Lewis and Clark Through Indian Eyes edited by Alvin M. Josephy Jr.

One of the real messages of the Corps of Discovery journey is the possibility that, as history turns on highly improbable circumstances, the important events of our lives may indeed be already mostly predetermined.

Consequently, while Lewis and Clark believed that history was being made, and certainly American history was being made, the Indians felt that their lives would continue as usual.
— Vine Deloria Jr., Lewis and Clark Through Indian Eyes

Originally aware of this book through Call Your Girlfriend podcast, I was very excited to get my hands on it while back home. Lewis and Clark Through Indian Eyes, edited by Alvin M. Josephy Jr., is a collection of nine essays from writers and academics of Native American ancestry remarking on the way that the Lewis and Clark expedition through the Western United States after the Louisiana Purchase left a mark on their people's history. 

These essays beautifully celebrate the oral history of their ancestry and elders, and the telling of the white man's coming. They underline the importance of bearing witness to events that changed their relatives' lives, events that are otherwise taught quite differently in public schools, limited in perspective and representation. It is a reminder that there are always alternative histories. And this history of Native American Indians is particularly unique, in that their survival is such a miracle.

The sheer enormity of the societal earthquake is beyond imagination. Just think about those three words: ‘Entire bands died’. ‘Entire bands died’ meant ceremonies died, too, because rituals were often entrusted to a particular group. ‘Entire bands died’ would have meant poverty for the survivors. ‘Entire bands died’ meant that territory that had been protected for genreations was lost in one instant to enemies.
— Mark N. Trahant, Lewis and Clark Through Indian Eyes

In one essay, Bill Yellowtail explores the 'learned helplessness' of his people today, or the 'capitulation to victimhood' that triggered excuses and blame when confronted with present times. Yellowtail encourages his people to take responsibility for their lives and chart a meaningful course back toward individual and community strength. Destinies must be shaped and seized, not expected without action, despite the wrong and the great harm done to them. 

Despite this turn in agency, history was written a certain way, by a handful of people on the Lewis and Clark expedition, crafting derogatory narratives about Native Americans that persist today (except for those tales about Sacagawea, which in themselves were limited or false truths). These essays underline the importance of preserving particular lands, artifacts and monuments, as a final act of preserving the stories of the people themselves. And, this preservation should be illustrated not in museum displays or national parks, but through the return of these things to the people, alive still today.

‘What do you want to talk about? The future, present, or a long time ago?’
— Allen V. Pinkham Sr., Lewis and Clark Through Indian Eyes

Each essay shows how deeply connected the past is to the present and future of these Native American tribes, and shines a light on the irony of our assumptions about this Corps of Discovery journey, which unveiled little more than the true discoverers of this land, who would later be brutally stripped of their rights to it. These stories tell history the way it should be remembered, and as it is remembered by these authors and their peers.