Bringing Indians to the Book
- PUBLISHED: July 2005
- SUBJECT LISTING: History / American History
- BIBLIOGRAPHIC INFORMATION: 232 Pages, 6 x 9 in, 10 illus.
- SERIES: Emil and Kathleen Sick Book Series in Western History and Biography
- ISBN: 9780295985237
In 1831 a delegation of Northwest Indians reportedly made the arduous journey from the shores of the Pacific to the banks of the Missouri in order to visit the famous explorer William Clark. This delegation came, however, not on civic matters but on a religious quest, hoping, or so the reports ran, to discover the truth about the white men's religion. The story of this meeting inspired a drive to send missionaries to the Northwest. Reading accounts of these souls ripe for conversion, the missionaries expected a warmer welcome than they received, and they recorded their subsequent disappointments and frustrations in their extensive journals, letters, and stories.
Bringing Indians to the Book recounts the experiences of these missionaries and of the explorers on the Lewis and Clark Expedition who preceded them. Though they differed greatly in methods and aims, missionaries and explorers shared a crucial underlying cultural characteristic: they were resolutely literate, carrying books not only in their baggage but also in their most commonplace thoughts and habits, and they came west in order to meet, and attempt to change, groups of people who for thousands of years had passed on their memories, learning, and values through words not written, but spoken or sung aloud. It was inevitable that, in this meeting of literate and oral societies, ironies and misunderstandings would abound.
A skilled writer with a keen ear for language, Albert Furtwangler traces the ways in which literacy blinded those Euro-American invaders, even as he reminds us that such bookishness is also our own.
Authors & Contributors
Albert Furtwangler is an independent scholar affiliated with Willamette University and professor emeritus, Mount Allison University. He is the author of Answering Chief Seattle and Acts of Discovery: Visions of America in the Lewis and Clark Journals.
1. On the Authority of William Clark
2. Columbia Rediviva
--At the Pacific: Gloom and Revulsion
--At the Gorge: Curses and Revelations
--Along the Walla Walla: Powerful Medicines
--Along the Clearwater: Power and Law
3. The Bookish Invaders
4. Denying the Salmon God
Appendix: The Disosway and Walker Letters
It may be ironic to praise in a written review a book that critiques the dominance of a culture of literacy, but so be it. This is an important work that calls into question fundamental assumptions about the nature of intercultural contact. Anyone interested in US missionary activity should take seriously its central thesis.- Mission Studies
This book is a fascinating essential volume for anyone interested in how the discrepant viewpoints of the early missionaries and the Indians they came to change influenced the eventual imposition of non-Indian culture on the present day Pacific Northwest.- HistoryLink
Bringing Indians to the Book is an engaging and original study of early missionaries in the Pacific Northwest.- We Proceeded On: The Quarterly Magazine of the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation
Arguably the definitive work on its subject..[A] passionate history of ideas and people. It is an exciting and vital work that gets as near to the truth as can be imagined.- Salem Statesman Journal
Bringing Indians to the Book offers a thought-provoking glimpse into the minds of nineteenth-century missionaries whose writings left us only glimpses of a world they sought to change but never understood.- Montana: The Magazine of Western History
Albert Furtwangler tackles a complicated subject and makes it understandable and a pleasure to read. Bringing Indians to the Book provides a compelling window through which to view the first contacts that took place between whites and Indians in the Pacific Northwest.- Journal of the West
This book is a model for demonstrating historical research methods to students. Among Furtwangler's strengths are his persistent self-awareness and self-criticism, his digging into untapped sources, and his ability to find new meanings in old places.- Oregon Historical Quarterly
Furtwangler has produced an engaging and idiosyncratic analysis of the Protestant missionaries, one that deserves wide readership. There is much here that is simply wonderful.- Larry Cebula, author of Plateau Indians and the Quest for Spiritual Power, 1700—1850
This is a very impressive book and likely to be a widely consulted and influential contribution to Western history.- Jarold Ramsey, author of Reading the Fire: The Traditional Indian Literatures of America
Furtwangler weaves a meticulous, intricate argument that provides a different, illuminating perspective. Deeply engaging, this book will interest many in this field. Recommended.-