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Publisher's Summary

History, for all its facts and figures, names and dates, is ultimately subjective. You learn the points of view your teachers provide, the perspectives that books offer, and the conclusions you draw yourself based on the facts you were given. Hearing different angles on historical events gives you a more insightful, accurate, and rewarding understanding of events - especially when a new viewpoint challenges the story you thought you knew.

Now the Great Courses has partnered with Smithsonian to bring you a course that will greatly expand your understanding of American history. This course, Native Peoples of North America, pairs the unmatched resources and expertise of the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian with the unparalleled knowledge of Professor Daniel M. Cobb of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to provide a multidisciplinary view of American history, revealing new perspectives on the historical and contemporary experiences of indigenous peoples and their impact on the history of our country.

This insightful and unique 24-lecture course helps disprove myths and stereotypes that many people take as fact. Professor Cobb presents a different account of the Seven Years' War, the American Revolution, the War of 1812, the Civil War, the Gold Rush, the Transcontinental Railroad, and beyond, providing the stories of the American Indian people who fought and negotiated to preserve their ancestral lands.

Native Peoples of North America recounts an epic story of resistance and accommodation, persistence and adaption, extraordinary hardship and survival across more than 500 years of colonial encounter. As the Smithsonian curators stated, "The past never changes. But the way we understand it, learn about it, and know about it changes all the time." Be prepared - this course is going to change how you understand American history. And no matter how much you know about this subject, you will be surprised.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2016 The Great Courses (P)2016 The Teaching Company, LLC

What listeners say about Native Peoples of North America

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

OK, but misleading title

The author apparently doesn't know what North America is. But the book is not bad overall.

SUBJECT: It focuses quite a bit on government relations with tribes, including various legal and diplomatic issues. Art, culture, music, language, etc are mentioned, but if these are your main interest, this is not the book for you.

TIME: The time span is essentially European contact through the present. There is not much about pre-contact life on the front end. And on the back end, whereas some books on this topic might choose to end with 1890, in this book 1890 is about the midpoint. There is significant focus on more recent history.

PLACE: Despite the title, it is exclusively about the USA (and predecessor colonies), mentioning Canada and Mexico only when events overlap the border. It is mostly about the lower 48 states of the USA, with some mentions of Alaska, and perhaps one passing mention of Hawaii.

NARRATOR: The narrator is good enough. I lost focus and had to back up a few times, but probably due to the dry subject, not specifically the narrator's style.

SUMMARY: Overall I am glad I chose it, but I can't give it a 5 star rave review.

33 people found this helpful

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Could be much better

I find the presentation to be very poor. I prefer to be spoken to, rather than laboriously read to. The reading was slow, pedantic, and boring, not to mention poorly edited. Everyone makes mistakes while speaking or reading, but surely the mistakes could be edited out, especially as the narrator went right back to his script. I found myself wondering who the presentation was written for, as surely university level students do not have to have the Cold War explained to them. I was hoping for more information on who the various tribes were/are, rather than having them presented as monolithic and with all beliefs and cultures mashed together as if there were no differences among them. More anthropology and less blaming would be welcome.

57 people found this helpful

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There are better courses

A much better Great Courses which should probably heard first is ANCIENT CIVILIZATIONS OF NORTH AMERICA which was fascinating and really eye-opening. Having lived on 4 different Indian Reservations myself while growing up, it still told me of Indian Culture in a way I had rarely heard about. Regarding NATIVE PEOPLES OF North America, it is important in that it very clearly and thoroughly identifies ways in which Native Americans really have been wronged; even up to relatively modern times where land would be exchanged for promises for food and schools, that the government typically failed to provide, leaving the Native Americans often starving. More people should be aware of that history. However, the topic covered by the professor, while very broad does not go very deep. Also, his penchant for disputing word usage was terribly annoying. Of several examples, he derides the use of the world WILDERNESS to refer to deeply forested America as "foolish" on the part of French explorers because they were unaware of the Indian paths. If I were there I would have thought I was in a wilderness because I probably couldn't have survived. The fact that the Iroquois didn't consider it a wilderness, but I, did wouldn't have made me foolish. Not a big deal except this happens over and over again in the book in a way that is really unscholarly for a historian

21 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars

Worthwhile, but frustrating

Any additional comments?
The last half of the course is much better than the first since it recounts more recent history and Native Americans are allowed to speak for themselves through their writings. In the first half, Prof. Cobb too frequently ascribes thoughts, feelings and intentions to Native historical figures who left no records on which to base such conclusions. In Lecture 4, for example, he somehow intuits Matoaka’s motives in assisting the Virginia colony and divines that her actions were orchestrated by her father, Powhatan. No evidence is cited to support this interpretation of events, and the PDF Course Guide contains no documentation other than a thin suggested reading list. Prof. Cobb may be right, but it would be nice if readers could somehow follow the path which led him to his often revisionist view of history.

89 people found this helpful

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False Advertising, Also Suprisingly Boring

There are several reasons I didn't like this course.
1. False Advertising: This course is not about Native Americans themselves or their culture, but is only about the relations between Native Americans and European civilization and the clashes between them. I thought I was finally going to get a chance to learn about Native Americans themselves, as in their culture, their religious beliefs, their political organization and political beliefs, family structures, philosophies, etc. But, no, there is almost none of that. The entire course is just a history of the clash and relations between natives and whites. That's it.
2. Suprisingly Boring: I love history and audio courses on history. Yet, somehow, this course was still figured out a way to be boring and dull.
3. I get the slight suspicion that this lecturer is more interested in activism than history.

9 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars

great info but poorly read really annoying cadence

hard to listen to because of terrible narration
really annoying cadence
better if narrated by someone else

12 people found this helpful

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Way too preachy and poorly read

I was hoping for more of a history of the native cultures, but this is more of an indictment of the evil Europeans and how they ruined the noble native way of life. On top of that, the presentation is terrible. I’ve listened to about a third of the course, but I don’t think I’ll be able to force down the rest.

4 people found this helpful

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This is a polemic regarding governmental mistreatment of Indians, the title does not fit the curse at all.

This is a polemic regarding governmental mistreatment of indians . The title should have been different so as to fit the content

4 people found this helpful

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Needs To Be Re-Thought

Gets off to a bad start with a homily insinuating that many of the things we take for granted today are actually the result of Native American contact with the Europeans. Of course, if one has chosen to listen to this course, it is because he or she already has a bit of an inkling of the Native American perspective being overlooked. This would be fine except that the preaching continues at least throughout the next 2/3rds of the course (I haven't made it to the last third yet). In every instance, the noble Native Americans are taken advantage of by the wily Europeans. Which probably is the case. However, when a teacher takes a side in the history course, portraying their favored side as the only one you should have any sympathy for, then it is hard to trust that this retelling of history is valid.

One of the greatest crimes in history-telling is presuming that you are supposed to cheer for one side over another. History is a complicated thing, made more complex by the morales of the time. Progressives of one time were not as progressive as those of today, but to blame them for this supposed short-sightedness is rather snobbish (as the professor does whenever a European steps forward to try to be a good samaritan to the Native Peoples.)

A more useful and respectful history of the Native People would be to not romanticize them as a people who meant no harm and got run over by greedy Europeans, but to recognize that this was a culture clash in which both cultures had their reasons for seeing the world as they saw it, and this is just the way it was. Europe, for instance, happened to have developed technologies and materials the Peoples of the Americas did not have, and along with these Powers came vices, as they always do. And to presume that Native Americans, had they had the same or greater technologies than Europe, would not have done something similar to Europe, had the shoe been on the other foot, is an impossible thing to argue. It's a blind argument with no fair answer. If the Native Americans had had the same awesome military technology as the Europeans and yet chose to withhold it in the name of Peace, then you could perhaps fairly take sides in history and say, "Look what awful things happened to this culture." But, as the professor shows, the Native People also had their wars, and even though he goes on to put a positive spin on their wars (with the Orwellian spin that the Native American wars against each other weren't destructive but constructive because they sought to replenish their own tribe with prisoners), it doesn't take away from the bigger question: If Native Americans had developed the kind of technology that the Europeans had, would they have suffered from the same vices? And in the absence of these technologies, military or otherwise (read Guns, Germs, and Steel if you're interested in this subject) to tempt them to conquer, does it really mean they were always the good guys no matter what the instance?

As always, even mis-performed history has its lessons to teach, and there are a few nuggets here and there, but one comes away with a scattershot history of the Native People. I came him hoping to get a taste of what daily life was like and what a year amongst them would entail, but mostly we're given a vague representation of how life was in America with the Native People and almost no sense that there was any dissension or disagreement among them. When there is, we're given the impression that its only because the Europeans have forced a wedge between them.

All in all, there has got to be a better history of the Native People out there, somehow somewhere. Though there seem to be no written sources (since the Native People didn't develop a written word until the supposedly evil Europeans came up with a system in order to trick them into preserving the beautiful history) :) -- one would hope there would be a way to put together a day in the life of the native people, flaws and all.

64 people found this helpful

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Misleading title - still informative but....

A lot of people have made similar comments but I will echo some of them here as well. If you want to learn about the different tribes of North America - what were there cultures, how did they organize, was it true they were matriarchal socieiteis? How did the European contact help some tribes at the expense of others?
What's the difference between an Apache and a Comanche? Did all Indians live in Tipis? Why were some tribes "fiercer" than others and feared by other natives?
What about mating rituals?

Sadly you won't learn much of that here or if you do it will be in passing. This course should rightly be titled "the experiences of Indian tribes with the US government and how they were f***ed" over continuously"

Most people unless you are living under a rock already know that first nations people suffered tremendously from contact with Europeans and the subsequent westward movement of these "settlers" who often moved quicker than government bureaucracy could keep up with and we are left with a legacy of broken treaties, disease, and warfare which the Native Peoples ultimately lost.

But if you are like me and have been fascinated with Indians since you were little you won't learn anything about their rich cultural history here. and as others have pointed out, North America for this course is exclusively the continental US with scant mention of Canada and Mexico and appallingly ZERO attention paid to the Innu and Inuit of the far North..

It's rather like wanting to learn about the Jewish people but instead getting a lesson in only the pogroms and the holocaust...

Add to that the professor is clearly reading from a text and doing it very poorly and he sounds like the annoying social worker from King of the Hill (Anthony Page).

I will admit that the latter part of the course which dealt with the experiences of natives in the 20th century to be interesting because it was an area I was completely unfamiliar with so I did learn somethings from the course.
Also it is worth noting that even though I knew that Indians had fared badly over the course of the past 300 years in some cases I didn't know how badly (case in point the Indian tribes of California).
I'm not saying you should avoid this course - just go into it with your eyes open.

And if you are interested in specific tribes there are plenty of good books out there like
"Empire of the Summer Moon" (Comanche)
"9 Years Among the Indians" (Apache and Comanche)
"The Heart of Everything there is" (Sioux)
to name a few....

And even another Great Course (American West history myths and legends) has much better information about Indian tribes in just two lectures (Trail of Tears, Struggles of the Plains Indians) on those specific tribes than this entire course.

3 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • kevinsuperstar
  • 11-07-17

Too short!

This was a good course, but there is so much depth missing. Could have been twice as long.

3 people found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Amazon Customer
  • 05-28-20

Major disappointment

I found this to be so disappointing. Wanting to learn about the people native America, their beliefs and their views. I wasn't expecting a sort of word salad of political jargon about "America". im so gutted to have spent money on this!

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  • Lopsey
  • 12-31-16

A detailed history of USA and Native contact

What did you like best about this story?

it is a very detailed description of interactions between the United States and Native people. Its focus is very much on this interaction. There is very little on pre contact life.

Any additional comments?

It does have a very strong pro native bias, making it feel a bit like a Soviet history of Russia. Every time there is any conflict of any kind between Native people and the US Professor Cobb states the Indians were unequivocally in the right, which does get a bit repetitive.

2 people found this helpful