A Handbook of Oklahoma Writers. By Mary Hays Marable and Elaine Boylan. (Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 1939. 308 pp. $2.50.)
This is one of the most useful books ever published in Oklahoma. Since territorial days the state has been flooded with "vanity projects" and other regional histories carrying biographical sketches, but this book represents the first serious attempt to record the achievements of Oklahoma from the standpoint of objective scholarship. It contains a comprehensive bibliography of books and pamphlets published by Oklahomans (about two thousand titles), biographical sketches of the more important state writers (more than one hundred), a town list of authors (about one hundred and thirty towns), and an imposing list of literary awards and distinctions won by Oklahomans.
It is in no sense a history of Oklahoma literature. There is little attempt at criticism, and where it is present it is not always discriminating. Very little human interest material appears in the biographical sketches. But the research is a marvel of thoroughness and accuracy. And the information is so complete and up-to-the-minute and so conveniently arranged that in spite of its encyclopedic character the book is intensely interesting. It is a great satisfaction to learn the things one has always wanted to know about the writers of the state, and it brings a pleasant glow of pride to view the total of their accomplishments. The history section, in particular, reveals a literary self-consciousness on the part of Oklahomans that promises well for the future of historical studies.
No high school should pretend to teach English or history without this book on its reference list, study clubs will find it indispensable, and no literate Oklahoman will fail to keep it within convenient reach.
Secession and Restoration of Louisiana, by Willie Malvin Caskey with Foreword by Frank Lawrence Owsley. (University, Louisiana: Louisiana State University Press, 1938. XII+318 pp. $3.50.)
While the work and influence of Dunning and Fleming resulted in more or less satisfactory studies of reconstruction in most other Southern states Louisiana, the horrible example of reconstruction, it is pointed out in the foreword remained—with the exception of Miss Lonn's work on the later phases—fallow ground. Dr. Caskey has attempted to work the field for a part of the period and proposes to continue.
In addition to the presidential election of 1860, the work includes studies of the succession of Louisiana, Butler's beginning of restoration, Banks' preparation of Louisiana for restoration, restoration under Lincoln's ten per cent plan, the constitutional convention of 1864, the problem of civil government during the civil war period, President Johnson's reconstruction policy in Louisiana, the Legislature's completion of restoration, and, finally, the radical Congressional overthrow of restoration.
Apparent opposition to secession in and about New Orleans in 1860 soon gave way to an overwhelming city and state secession sentiment. Failing in their demands for Confederate cooperation in defense of New Orleans, however, the people expressed bitterness and resentment against those authorities.
General Butler is credited with effective charitable and sanitary measures but with failure in his relations with native and foreign populations and failure to check fraud and corruption. His successor Banks soon altered his own policy of magnanimity and while adopting a compulsory negro labor program was soon faced with negro demands for political equality.
Unionist disagreements and military campaigns delayed organization of a state government. At length the administration ticket carried an election for several state officers ordered for February 22, 1864, and another for delegates to a constitutional convention a month later. The work of the convention was hampered, however, by questions as to its constitutionality, by defeat of the Federals at Mansfield, by the difficulty of securing a quorum, by failure of the character and ability of the delegates as a whole to command public esteem, and by the withdrawal of the most able members. The constitution adopted included the abolition of slavery, the possible extension of suffrage to negroes, and the establishment by public taxation of separate schools for blacks and whites.
The legislature was elected in September, 1864; a much needed supreme court was established; and congressional and senatorial elections were held. But by a congressional filabuster "the Louisiana senators were denied seats, and the Lincoln government in Louisiana stood condemned and repudiated for strictly political purposes, by both conservative and radical unionist factions in Louisiana, and by Congress."
Louisiana was willing to cooperate with President Johnson but an aggressive Louisiana minority condemned the new government, claimed that secession caused Louisiana to revert to territorial status, and elected a "delegate" to Congress, who was never seated. By the close of the election of May 7, 1866, there was effected a complete restoration of the state government apparently under the undisputed control of returned Confederates. This control was
overthrown, however, to all intents and purposes by the New Orleans Revolution or riot of July 30, 1866, engendered by a radical Republican group.
Dr. Caskey's study is intended to be almost purely political. It is to be hoped, however, that study may be made of economic and social interests and activities as a further aid to an understanding of the ardent support of political views and changing factions. Real estate ownership and transfer as evidenced by census reports, deeds, wills, mortgages, tax reports, tax sales, advertisements, and the like should shed light on the situation as should the records of New Orleans business men if and when they appear.
The author has made wide use of the most often used type of source and apparently has arrived at sound conclusions albeit without either achieving a convincing objectivity or making an outstanding contribution. The analysis is not keen and the style upon occasion becomes careless, involved and difficult. Clarity or accuracy is too often wanting as in references to the ultras (p. 1), Hahn's majority (p. 65), the Wells appointee (p. 201), Baird's refusal (p. 225), and in the last sentence on p. 142. Proofreading failed to catch a number of slips (as on pages 38, 117, 142 and 179).
Some 68 pages of notes are relegated to the back of the book, numbered consecutively only within each of the twelve chapters, and arranged in two narrow columns. The index is adequate and the bibliography is conveniently arranged.
V. Alton Moody
Iowa State College
Indian Cavalcade or Life on the Old-Time Indian Reservations. By Clark Wissler. (New York: Sheridan House, 1938. 353 pp. Illustrated. $3.00.)
At the turn of the century a young anthropologist entered upon a study of the American Indian which, over a period of several years, took him to some ten reservations scattered throughout the West. That man was Clark Wissler, now a chief curator at the American Museum of Natural History, and pre-eminent for his contributions in the field of anthropology.
This book of reminiscences of those years and those experiences has all the wealth of the succeeding quarter of a century which Dr. Wissler has devoted to Indian research and investigation. The author modestly sets forth in his foreword that this is a book without a purpose, that it is neither history nor sociology, but merely personal recollections of old-time Indian reservations. So, in the opening chapter the author takes the reader over the prairies to a typical agency where he meets the principal official and unofficial personages usually to be found there. The most talked of individuals are the Agent, usually known as "The Major," and the government
spy sent to report on conditions on the reservation, known appropriately as "The Big Cat." The presence of this latter person was always anticipated and never appreciated, for his report to Washington might mean one's official life or death. There are chapters on the trader who made artful use of his monopoly; the agency "Dock," whose redskin patients could suffer from symptoms as distressingly and dramatically as any pale face. The Indian medicine men are traced sympathetically against the relief of the "black robes"; and there is much of keen observation in the sections dealing with the government schools and missionary establishments; the Indian police, their court and judgments. The "half-breeds" and the "squaw man" stand out vividly as the problems of the Indian frontier. The last few chapter are intimate portraits and experiences with the Indians the writer knew best; and the final pages are among his best writing.
Dr. Wissler shows in an informal but effective fashion that many of the wrongs for which the Indian suffered were due to the white man's ignorance of their tastes and ways. This ignorance more often characterized the officials at Washington than the local administrators, so often hampered and harassed by conflicting and unintelligent orders. The writer, discovered that the Indian is most tolerant; he understood why an Indian could be both a pagan and a Christian at the same time, and also belong to several different Christian sects. He points out how differently whites and Indians think about the same things, and with illuminating anecdotes to prove it. There is the story of an old chief, himself a Christian, who accepted the Ten Commandments with the remark that, since they were primarily addressed to the white man, he thought there should have been more than ten!
The book is attractively illustrated with reproductions of several Dakota Indian drawings made about 1890; and with photographs that reflect the atmosphere of the time. The printing and binding are in harmony with the informal and readable style of the author. There is no index; but there is no need of one, for this is not a reference work. This is a book to be read and reflected upon, and is a substantial and contributory critique of the American Indian policy at the turn of the century.
Gaston L. Litton
The National Archives
Tecumseh And His Times, by John M. Oskison. (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1938. 244 pp. ($2.75.)
Tecumseh and His Times presents a very readable and interesting account of the rise and fall of the "Meteor," as the hero has been called. While the material may not lay claim to original treatment, the subject having been often presented in the history, of
the American frontier, nevertheless the sympathetic approach and point of view deserve consideration and commendation. .
The book is "dedicated to all dreamers and strivers for the integrity of the Indian race, some of whose blood flows in my veins (Oskison is one-eighth Cherokee, his mother being a Crittenden, a quarter blood); and especially to the Oklahoma Shawnee friends of my boyhood." That Tecumseh was a dreamer of dreams is evidenced in the almost fanatical reliance he reposed in the confederation of Indian tribes of old Northwest Territory which he and his brother, known as "The Prophet," sponsored. He hoped that this alliance would become powerful enough "to dam back the flow of the whites into Indian lands." But when it is recalled that by 1754 the Iroquois were facing political disintegration, their League steadily weakening in influence and prestige, it was just a little too much to expect that Tecumseh's dream would be realized.
The author does not seem to be conscious of the general disintegration of tribalism which had already set in, and, according to some authorities, was coincident with the Columbian era. The divisive influences of tribalism had militated against forming a defensive alliance against the white invader at an earlier date; hence Tecumseh, representing a tribe, which according to the author was never numerically strong (commanding about 500 warriors) and "in a special sense nomadic and jealous of their freedom" (p. 8), was faced with well-nigh insurmountable obstacles at the very outset of his enterprise.
Following the defeat of the French interests in America, the troubled period following the Revolution, and the trek of the settlers down the Wilderness Road, the stirring events depicted in "Tecumseh and His Times" takes place. The close of the War of 1812 also marks the culmination of Tecumseh's career. The author points out what difficulties the newly constituted Republic encountered in dealing with the rough newcomers into the Ohio Valley who showed slight consideration for the rights of a primitive people. The treaties, made with the tribes as though they were sovereign states, were drawn up in high flown language which the average Indian did not understand and which the settlers evidently did not care to understand. At any rate the treaties were not enforced.
A study of the times in which Tecumseh lived furnishes the author with an opportunity for taking William Henry Harrison, the hero of Tippecanoe, to task as a politician and exploiter, of no mean proportions, as well as a maker of "iniquitous treaties." That Harrison and Tecumseh were bitter antagonists, making use of all known methods of the border warfare of that day, history has long since established. The Indians had to bear the brunt of a cruel and reckless frontier; Tecumseh went down in the struggle but his
name lives on as an Indian leader of mettle and resourcefulness albeit championing a "lost cause."
Mr. Oskison pays this tribute to his hero: "Tecumseh takes his place among the dreamers and leaders of the red race who for nearly four hundred years have considered martyrdom not too high a price to pay for holding the dream. He stands out from the rest mainly because his effort was so clearly etched against the background of history in a troubled time, and because of his surpassing honesty and courage." (p. 237).
To the present reviewer, the author's reference to Tecumseh's "dream," as persisting in the Peyote cult, as practiced "among many of the western tribes," seems farfetched and bordering on the fantastic. He holds that "it is clear that the devotees (Peyote users) are uplifted by something more potent than a drug. In these long sessions, the modern reservation Indians recapture a dream; they reach for—at the least—a spiritual union of the race, seek to preserve that which is distinctively Indian."
How the author can see anything uplifting or tending to the "spiritual union of the race" in the peyote orgies as ordinarily practiced among the followers of this cult, is indeed difficult of comprehension. Those who have lived for years in the Indian country and have seen the deleterious effects, physically, mentally and morally, of this insidious drug, are unanimous in their condemnation of its use. Like most drugs it is habit forming and furnishes an "escape mechanism," being at times substituted for liquor; it is also used as a medicine (between meetings), generally indiscriminately, with injurious results. Dr. Moorman Prosser of the Central Oklahoma Hospital, Norman, recently (at the Bacone Regional Conference of the National Fellowship of Indian Workers, June 7, 1939) presented some important findings on the pathological aspects of the use of peyote on Indians. These would indicate that peyote is far from being the "uplifting" influence which the author attributes to it.
G. E. E. Lindquist