The Great Plains comprise the center portion of the United States and part of southwestern Canada. Within this region, many Native American tribes live, forced to move to here by European expansion in the eastern United States. Many tribes that we think of as Plains really originated in the East; some were from around the Great Lakes region.
Editor David J. Wishart has collected 123 articles that are part of the Encyclopedia of the Great Plains, published in 2004 by the University of Nebraska Press, added 23 new articles, and the Encyclopedia of the Great Plains Indians was created. Many new photographs were also added to those from the Encyclopedia of the Great Plains. The articles authors’ names and college or organization to which they are connected is listed with their articles; a short bibliography ends each article. A one-page map shows where the Great Plains region lies. Another map of the United States Great Plains Native American population is here is shown down to the county level. Philip J. Deloria and Christopher K. Riggs provide an introduction to Native Americans of the Great Plains and their history and cultures.
The reviewer, being from Oklahoma and living among Native Americans here, especially the Otoe-Missouria and the Citizen Band Potawatomi Nation, is a bit familiar with some of the tribes and other aspects of their history and culture in Oklahoma. Often the Otoe tribe’s name is spelled in other books as “Oto” and not as the tribal members spell the name, but in this book the tribe’s preferred spelling is used. This is good, too, since the word “Nebraska” is an Otoe word and it would have been very embarrassing to the University of Nebraska Press if the tribe’s name had been misspelled. This shows the concern that the editor and press have taken in creating this book.
One disappointment is the absence of the Potawatomi nations when illustrations (on page 161 about powwow, for example) mention this particular tribe in its caption and they are listed in the index. The article on Jim Thorpe says that he was Sauk and Fox; this is partly true. His mother was Potawatomi and is buried at Sacred Heart Cemetery, which is the reviewer’s monastic community’s original site - these are more of a personal concern of the reviewer.
The rest of the book is wonderfully informative. The articles vary in style and quality, of course, since they are by various scholars, and not only cover various tribes but also various individuals and topics related to the Great Plains tribes. Toward the end of the book is a list of illustration credits followed by a list of contributors and what page their article(s) are on. An index is the final inclusion.
Some biographies included are of LaDonna Harris, Wilma Mankiller, Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, Black Elk, Jim Thorpe, Leonard Peltier, Plenty Coups, Silverhorn, and Elijah Harper, just to mention a few. Topics that are discussed range from health, astronomy, and art to Indian removal, Indian police, missionaries, Red River Resistance, Wounded Knee, AIM, and movies. Even with the deficiencies noted above, this book is highly recommended to those interested in the Great Plains Indians.
David J. Wishart is a professor of geography at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He is the editor of The Encyclopedia of the Great Plains (2004), and the author of An Unspeakable Sadness: the Dispossession of the Nebraska Indians (1995) and of The Fur Trade of the American West, 1807-1840 (1992), and he has co-authored other books.