The themes of vanishing wilderness, of a world in which humans are only an insignificant part, and of the rape of the land are all a part of Matthiessen’s Indian Country. In that sense, the book reflects concerns he has expressed earlier in his writing career. This time, Matthiessen tackles a subject closer to home: the loss of Native American lands and traditions. Matthiessen sees the American Indians as the last representatives of a life tied to the land and in harmony with nature.
Juxtaposed with that is American capitalism: big business taking over more and more of the land and destroying more and more of the environment in its greed for materials and profit. Most victimized by this voracious appetite, Matthiessen feels, are the Native American tribes, whose best interests have not been represented by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA).
Indian Country begins in inland Florida, with Americans Indians in conflict with the American energy industry. Matthiessen then visits reservations in Florida, Tennessee, New York, California, North and South Dakota, and the Southwest. Included among the tribes that he visits are the Hopi, Navajo, Cherokee, Mohawk, Muskeegee, Sioux, Apache, and Comanche. With the help of an Indian “guide,” Craig Carpenter, who describes himself as a detribalized Mohawk in search of genuine Native American culture, Matthiessen finds people whose culture is dying, whose young people are leaving, and...
(The entire section is 565 words.)