It is an unfortunate fact of American lives that the Native Americans have either been excluded from our study of history or, at most, given scant attention. This has improved in the past several years and one of the ways in which it has improved has been the publication of historical resources related to Native Americans. Among those resources is a book simply called American Indian Biographies. First published in 1999, American Indian Biographies was revised in 2005.
The revised edition of American Indian Biographies contains 391 biographical essays on important Native Americans from the spheres of history (such as Tecumseh and Geronimo), politics (such as Wilma Pearl Mankiller), entertainment (such as Wes Studi), art (such as R. C. Gorman), and so on. Each essay gives the indivdual's birth and death date (provided he or she is no longer living), the individual's tribal affiliation, and the individual's significance in Native American history and culture. American Indian Biographies covers a wide range of subjects. As pointed out above, it includes essays on individuals from the worlds of politics to art. It also covers a large time frame. The earliest biographies are of individuals dating from the 16th century; the latest are from individuals still living.
In fact, as odd as it may sound, the only complaint that I have with American Indian Biographies is that it could have included biographies of even more individuals. While including such entertainment figures as Adam Beach (from the movie Smoke Signals), Irene Bedard (the voice of Disney's Pocahontas and star of many films and TV movies), and Wes Studi (from Dances with Wolves and Mystery Men), Floyd "Red Crow" Westerman (from Dances with Wolves and Hidalgo), Darren E. Burrows (Ed on Northern Exposure), and Elaine Miles (Marilyn from Northern Exposure are not featured. Westerman is an acclaimed singer and songwriter, in addition to having an extensive acting career. Both Burrows and Elaine Miles's roles in Northern Exposure made them the highest profile Native American actors of their time. With regards to musicians, Mary Youngblood, the Grammy winning flute player and one of the nicest people one could ever meet, is not included among the profiles. With regards to the art world, neither jeweller, artist, and actor Michael Horse (yes, he is a renaissance man) nor painter Yellowman are mentioned. While American Indian Biographies is very extensive, it could have been more so. I think every individual I mentioned is worthy of a biography in the book.
Regardless of the admittedly few exclusions, American Indian Biographies is well worth reading. Even for those already familiar with Native American history it often reveals new facts that one may not have already known. For those wholly unfamiliar with Native American history, it will open a whole new world of fascinating individuals all too often unexplored by American mainstream pop culture. It is well worth a look.
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