Southwestern Historical Quarterly
deeply and think long, usually find something in the object of
their disaffection to be charitable about. Such is not the case with
this reviewer of Indian Civilizations. Inaccurate, poorly written,
strewn with misspellings and misconceptions, this hodge-podge
book contains nothing whatsoever to commend it.
Consisting of thirty brief chapters, plus an addendum, the
author's aim (giving the lie to the dust jacket blurb) is "to show
many degrees of Indian culture and civilization" (vii). A wide
assortment of Indian groups is mentioned; unfortunately, what
constitutes culture and civilization is never satisfactorly de-
cided. The "Preface" lists food producing, urbanization, "a form
of government with officials," and "some kind of religion along
with other requirements" as prerequisites. Writers can, of course,
define civilization and culture in any manner they choose, but
some come to grief, as does this one, when they have to lie on the
bed of thorns they construct. All people, for example, are re-
ligious or have something that to them is religious behavior.
The same remark might be made about government, for all
people are governed, formally or informally. By definition, then,
Reading destroys any usefulness the term civilization might have
in distinguishing various cultural levels. All people become civ-
ilized and "cultured."
Throughout the book other clues are given as to what
constitutes "civilization." Some of its attributes are "hospitality"
(p. 79), high quality pottery (pp. 111-112), and "cleanliness"
(p. 168). The implicit assumption is that those things which
typify Western civilization, or to which Americans aspire, are
civilization. In so far as one Indian people or another are clean,
hospitable, and so on, they are then civilized or cultured to some
degree. Whatever you wish to call this subjective manner of rank-
ing peoples, it cannot be termed science. Students of culture have
been struggling for over a century to view exotic peoples ob-
jectively and dispassionately. It is apparent that their attitude, and
the knowledge and insight gained by such studies, has yet to
penetrate the far reaches of modern America.
This book is so sloppily written that meaning is often lost or
deformed beyond recognition. A few examples should suffice:
"The Utes were great lovers of dancing, and since this was a
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 66, July 1962 - April, 1963. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101196/. Accessed December 11, 2013.