In the Hands of the Great Spirit Summary

Jake Page

In the Hands of the Great Spirit

Most people become aware of the history of American Indians beginning with the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492. In this remarkable narrative history, Jake Page, former editor of Smithsonian and Natural History magazines, chronicles 20,000 years of American Indian history, providing a fascinating glimpse into their distant past. By interpreting their legends and the archaeological evidence, Page skillfully pieces together the lives and culture of the earliest Americans. The rest of the story, as Europeans arrive on the North American continent, becomes a sad tale of exploitation, disease, worthless treaties, destruction of whole cultures, and unspeakable brutality.

With the creation of the United States, the Indians fared no better. Not considered to be citizens, they were powerless to stop the destruction and confiscation of their lands in the West and Southwest. The U.S. government’s Indian policy became one of annihilation. As the twentieth century dawned, the age of free-roaming Indians on the Plains was over. Despite the almost total destruction of their way of life, many tried to cling to their ancient ways, while others moved into mainstream society, serving in both world wars and migrating to the cities.

Page tells this moving story clearly and fairly. He dispels any romantic notions of Indian life, yet admires their courage and resiliency. It is a remarkable achievement to be able to cover such a vast amount of time and material in one volume, and Page’s clear and concise writing style admirably succeeds. This book is essential reading for all who wish to understand and appreciate the vast panorama of American Indian history. It is a sad but essential chapter of United States history for all to know. Highly recommended.