Cameron B. Wesson
This chapter examines the nature of Native American societies immediately prior to the advent of sustained contacts with Europeans in the late fifteenth century. Touching on the broad issues of social organization, politics, trade, religion, and identity, the chapter provides a general framework for understanding the uniqueness of indigenous Native American cultures. The precontact Native cultures of North America were far more diverse and complex than any of the theories archaeologists have previously devised to understand them. In addition to the knowledge gained from ever new archaeological investigations of precontact sites in North America, there is ample evidence that an emphasis on scholarly engagement with descendant communities holds the potential to reveal even more about pre- and postcontact Native American experiences.
Frederick E. Hoxie
The Oxford Handbook of American Indian History guides readers to major topics and themes in the Native American past and helps them to identify major resources for further study and research. The book presents the story of the indigenous peoples who lived—and live—in the territory encompassed by the modern United States. Its chapters, by both Native and non-Native scholars, describe the major aspects of the historical change that occurred over the past 500 years as the continent was transformed from an “undiscovered” Native land to the seat of the world’s most powerful nation-state. It accomplishes this task with chapters that focus on significant periods of upheaval and change, place-based histories of major centers of indigenous culture, and overviews of major aspects of Indian community and national life.