The following information was submitted by Joel Sawyer of the Des Plaines Public Library.
November is American Indian Heritage Month. There are many books available at the Des Plaines Public Library exploring the vast array of these rich and vibrant cultures.
A recent release is the National Book Award-winner Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis by Timothy Egan. Recounting the efforts of photographer Edward Curtis to capture the fading remnants of American Indian cultures at the beginning of the last century, it relates how he eventually published a 20-volume work, containing over 40,000 photographs, but was nearly ruined physically and financially by this colossal undertaking. As the cities and infrastructures of the modern American West were just booming into existence, Curtis’s work is a stark testimony to the people who paid the tragic price for this rapid expansion.
Another recently acclaimed history book is Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History by S.C. Gwynne. The presence of the fierce Comanche people held back the Spanish empire’s northward expansion and United States settlers could not originally push west of it. The pages turn quickly in this fascinating yet chilling account of how the Comanches became perhaps the most fearsome of the tribes in western North America through their adept mastery of horsemanship as well as their utterly fearless fighting tactics and how, when faced with their ultimate demise, war chief-turned-businessman Quanah Parker was able to guide his people in adapting to the more settled culture of the late 19th century.
For those who enjoy a solid mystery, many people might recommend the author Tony Hillerman as a can’t-miss author who interweaves American Indian culture throughout his tightly-wound plots. However, another superb mystery novelist of Native-American themes is Craig Johnson. The basis of the television show “Longmire”, his main character is Sheriff Walt Longmire, who attempts to solve mysteries that are as cold and desolate as a northern Wyoming winter. One of the secrets to the success of Johnson’s series is his utter commitment to eschewing stereotypes. Instead, his characters are extremely deep and offer an enlightening view of American Indian traditions and customs, starting with his first offering The Cold Dish.
If you’d like to recognize and celebrate the many Native American cultures during American Indian Heritage Month, stop by the library: there’s no better way to do so than to learn more about them!