What prompted you to write Voices of the American Indian Experience? What "message" do you want to communicate? Why is this subject important?
When Jim first approached me with this project idea, I was enthusiastic about the opportunity to research and organize materials written by Native Americans into an accessible resource for students and researchers. By combining familiar materials, such as court cases and legislation, with less well-known first person accounts and personal narratives, the reader is able to gain a much broader understanding of the Native American experience as it evolved from contact to today. These documents illustrate both the triumphs and tragedies that are part and parcel to human history.
What was the highlight of your research? In the course of your research, what discovery surprised you the most? What surprises readers/others the most about your research?
These narratives comprise a landscape of memories that are at once both universal and unique. Wherever Euro-Americans were, Native Americans were, and in many ways they have contributed, and continue to contribute, the best of their culture to ours. They fought in the civil war, they played college basketball, they loved, they dreamed, and above all, they fought, and continue to fight, to save their culture, to preserve their sovereignty, and for the right to represent their own history. This book documents the ways of life, beliefs, hopes, and dreams that show how the American Indian adds depth to the American experience.
How did your research change your outlook on the subject?
I think that the most interesting part of this research was coming to appreciate the intricacies of Native American culture and history. One thing I have learned is that they see and understand history in a very different way from Euro-Americans, and it was an interesting challenge to try to bridge the gap and make the work as a whole understandable to a broad audience, while maintaining a healthy respect for the uniqueness of the Native American historical memory.
Steven A. Littleton is a former park ranger-interpreter at Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument in Montana. He is currently a doctoral candidate in history of the American West at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, AZ.