We are all familiar - - or should be - - with the white man's thefts of Indian land in the past. In this book, Peter Matthiessen demonstrates that such land grabs continue today, in a variety of more subtle forms. He focuses in particular on economic development of sacred sites of various sorts. In some of his chapters he also shows how legal disputes always somehow manage to go against Indian rights.
The stories are depressing, but they can't all be taken at face value. Matthiessen consistently seeks out disgruntled people in each tribe, and treats them as if they alone were the true representatives of the tribe's rights. Sometimes that's true, since the elites and other "progressives" get bought out in various ways. But it isn't *always* true - - and sometimes disgruntled people are just generally annoyed for whatever set of personal reasons. Matthiessen's biases lead him to side with these people uncritically in every case.
This selection of informants means that Matthiessen treats the leadership of the Eastern Cherokee favorably because they fought development, but treats the leadership of the Miccosukee poorly because they didn't. Similarly, Hopi who choose to have running water and electricity get short-shrifted in Matthiessen's worldview compared with those who choose not to have those things. I think it's clear what Matthiessen's ultimate agenda here and, despite what he wants us to think, it isn't necessarily solidarity with the tribes.
As always, he writes very well. Matthiessen has also covered a very nice range of the challenges facing Indian Country, from Florida and North Carolina to the Pacific Northwest. The book represents a good follow-up to Dee Brown's "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee," but the author's selective choice of informants should give the reader pause.