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Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
Native American Philosophy: A Historical & Regional Overview is written by Robert Harrison Woolston. Woolston opens his work with a discussion of the migratory patterns of the Paleoamericans, the first people who came across the Bering land bridge from Asia. He differentiates between the Amerindians, or Native Americans, and the Athabascans, the Native Alaskan people. In his discussion, he includes a diagram showing the differing routes taken during that mass migration. The second portion of his book examines the philosophical practices of Native American groups, including the Iroquois, Cherokee, Seminole, Navajo, Sioux, Aleut and Inuit. Woolston has long been a student of philosophy and was particularly interested in seeing how each tribal group’s philosophical outlooks came to be and differ from each other. He also discusses the use of the Clovis point by early hunter-gatherers and demonstrates how its design indicated that it was used for far more than simply hunting. As the Ice Age receded, hunter-gatherer groups became more settled, and different regions were inhabited by the Native American tribes. Woolston includes an extensive bibliography for those who may want to explore further.
Robert Harrison Woolston’s Native American Philosophy is a fascinating and easily accessible work. I found his book to be an excellent cornerstone for anyone who’s interested in the subject and wants to learn more. His material is clearly and eloquently presented, and his discussion of the Bering land bridge migration helped me clearly visualize this historical event. I was also quite impressed by his description of the Clovis point, its design and its significance in the development of the early tribes. Most impressive, however, is his discussions of the philosophies and lifestyles of each of the eight Native American groups he covers. I appreciated his pointing out the parallels between Seminole philosophical tradition and that of the ancient Greeks and Stoics, and his treatment of the Navajo people and their participation in the two World Wars was thorough and inspiring. His differentiation between the Inuits and Aleuts was also most enlightening. Native American Philosophy: A Historical & Regional Overview is most highly recommended.