by Cécile R. Ganteaume. Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, dist. by University of Minnesota Press, October 2017. 192 p. ill. ISBN 9781517903305 (h/c), $28.00.
Reviewed January 2018
Appropriately, much valuable and important research on Native American history has been conducted and published in recent years. One of the most important of such endeavors in recent months, however, is Cecile R. Ganeaume’s Officially Indian: Symbols that Define the United States.
Tracing the heritage of the Native American from the time when Columbus “discovered” “America” and allegedly coined the colloquialism “Indian,” Ganteaume’s scholarship here is chronologically organized in terms of distinct eras from the late fifteenth century to contemporary times. The author’s overriding thesis is that a range of very significant, and sometimes archetypal, Indian symbols provide iconography that transcends Native American life and defines (North and South) American National Culture that endures today. So thoroughly researched and detailed, Ganteaume’s thesis moves from argument to established fact.
From line drawings to color paintings and photographs from the earliest days of the medium, this book provides unique and seminal images from tribal folk and regional and national societies. Writing is engaging and informative herein. Stories and historical context behind images found on circulated coins, postal stamps, war airplanes, and so much more make this volume captivating for the layman, and provides sources for further inquiry for the aspiring and continuing scholar.
In regard to production values, this book is profusely and beautifully illustrated. Attractive glossy pages and stunning color mark the interior pages. Illustrations are exemplary and enhance the discussion of the text. The font is easily read, yet professional. The cover price is a very reasonable for a book for which other publishers often charge triple this amount.
Officially Indian: Symbols that Define the United States is a scholarly yet approachable volume that should be featured prominently in the collections of university and college libraries, high school and middle school libraries, and public libraries.
This book is a gem among gems. The best and only criticism of the volume is that this reviewer wishes that there was even more of the same. Perhaps a second volume? Highest possible marks, and the highest of recommendations.