Book Review | In the Hands of the Great Spirit

In the Hands of the Great Spirit: The 20,000-Year History of American Indians

Author: Jake Page


I stumbled on this book almost by accident. And while I did read and enjoy the whole book, I can’t help but feel that it’s poorly titled (details below).

Robert R. Kresge
Robert R. KresgeAmazon buyer Read More
This is the most comprehensive work of its kind. I recently read the Comanche story (Empire of the Summer Sun) and the Sioux story (The Heart of Everything That Is) and I liked them, too. This goes well beyond those tribes’ borders and is teaching me things I never knew.
Jim Laney
Jim LaneyAmazon buyer Read More
I was looking for an overview to begin my reading on the North American Native People. This has done a good job in providing that. While not an academic work, it is very good for my purposes. It provides a framework for further reading and it was a pleasure to read since it is written for general public consumption.
SimoneAmazon buyer Read More
This should be a must read for High Schools. What a great job of collecting information, and instilling wonder in travelling around the US and seeing some of these sights and ruins. Our country has such a great history, too bad we are taught it starts with Columbus.

Did the American Indian Migrate Here Over the Bering Straits?

Raise your hand if you’d like to know.

Well, this book doesn’t even take a stab at this.  I find it odd that a 400+ page history of “20,000 Years” gives such short shrift to one of the largest questions (controversies?) that has occupied the minds of Native Americans for centuries.

In fact, I bought this book because Jake Page made it a point that he wrote about what I like to call the ‘long history’ of native peoples rather than just the 500 years since the European settler showed up. So much for that.

It’s Still a Well-Written Native American History Book

sign commemorates the trail of tearsIf I had to guess, I’d suggest that Page stayed away from the subjects that often veer into scientific debate because, well… because he wanted to write a lighter, non-academic American Indian history.

And it is a breezy read.  I tackled the whole book over a long Holiday weekend and enjoyed it.

Just go into it with eyes wide open.  It really isn’t a book about the 20,000 years behind us. but the author makes up for that transgression by telling colorful versions of the stories we’ve all heard before.

American Indian History is… Complex

We have come a long way in regards to the accuracy of books that detail Indian history.  In my junior and high school years, it was hard to find anything that wasn’t blatantly fashioned by apologists.

Awareness of this blossomed in the 60s/70s and truth was safe to share.  We began to get books that were far more vocal about the depth of U.S. Government (and the colonies/states!) treachery as the European settler shoved Native Americans westward.

Jake Page is comfortable pointing out the broken treaties and aggressive mistreatment, but this is a storybook.  There’s no serious effort to connect all those wounds to the conditions that Native Americans are enduring today.

I’ve written about the devastation you witness when visiting most modern Indian reservations.  Is that history? Well, it’s the hangover of centuries of cultural deprivation and economic plunder. I’m desperate for some incensed researcher to tie it all together in a book, but it hasn’t crossed my deck so far.

Should You Read This Book

If I’ve sounded overly negative about In the Hands of the Great Spirit, I apologize.

It’s a very entertaining book.

More important, you will not feel that icky vibe that many Native Americans experience when reading stories that dance right on the line of apology.

This book is perfect for you if a) academic history books are so dry that you know you’ll never make it through, and/or b) it’s time for you to read that first American Indian history book and you want it to be engaging and memorable.

[azonpress template=”box” asin=”0684855771″]