Chaco Culture National Historical Park

Chaco Culture National Historical Park

A Book Like No Other

November 6, 2008, 12:34 pm

By Emily Alp

American Indian Places: A Historical Guidebook, by Frances Kennedy

This month offered everyone a chance to think about citizenship and act on it as we selected our commander and chief. We’re organized; we’re citizens; we have values, shared and individual, and we feel deeply connected to this land where we live. As we approach Thanksgiving and reflect even more on the history of this country and what we’re grateful for, we have an unprecedented opportunity to pick up a comprehensive guide book that explores the heritage we share with those who’ve loved and based societies on this land for thousands of years—American Indians.

American Indian Places: A Historical Guidebook is the first book of its kind. Written precisely and sensitively by a group of more than 275 authorities in Native American culture, it explores 366 public places that are significant to American Indians. As a historical guidebook, it not only features lands that are all open to the public, but also careful context around these places in the words of experts.

Readers can learn about tower structures in New Mexico’s Chaco Canyon National Park, imposing mounds in the South built by the Mississippians, gigantic shell mounds along the east coast, from Maine to Florida, ancient irrigation systems built by the Hohokam in the Southwest, and careful land management by tribes in the Northwest.

The breadth of the book is unprecedented yet the content is so carefully placed that it’s not a daunting task to explore. It’s organized in a user-friendly way, by region. The reader will easily find places—organized in roughly chronological order—by a numbered map system at the beginning of each region’s chapter. Site information is complemented by essays and contributions from 279 leading authorities, including the founding director of the National Museum of the American Indian, four law school professors, five tribal chiefs, and four young professors with Ph.D.s—all of whom are American Indians. Frances Kennedy, the primary author, has been a dedicated land conservationist for more than 30 years and is the director of the Historic Lands Program at the Conservation Fund.

Ms. Kennedy has donated all proceeds from sales of the book to the National Museum of the American Indian at the Smithsonian Institution, noting that the book is “the work of the community and the royalties will benefit the community.”

This book will enhance any reader’s appreciation of how humans are rooted in the land while they plan trips and explore the country. American Indian Places is the most thoughtful study to date of human heritage in the contiguous 48 states, shining a bright light on public places that often go overlooked. These destinations, once known only to locals are now accessible to anyone prepared to turn a few pages.

American Indian Places: A Historical Guidebook is available at most book retailers and online.