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Savages and Scoundrels: The Untold Story of America's Road to Empire through Indian Territoryby Paul VanDevelder
2011 Oregon Book Award for Nonfiction
"Far from a retelling of the accepted, Hollywood-style story of America's march to the Pacific, however, VanDevelder promises that this book, his follow-up to 2004's Coyote Warrior: One Man, Three Tribes, and the Trial That Forged a Nation, will 'recontextualize and realign some of the major themes in America's story that have been mythologized and embroidered in many of our familiar, widely read and widely taught histories.'" Marc Covert, the Oregonian (read the entire Oregonian review)
Synopses & Reviews
What really happened in the early days of our nation? How was it possible for white settlers to march across the entire continent, inexorably claiming Native American lands for themselves? Who made it happen, and why? This gripping book tells Americas story from a new perspective, chronicling the adventures of our forefathers and showing how a legacy of repeated betrayals became the bedrock on which the republic was built.
Paul VanDevelder takes as his focal point the epic federal treaty ratified in 1851 at Horse Creek, formally recognizing perpetual ownership by a dozen Native American tribes of 1.1 million square miles of the American West. The astonishing and shameful story of this broken treaty — one of 371 Indian treaties signed during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries — reveals a pattern of fraudulent government behavior that again and again displaced Native Americans from their lands
VanDevelder describes the path that led to the genocide of the American Indian; those who participated in it, from cowboys and common folk to aristocrats and presidents; and how the history of the immoral treatment of Indians through the twentieth century has profound social, economic, and political implications for America even today.
"Savages and Scoundrels is a riveting, often chilling account of how a young, land-hungry nation went about inventing the laws and policies that enabled it to push aside a people who, by its own admission and landmark court decisions, held legal ownership of millions of square miles of ancestral land." Marc Covert, the Oregonian
"This is a powerful story composed of careful scholarship, great adventure, and compassion. It is written like the wind, a macroscopic overview of manifest destiny with a vibrant cast of thousands. It is one of the best books I have ever read about our national tragedy." John Nichols, author of The Milagro Beanfield War
"One cannot read VanDevelder's history of American violation of Indian tribal sovereignty and the taking of Indian land and resources without drawing parallels to the effect on Iraq of the present American attempts at empire." Greg Munro, University of Montana School of Law
"VanDevelder''s research on this relatively unknown story of federal-Indian relations is impeccable and infused with a humanizing of what has elsewhere been treated as merely a footnote in history." Kurt Peters, Oregon State University
"Savages and Scoundrels tells a deeply saddening American story, detailing the long history of the European take-over and unscrupulous exploitation of Native American homelands. Let's hope that this exceptionally meaningful and useful account finds a responsive audience among the citizens who deal with tribal, religious and ethic complexities and conflicts anywhere around the world." William Kittredge, author of Hole in the Sky
"Some books bathe you in beauty like the beach in moonlight. Others slam you against the wall so viciously it is days before you can pick up and wander through them again. Savages and Scoundrels, an important book by journalist Paul VanDevelder, is a taut, elegantly written book that does both. Interpreting a research base of scholarly monographs and obscure legal opinions into accessible language, VanDevelder knows how sharp the knife's edge is: if he is too oblique, he gambles that the reader may not understand what happened. If he tells exactly what occurred, he risks the reader's despair." Dr. Wesley Hogan, History News Network
"VanDevelder...has a wonderful, almost Simon Schama-esque, way of detailing the individuals he describes, with a magnificently accessible prose and a thoroughly astounding command of the facts at hand....a fascinating and gripping tale that shows a superb understanding of detail." Robert Glass, WHRW News
"Savages and Scoundrels offers a readable, invaluable history of the government's dealings with Native Americans and the very human and ideological prices that have been paid as a result....We cannot change our country's history, but we are not condemned to repeat it. Paul VanDevelder has given us, in this remarkable book, the story we need to make a difference." Janet Daley Jury, former director of the North Dakota Humanities Council and retired editor of North Dakota History: Journal of the Northern Plains
"In this extremely well-written history, Paul VanDevelder starts with a singular, individual act of injustice — in 1951, Louise Holding Eagle returned to her North Dakota farm to find her house, barn, husband and children gone, 'legally,' and suddenly, removed by the Army Corp of Engineers so to build a huge dam — and builds outward, both geographically, across America, and chronologically, back to the early days when US federal Indian Policy first took shape. This book is deeply and carefully researched and compellingly presented. VanDevelder moves back and forth in time, weaving events big and small into a tapestry of dispossession, vividly recreating, through the words, deeds, and thoughts of historical actors, a major through line of American history, the violence visited upon Native Americans in the name of empire building. The haunting story stays with you well after you have turned the last page." Greg Grandin, judge, Oregon Book Awards and author of Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford's Forgotten Jungle City
In the summer of 1883 Belgian travel writer Jules Leclercq spent ten days on horseback in Yellowstone, the worldand#8217;s first national park, exploring myriad natural wonders: astonishing geysers, majestic waterfalls, the vast lake, and the breathtaking canyon. He also recorded the considerable human activity, including the rampant vandalism. Leclercqand#8217;s account of his travels is itself a small marvel blending natural history, firsthand impressions, scientific lore, and anecdote. Along with his observations on the parkand#8217;s long-rumored fountains of boiling water and mountains of glass, Leclercq describes camping near geysers, washing clothes in a bubbling hot spring, and meeting such diverse characters as local guides and tourists from the United States and Europe. Notables including former president Ulysses S. Grant and then-president Chester A. Arthur were also in the park that summer to inaugurate the newly completed leg of the Northern Pacific Railroad.
A sensation in Europe, the book was never published in English. This deft translation at long last makes available to English-speaking readers a masterpiece of western American travel writing that is a fascinating historical document in its own right.
About the Author
Paul VanDevelder is a journalist and author. His book Coyote Warrior: One Man, Three Tribes, and the Trial That Forged a Nation was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the American Bar Associations Silver Gavel Award. He lives in the Pacific Northwest.
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