Indigenous Continent ~ by Pekka Hamalainen

What a marvelous book! This is the second book I’ve read from Pekka Hamalainen. a Finnish historian of the American West, and I loved the first, Comanche Empire. I grabbed this one when I saw it was available. 

Indigenous Continent: The Epic Contest for North America 
by Pekka Hamalainen
2020 /586 pages hardcover
Read by Kaipo Schwab 18h 44m
Rating; 10 / world history 
(both read and listened)

What the reader gets is the history of the indigenous peoples of the whole continent of North America (mostly US) from the days of the last ice age, about 2.5 million years ago, to the Battle of Wounded Knee in 1890. It’s quite a tale to be told in 464 pages of narrative. But it’s there and in extremely readable form.

This telling is not from the colonists’ point of view, nor is it entirely from the natives’ view. It certainly isn’t parroting the story of the US nation-builders which is what seems to have become our “official” national myth.  

This book goes beyond revisionist thinking.  Rather, I saw it called a “counter-narrative” in one of the many laudatory reviews I glanced at (and will read now that I’ve finished the book). . I suppose “counter-narrative” means “revision” on a very large scale rather than in the details  A narrative which counters the “official” version.

Hämäläinen’s prior book, The Comanche Empire is also brilliant but I think he outdid that with the astounding amount of deep and thorough research which must have gone into this.. On almost every page I was surprised by the filling in of the bare outline of information I had previously. I think I need to read it again because there’s no way I could assimilate all of this.

Washington Post review

New York Times Review:

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