I am learning in my OSU History class that at least in these circles that books are no longer called books, they are called a monograph. And a book review is not called a book review, it’s called “History in a Box”. In order to do a complete job these days you create graphics as well as doing the old fashioned book report which should be done, “succinctly.” We’ll find out if I get docked for going over only around 500 words. Really, I did.
Below is the book cover. Then will come the book review, and then will come my “History Book in a Box” graphics, including a timeline that goes with the review and book. I still have to build the interior of the box. This is supposed to be done using a website called canva.com. I did the timeline in Canva, but I did the exterior of the box in Photoshop. I just know Photoshop better. Hope you Enjoy.
History in a Box
Peggy A Rowe
Siege & Survival, David R. M. Beck
The Book Review:
Part I: Analyzing the Book
This section is entirely focused on your assessment of the book and the author’s capable treatment of the topic. See the assignment guide for complete information
Beck, David R. M. Siege and Survival: History of the Menominee Indians, 1634-1856.
Lincoln, Neb.: University of Nebraska Press, 2003. Reviewed by Peggy A Rowe
This book, Siege and Survival: History of Menominee Indians, 1634-1856 is pretty much just what the title says it is. It is a chronological history of the Menominee people and of course their history between the years listed. While the title pretty much says it all, one point the author makes over and over is that those Menominee’s are still walking this earth. I do not believe for one minute that is a side note. Not with that title. These people were hit time and time again with disease, abuse from the young American Government, abuse by Agents, Traders, Negotiators, and others. They were truly under siege. And while their numbers were dropped very low by these circumstances along with others, such as starvation, they survived.
This book contains eleven chapters and within those chapters the author moves us from Menominee prehistory all the way to 1856 in the end. On average each chapter is around 25 pages with some being more pages and some less. The author does the job in giving a history in concise terms that are not overly artistic and not over spoken either. I ran into only one word that I did not know, Usufructuary, which I looked up in the dictionary and still don’t get. Other than that one word the book is very easy reading. It flowed very well.
The first chapter sets the stage of the story and tells about the Menominee life along with their cultural and spiritual beliefs. The author describes their formal government, that while not written down, was remembered and passed down from generation to generation verbally. There were laws for everything – marriage, divorce, harvest, hunting courtesy, and how to share the land and its resources with others. The author draws on many sources to tell his stories but specifically uses for foundational works by, Albert Ernest Jenks to help us learn about the native’s economy and other habits. (I had questioned relying on one source, or person so much, i.e. A. E. Jenks, until I looked up who he was: American Anthropologist with a PhD in economics. While I was impressed, and even found a copy of Jenks’s writing on Google Books, one must take into consideration that his work seems to be mostly comprised of secondary sources. The chapter also tells about the wonderful natural resources that the people have including the wild rice they harvest and use for food and the sturgeon which seems as if it’s a major source of protein for them. The author also talks a little bit about the sugar maple. Apparently, the natives referred to them as ‘sugar bushes.’ David Beck lays out the framework and foundation of a society of people who believe themselves to the first people in the area where they are from and where they live, south and east side of the state of Wisconsin and down into the most north parts of Illinois and east into Michigan. The people were broken up into subgroups first the names of the two primary groups, the Menominee and the Ho Chunks. Then they break themselves up into Clans and Tribes, etc.
Chapter two is about the time when the homeland of the Menominee was a place of trading of furs between French fur traders and the Menominee people themselves along with their native neighbors. The French were the first white people the Menominee had met. They were awed by what they saw and broke out the pipe and Indian tobacco. The author points out that surely this reaction to the Traders were allegory. Considering the Menominee probably had managed to get hold at the very least some trade items and so knew of the existence of the French traders. But the author seemed to point out that even with that fore knowledge that the Europeans were out there, there was still some shock when they showed up in the homeland.
The chapter talks about how the Menominee perceptions of the traders were eventually corrected and how the trade developed. The chapter also talks about the Jesuits and how they came into the territory to spread THEIR idea of spirituality amongst the natives. It details how the Jesuits considered the Menominee’s superstitious “living outside the sphere of salvation” (Chapter 2, Page 34). These Jesuits showed up in 1665 formed a mission and set about working to make Catholics out of the natives. The descriptions in the books says that the Catholic symbolism and religious ceremony were appealing to the natives as they could attach meaning from their own spirituality onto the symbolism -but their understanding of the rituals were not the same understanding of the Jesuits. On page 43 in chapter two, the author admits that there are few primary sources from this time period that specifically tell about the Menominee opinions of the day. Though it is no fault of the Menominee people, it doesn’t help the reader in trying to decide what may not quite be right due to projections and suggestion of what might have been. The best source material of that times seems to be from letters and other documents from the traders themselves and no one from that side of the world was going to speak for the natives.
Between the lines of information of the traders and the Jesuits the author also points out that disease took its toll on the natives at least twice (Small pox), and that they were cheated in trading by their Ottawa neighbors who traded the Menominee pelts for Ottawa used and discarded trade goods. At the end of the chapter, Mr. Beck also points out that while the Menominee people were not the primary fur movers in the area, they certainly were impacted by the fur trade. Trade goods did not lighten the Menominee women’s workload in the least, they only made it so that they could get more done in terms of processing hides, etc. The good news is that the Menominee way of life was not greatly impacted by the French, traders and Jesuits, the new ways of living that they brought with them. I have to say one thing for the author, he sure crammed a lot of information into a small book
Mr. Beck leads us through the years where the Menominee people met up with the first fur traders they ever met and how the fur trade eventually hurt their lives. He led us through time to when American settlers started pushing west and into the Menominee’s land. The way he wrote, I could picture myself a fly on the wall and watching while agents of the American government tried to negotiate the native’s rights and homeland away. I felt the threats they made at “the people.” He explained when the Missionaries and other religious groups came, to convert the heathens to Christianity, and how they did and did not care for the children in terms of schooling them. David Beck introduced us individually to the Treaties that sometimes the natives would sign, sometimes they would not, sometimes they did but only under duress (i.e. threat), and always it is shown that they fought back in the end.
Mr. Beck does a great job threading the story together. One-piece fits into a piece on a future page, and you can usually look back over what you have read and find what led into the part you are reading now. He did a lot of research prior to the writing, and the source list is important. The notes and bibliography fill in the range starting at page 212 and go up to 266. That is fifty-four pages of notes, sources, etc. I was impressed with that part.
This was a story that explained enough about the Menominee world view and understanding of their world that it allowed us to see inside and understand perhaps somewhat the way they understood as Treaties were pushed upon them and land was stolen from them. As their resources dwindled and we could have a picture in our minds of the conversations they were trying to have with government agents trying to get them to understand from their point of view, trying to explain and ask why their own money was used to pay for things that the government had promised to pay for. I can imagine the great frustration that they must have felt. But I also admired very much how they realized early on what they wanted, and that there were cheats in the system, and they pointed this out. They did not give up, nor did they give in. They kept their eyes on the prize so to speak. And in their way, they won – they kept their integrity and maintained their independence (and that was shaky from an economic point of view many times)
If Mr. Beck had a bias, then I would have to say the bias was in defense of the Menominee people themselves. Considering their treatment over the generation by everyone they met, probably 99.9% of them European in descent, I can not imagine how a person with a conscious could not have this bias. It was obvious in more than one place in the book that he at least tried to explain what happened from the other guys point of view.
If I had one complaint about this book, it is only that it ended too soon. Mr. Beck ends it by letting us know that the Menominee people survived the onslaught of siege after siege by the European invaders on their land. That was his point from beginning to end. Menominee people were smart, and learned, and fought (legally even!) and stood their ground and even though they lost a lot, and a great many lost their lives, in the end they survive today. Even with an end like that, I wanted the book to continue. I wanted to know more about the people and their lives, especially more of this history working forward through the years.
More: (the 3 documents below are in PDF format)
Final Essay (what you just read above) and notes from the reading.