The First Americans: The Story of the Indigenous North Americans, by Jay Wertz, André Deutsch Limited, a division of the Carlton Publishing Group, London, 2018, $34.95
The author covers the grand sweep of American Indian history from prehistory to the present. That’s a lot of ground to cover in 160 pages, especially when text takes a back seat to historic photos, document images, maps and other illustrations. “It is my fervent hope that this work, influenced by much more expansive legacies, both written and oral,” Jay Wertz explains in the introduction, “will serve as a conduit to further inspection and study of the rich heritage of the subjects of this book.”
Those readers interested in 18th- and 19th-century Indians west of the Mississippi will get a taste of those times in such abbreviated chapters as “The California Mission System,” “Native Americans Encountered by Lewis & Clark,” “Indian Bureaus and First Reservations,” “Last of the Great Warriors: Dakota & Other Plains Tribes” and “Last of the Great Warriors: Apaches & Comanche Tribes.” Among the documents Wertz showcases are Cheyenne Chief Black Kettle’s Aug. 29, 1864, “peace letter” to Indian Agent Major Samuel Colley. The last 50-odd pages deal with Indians from the 20th century on, covering (not in any depth, of course) the likes of Jim Thorpe at the Carlisle Indian School, Cheyenne-American politician Ben Nighthorse Campbell and activist Adam Fortunate Eagle. This handsome book is intended for the general reader but should encourage deeper study.