Friday, February 27, 2009

Wilcomb E. Washburn: Red Man's Land - White Man's Law, 2nd Edition

After berating myself for waiting so long to read Washburn’s Red Man’s Land - White Man’s Law, I found a used paperback Second Edition. This edition is from 1995, and I did not wait 37 more years to get around to it. But even a 1995 edition is dated when compared to the 2008 American Indians and the Law by Bruce Duthu.

I probably appreciated some of the historical background more this time around, even though it did not change any. I have gone to work for an Indian Nation since reading the First Edition. So my perspective has changed considerably.

I was not happy with the way Washburn brought the story up to date. He still ended a lot of his sections with an “only time will tell how the Nixon policies will work out”, sort of message. The only thing new in the Second Edition is a two page “Preface”, and a 30 page “Afterword”. He took each of his 1970 hanging endings and updated them to 1995. That was moderately interesting, but felt cheap. I would have preferred that the new endings be placed in the original chapters.

I can give Red Man’s Land - White Man’s Law, Second Edition a qualified recommendation. The historical background is pretty interesting. But the relationships among Indian Nations, the Federal Government, and various State Governments are still evolving. The Bruce Duthu book highlights the contradictions and reversals of the last thirteen years since the Second Edition was published. And my job experience is showing me that the Duthu book will be dated soon.

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