Missing children, missing history

The descriptions of a church-run Canadian boarding school for Indians in Richard Wagamese’s brilliant novel, Indian Horse, were brutal. The book was published in 2012; a movie released in 2017. In today’s news stories, echoing Wagamese’s book, a mass grave containing the remains of 215 children has been found on the grounds of the Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia. Read The Article

Bury my heart…

In the fall of 1971, just months into my life in the Wallowas, my mind muddled with the Peace Corps and Washington D.C. lives I’d only recently left, I got a copy of Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee in the mail from Barb, my old Peace Corps partner. Her note said she was working in a bookstore in Sun Valley, and thought the book was “great but terribly maddening.” Read The Article

Covid-19 and American Indians

Since the beginning of this pandemic, I have been struck by the outsized impact of Covid-19 on American Indians, and by the lack of serious discussion of their apparent special vulnerability to the disease. The stories we read and hear are about bad water and poor living conditions among the Navajo and the Ojibwe—and in Black and Latino zip codes. I understand—and want nothing more than to make sure that everyone in America has clean and lead-free water and access to good health care. And I believe, with my liberal cohort, that it is government’s duty to ensure clean water and good health care. We cannot, in today’s world, be our own water testers and doctors. Read The Article

Tooting a horn about a new book

Well, it’s kind of my horn, but mostly my friend and mentor, Alvin’s horn. And mutual friend and co-editor Marc Jaffe’s horn. And editor (Alvin’s own long-time editor) Ann Close’s horn. She steered us through the project, and then passed it on to Keith Goldsmith at Viking Penguin. So a chorus of horns—maybe a band!

The book is The Longest Trail: Writings on American Indian History, Culture, and Politics, by Alvin M. Josephy, Jr., edited by Jaffe and Wandschneider. It’s in three sections, based on three concepts that Alvin drummed into us over years: First, that the standard narrative of American history has omitted Indians—they have either been sideshows or impediments to the march of Euro-American civilization, not treated as actors in the American drama, the actions, decisions, and accidents that have all gone to make us the nation we are.

Second, Indians have something to teach us still about living with the rest of creation. There were democrats Read The Article

Guest blogger–Summer Intern Erik Anderson


Guest blogger today is Erik Anderson, our Josephy Library Summer Intern from Whitman College in nearby Walla Walla, Washington. For those of you out of the area–not in the “Inland Northwest,” Walla Walla was the place where Marcus and Narcissa Whitman established their mission in 1836, the site of the Whitman Massacre in 1847, and of Governor Isaac Stevens’ treaty making in 1855. Walla Walla, Washington is about a two hour drive over the Blue Mountains from Joseph, Oregon, and Whitman College is a fine institution with its own great archival treasures relating to the history of the West–Indian, non-Indian, and the more inclusive histories of the region. 

Take it away, Erik!
“Interpretations of the phrase ‘usual and accustomed place,’” I told Rich during my initial interview, “was normal dinner conversation growing up.”  My father used the language of treaties every day during his work, advocating and managing the treaty fisheries
Read The Article

Learning–and teaching–Indian history

“The realization has finally begun to dawn that American society as a whole has suffered from ‘forked tongue’ history books… Year after year, the distortions, misrepresentations, and failure to tell the whole historical story foster erroneous and stereotyped thinking about Indians, and lead to still further misrepresentations, prejudice and contempt.”
Alvin Josephy, Learning Magazine, 1973

“…for the most part these revelations—the great antiquity, size, and sophistication of Indian societies—are new to the public… Why don’t intelligent non-specialists, the sort of people who know a bit about stem cells and read contemporary literature, already know something about how researchers think of the Americas before Columbus?… Why isn’t this material already in high school textbooks?”
Charles Mann, Afterword to 1491: New Revelations of the Americas before Columbus, 2006

In Charles Mann’s brilliant 2005 book, 1491: New Revelations of the Americas before Columbus, he scans the results of hundreds of recent ethnographic, linguistic, archeological, anthropological, and biological studies. He calls and visits noted Read The Article