When Europeans first arrived in North America, between five and eight million indigenous people were already living there. But how did they come to be here? What were their agricultural, spiritual, and hunting practices? How did their societies evolve and what challenges do they face today? Eminent historians Theda Perdue and Michael Green begin by describing how nomadic bands of hunter-gatherers followed the bison and woolly mammoth over the Bering land mass between Asia and what is now Alaska between 25,000 and 15,000 years ago, settling throughout North America. They describe hunting practices among different tribes, how some made the gradual transition to more settled, agricultural ways of life, the role of kinship and cooperation in Native societies, their varied burial rites and spiritual practices, and many other features of Native American life. Throughout the book, Perdue and Green stress the great diversity of indigenous peoples in America, who spoke more than 400 different languages before the arrival of Europeans and whose ways of life varied according to the environments they settled in and adapted to so successfully.
Most importantly, the authors stress how Native Americans have struggled to maintain their sovereignty-first with European powers and then with the United States-in order to retain their lands, govern themselves, support their people, and pursue practices that have made their lives meaningful. Going beyond the stereotypes that so often distort our views of Native Americans, this Very Short Introduction offers an historically accurate, deeply engaging, and often inspiring account of the wide array of Native peoples in America. ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.