantities would come. Guns, iron bowls, and other objects must have been especially odd precursors of even stranger foreigners from across the ocean. (pg. 1-68)

  16. 5 out of 5

    Tim

    Richter's book is the best kind of history. It acknowledges the limits of its methods as it bursts open a new vantage on American colonial history, that of native peoples. It is a thoughtful synthesis, offering grounded speculation and reconstructions, and clear prose and conclusions. In relating to one another, native cultures primarily sought reciprocity and connection where European settlers sought profit and power, each looking for advantage and some measure of control. Of course, that is to Richter's book is the best kind of history. It acknowledges the limits of its methods as it bursts open a new vantage on American colonial history, that of native peoples. It is a thoughtful synthesis, offering grounded speculation and reconstructions, and clear prose and conclusions. In relating to one another, native cultures primarily sought reciprocity and connection where European settlers sought profit and power, each looking for advantage and some measure of control. Of course, that is too strong a dichotomy and Richter is much more subtle than my overstatement. He retells the stories of Pocahontos and Metacom, investigates Native conversion narratives and political speeches, and describes the awful consequences of virgin soil epidemics and of the defeat of both the French and the British (for the native peoples grown adept at manuevering between imperial powers). The early chapters on first contact and the last ones on life amid empires (most horrifically the American one) were the best in a very good book.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kurt

    This book was a little too "scholarly" for my tastes, but it was still quite interesting. It covers the period of time from the European discovery of America up until the end of the War of 1812 -- the period that saw the complete upheaval (I hesitate, but just barely, to use the words "systematic destruction" or "ethnic cleansing") of Native American culture in what is now the eastern United States. It is a fascinating and extremely sorrowful history that I became aware of only because of my own This book was a little too "scholarly" for my tastes, but it was still quite interesting. It covers the period of time from the European discovery of America up until the end of the War of 1812 -- the period that saw the complete upheaval (I hesitate, but just barely, to use the words "systematic destruction" or "ethnic cleansing") of Native American culture in what is now the eastern United States. It is a fascinating and extremely sorrowful history that I became aware of only because of my own curiosity and research. I certainly never was taught any of this in school (I wonder why? [sarcasm]). I learned a few new things, and lots of information that I was already familiar with was presented from a distinct perspective -- from the Indians' point of view, as the book's title indicates. Definitely worth reading, but I would recommend it only to those who are fairly well acquainted with this history and are looking for increased elucidation.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Andee Nero

    If you were to read any of Richter's books, this should be the one. If you were to read any of Richter's books, this should be the one.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Pemberton

    In United States history, there is a trend—a master narrative—of how our story is told. In Facing East from Indian Country, historian Daniel Richter flips that narrative on its head. Richter presents the idea of directional orientation, claiming that traditional American history is told with a westward perspective. What makes Richter’s work both innovative and unique is that he offers, as the title implies, an eastward perspective, or, a perspective of American history where “North America beco In United States history, there is a trend—a master narrative—of how our story is told. In Facing East from Indian Country, historian Daniel Richter flips that narrative on its head. Richter presents the idea of directional orientation, claiming that traditional American history is told with a westward perspective. What makes Richter’s work both innovative and unique is that he offers, as the title implies, an eastward perspective, or, a perspective of American history where “North America becomes the ‘old world’ and Western Europe the ‘new’” (8). This gripping narrative is told from the point of view of Native Americans who faced their invaders head-on, and who made sacrifice after sacrifice in an attempt to preserve their sacred ways of life. In Facing East from Indian Country, Richter argues that this flipped narrative, or “visual reorientation,” is vital to understanding and exploring the turbulent and “aggressively expansionist” history that the United States would explore after the English planted their seeds on Indian country (7-8). Facing East is beautifully organized and reads rather easily. Put together both thematically and chronologically, each chapter presents its own way of interpreting what are traditionally westward-facing narratives, with each chapter subtly complimenting those that proceed it. Richter opens with a short memoir of his own visual reorientations and how his experiences led him to write this book. The first chapter introduces Columbus and the Spanish conquistadors as the first foreign entities to interact with and challenge Indian societies. Chapter two is especially thought-provoking. It discusses how increasing numbers of European settlements along the Atlantic coast influenced Indian economies and trade systems, having adverse effects on communities and the environment: an idea that may be unfamiliar to many readers. Chapters three and four explore the experiences of various Indian individuals, clans, and communities as they attempted to live near ever-expanding and increasingly dangerous European communities, and how they adapted to the building pressures that Europeans imposed. The final chapters take a surprising twist—whereas the Western perspective usually emphasizes violence and coercion as a result of cohabitation, Richter’s Eastern perspective tells of a time of peace and of parallel progression in both group’s individual histories. However, as the decades went by and revolution approached following the Seven Years War, British regard to Indian communities declined further and the communities were as separate as ever. As multiple revolutions occurred, and as various ethnic groups competed to be a part of the definition of “American,” it was the Indians that were ultimately excluded and oppressed from their once homeland. What is perhaps most remarkable about Facing East is that Richter brings so much to the table despite a lack of reliable documentary sources left by Natives. This dilemma is not unique to Richter’s work; it is a problem shared by all historians studying Native American history. As Richter acknowledges throughout his book, sources and documentary evidence left by Indians are few and far between and are often contradictory. Perhaps even more troubling is that much of the relevant sources on various Natives and Native communities was written by Europeans, for Europeans. Richter does a fantastic job at illustrating this in the third chapter, where he analyzes traditional narratives of Pocahontas, Tekakwitha, and Metacom, respectively; three well-known Indians whose legacy was distorted and manipulated by Westerners for their own purposes. At times like these, Richter acknowledges that historians must make assumptions, but zooms out and works to understand the broader implications of these dilemmas to better understand the lives these forgotten, and/or misunderstood, Natives led. Facing East from Indian Country is an impressive piece of scholarship. It features expert organization, masterful conclusions drawn from fragmentary sources, and a fresh, fascinating perspective on American history. This book would be adequate for students of American history, sociology, and anthropology, as well as general readers and life-long learners.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Richard

    Facing East has many characteristics one would like to see in a scholarly book.   Although it is based on a thorough analysis of primary and secondary sources, the author is careful to articulate two reservations about his efforts.  First, there is a lack of Native American primary sources covering the 16th-17th centuries.  Thus, he attempts to interpret European sources from an indigenous perspective.  Second, as many of the later NA sources were translated into English he expresses caution that Facing East has many characteristics one would like to see in a scholarly book.   Although it is based on a thorough analysis of primary and secondary sources, the author is careful to articulate two reservations about his efforts.  First, there is a lack of Native American primary sources covering the 16th-17th centuries.  Thus, he attempts to interpret European sources from an indigenous perspective.  Second, as many of the later NA sources were translated into English he expresses caution that his analysis may be based on what might have been faulty translations.   Despite these limitations Richter provides an imaginative, highly textured narrative of the evolution of the Eastern NA perspectives of their interactions with the EuroAmerican settlers from the time of the first Spaniard explorations in the 16th century to their  forced removal to Indian Country in the 1830’s.  I learned about many things I had not encountered anywhere else:  'mourning wars' where some villages attacked others in order to replace the people lost to epidemics, 'prayer towns' near colonist settlements where groups of surviving Indians gathered after epidemics killed vast numbers of their kin, the full extent of Pontiac's war against the settlers in the years before the Seven Years War, etc.  Although there is no bibliography, many of the footnotes are annotated.  And there are lots of them:  almost 50 pages of footnotes at the end of the book.  There is also an index as well as a few maps and reproductions of paintings to make it easier to visualize what the author is writing about.  My only critique is that in some respects one might argue that FE is a proverbial ‘victim of its own success.’  Ie, at times Richter’s analysis is so thorough as to be slow going. Additionally, his prose often consists of complex, compound sentences.  Thus, overall I would say this is an informative albeit a dense book.  For those who wish to read more about the extent to which the Native Americans played a significant role in the history of North America I would suggest the following:   https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2... https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1... https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2... All three of these are 4 star books IMHO.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jan

    Lots of stuff in here that helped the history of this time in America "stick together" in my head. Great stuff on King Phillip's war that dovetailed with the (much heftier and more detailed) Subjects Unto the Same King: Indians, English, and the Contest for Authority in Colonial New England. Some contradictions with The Frontiersmen and the very annoying The Gods of Prophetstown: The Battle of Tippecanoe and the Holy War for the American Frontier. Richter does a fantastic job of describing how mu Lots of stuff in here that helped the history of this time in America "stick together" in my head. Great stuff on King Phillip's war that dovetailed with the (much heftier and more detailed) Subjects Unto the Same King: Indians, English, and the Contest for Authority in Colonial New England. Some contradictions with The Frontiersmen and the very annoying The Gods of Prophetstown: The Battle of Tippecanoe and the Holy War for the American Frontier. Richter does a fantastic job of describing how much the economic forces and ecological pressures introduced by the Whites affected Indian culture and beliefs. It is so sad that the Whites could not see or appreciate the accommodations that the Indians were willing to make in order to co-exist.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Richard Subber

    You can count on Richter to provide a full course meal of insights and commentaries and knowledge about the original peoples of North America. Dig in to Facing East from Indian Country to learn about how the Indians felt and what they understood about the Europeans who invaded their lands. Nearly all of what we know about the Indians in pre-colonial and colonial times was written down by Europeans, but Richter is dedicated to discerning the Indians’ meaning, intent and recognition from the context You can count on Richter to provide a full course meal of insights and commentaries and knowledge about the original peoples of North America. Dig in to Facing East from Indian Country to learn about how the Indians felt and what they understood about the Europeans who invaded their lands. Nearly all of what we know about the Indians in pre-colonial and colonial times was written down by Europeans, but Richter is dedicated to discerning the Indians’ meaning, intent and recognition from the contexts and styles of those accounts. This is not the American history you learning in school. Read more of my book reviews and poems here: www.richardsubber.com

  23. 5 out of 5

    Adam Windsor

    An attempt to tell the story of Northern America from the 1500s to the 1800s from the perspective of the indigenous people, rather than European colonists. A lack of documentary evidence means that much of it, especially in the first two centuries, is necessarily constructed from hypothesis and deduction, but even if the details cannot be proven, I think there is value in considering these alternatives to the more familiar accounts. A book that makes you think.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Dan McGill

    Richter admits that much of this work is "imagined," and with little written source material to go on, he manages to create a convincing work detailing the 'other side' of colonization of North America. Richter admits that much of this work is "imagined," and with little written source material to go on, he manages to create a convincing work detailing the 'other side' of colonization of North America.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Mike Wisbrock

    Interesting take on to incipient contact between Native Americans and Europeans.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Becky

    A great book about historiography as well as Native history. Alas, I seem doomed never to finish it before the library due date. Should probably just spring for my own copy.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Madam Mystic

    Review to come!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Hunter McCleary

    First third yields thoughtful insights into several iconic native Americans. After that it gets too weedy trying to interpret early colonial treaties. Best condensed or left to academics.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Nicholas Vela

    An interesting History from a Native perspective of Early America.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Leslie

    A great canon narrative on Early American History specific to Indian - European relations that I read for a graduate seminar.

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