Native American Almanac: More than 50,000 Years of the Cultures and Histories of Indigenous Peoples. By Yvonne Wakim Dennis, Arlene Hirschfelder, and Shannon R. Flynn. Canton, MI: Visible Ink Pr., 2016. 656 p. $24.95 (ISBN: 978-1-57859-507-5). E-book available (978-1-57859-608-9), call for pricing.

The authors emphasize early what Native American Almanac is not: an almanac, an encyclopedia, nor a scholarly work, among other things. It is described as a well-researched “historical overview of Native communities in what is now the United States” (ix). Despite the title, it is heavily focused on the post-contact period. The main arrangement is by geographical region, with an overview chapter and one discussing urban settings. Each chapter is introduced by a regional history, followed by discussion of tribes, their histories, and other information. Brief biographies follow, from one paragraph to a page in length. Appendixes are focused on indigenous people of North America outside of the United States, and special topics, mainly lists. The biographies vary in content but many are intriguing, inspiring, or tragic. They range from widely known individuals, such as Jim Thorpe, to “local heroes” (x) from the 1600s to the present.

Unfortunately, any researcher seeking more information is largely on his or her own. Further reading is provided, but no direct citations. I see this as a shortcoming. Especially when challenging commonly held beliefs, such as the sale of Manhattan to the Dutch (4), supporting one’s case through documentation aids credibility. The lack of direct citations makes it challenging to evaluate the assertions and to pursue the topic further.

The choice in the Almanac of terms like “Doctrine of Discovery (Destruction)” (2) caused me some confusion regarding what was standard language. When I encountered “Indian Intercourse Act of 1790” and “Indian Nonintercourse Act of 1790” on page 13, I wasn’t sure whether there were two acts, a typographical error, or a message was intended.

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz’s An Indigenous People’s History of the United States (Beacon 2014) is not written as a reference work, but comparison to the Native American Almanac is instructive. Dunbar-Ortiz does not shy away from laden language such as “genocide;” however, she meticulously cites her sources. That and her detailed arguments make it easy to evaluate her interpretations and reasoning in a way not feasible with the Almanac. Names are indexed under the familiar and the indigenous terms, either parenthetically or using cross references, while the Almanac indexes under current nomenclature only, sometimes including the indigenous name parenthetically.

The Oxford Handbook of American Indian History edited by Fredrick E. Hoxie (Oxford 2016) at $150 is substantially more expensive for a similar sized work. I only examined the digital edition, but more durability would be anticipated in hardcover than the paperbound Almanac. Hoxie’s volume overtly focuses on the period since European contact. Three sections address “Major Chapters in the . . . Past,” “Regional and Tribal Histories,” and “Big Themes.” Although there is a stated intention of correcting erroneous information and misconceptions, it has a less confrontational tone than the Almanac. Citation is thorough and direct, with reference lists in each chapter. Indexing is extensive, but only mainstream names are used. Hoxie and the Almanac make no distinction in the index between a major and minor reference, unlike Dunbar-Ortiz. The Handbook’s focus is the historical narrative, so biographical information is less prominent. Although in segments, the chapters are substantial and less readily accessed in bite-sized pieces than the Almanac. For an audience interested in depth and a scholarly approach, this would likely be the more helpful work.

With the emphasis on brevity and readability, this volume would be most useful in lower level undergraduate and high school settings. Lack of careful editing, weakness in indexing, and the absence of direct citations detract from its benefit to novice researchers.—Lisa Euster, Reference Librarian, Seattle, Washington


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