Volume 9 in New Directions in Native American Studies series
University of Oklahoma Press
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256 pages. Hardcover with dustjacket. Brand new book. NATIVE AMERICANS. A revealing pairing of the archaeological record with the oral traditions of Native peoples The Anaasazi people left behind marvelous structures, the ruins of which are preserved at Mesa Verde, Chaco Canyon, and Canyon de Chelly. But what do we know about these people, and how do they relate to Native nations living in the Southwest today? Archaeologists have long studied the American Southwest, but as historian Robert McPherson shows in Viewing the Ancestors, their findings may not tell the whole story. McPherson maintains that combining archaeology with knowledge derived from the oral traditions of the Navajo, Ute, Paiute, and Hopi peoples yields a more complete history. McPherson's approach to oral tradition reveals evidence that, contrary to the archaeological consensus that these groups did not coexist, the Navajos interacted with their Anaasazi neighbors. In addition to examining archaeological literature, McPherson has studied traditional teachings and interviewed Native people to obtain accounts of their history and of the relations between the Anaasazi and Athapaskan ancestors of today's Hopi, Pueblo, and Navajo peoples. Oral history, McPherson points out, tells why things happened. For example, archaeological findings indicate that the Hopi are descended from the Anaasazi, but Hopi oral tradition better explains why the ancient Puebloans may have left the Four Corners region: the drought that may have driven the Anaasazi away was a symptom of what had gone wrong within the society&emdash; a point that few archaeologists could derive from what is found in the ground. An important text for non-Native scholars as well as Native people committed to retaining traditional knowledge, Viewing the Ancestors exemplifies collaboration between the sciences and oral traditions rather than a contest between the two. 26 black and white illustrations. Robert S. McPherson is Professor of History at Utah State University, Blanding. He is the author of A Navajo Legacy: The Life and Teachings of John Holiday; Navajo Land, Navajo Culture: The Utah Experience in the Twentieth Century; and The Journey of Navajo Oshley: An Autobiography and Life History. "In Viewing the Ancestors, Robert McPherson takes on a formidable assignment: 'To give the Navajo and other Native American tribes' oral traditions a new look, ' as he phrases it. McPherson travels to Anaasazi country and re-examines Navajo and Hopi teachings concerning this locale. He gives his subject the kind of attention and respect it deserves, ultimately revealing the power of place and the significance of stories."&emdash; Peter Iverson, author of Din: A History of the Navajos "Viewing the Ancestors makes an impassioned plea for recognizing oral traditions as vital sources of historical insights, alongside evidence from archaeology, linguistics, and written documents. This is a fascinating, must-read book for scholars and those interested in Native American cultural history in the American Southwest."&emdash; William D. Lipe, coauthor of The Architecture of Social Integration in Prehistoric Pueblos (Key Words: Ancestors, Anaasazi, Mokwic, Hisatsinom, Native Americans, American Indians, Robert S. McPherson).
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