The Extraordinary Book of Native American Lists

May 3rd, 2015 | By | Category: Media Reviews, Online media reviews, Web Exclusive
By Ryan Winn

The-Extroardinary-Book-of-Native-American-ListsBy Arlene Hirschfelder and Paulette F. Molin
Scarecrow (2012)
568 pages

Reviewed by Ryan Winn

Although Native American contributions are ubiquitous throughout all facets of American society, their individual achievements are too often either absent from academic discourse or treated as anomalies. The Extraordinary Book of Native American Lists by Arlene Hirschfelder and Paulette F. Molin curates many of these milestones into lists that cite names, dates, and tribal affiliations of both lauded and relatively unknown individuals who have ascended to venerated heights in their respective disciplines. In addition to listing numerous “firsts” in sixteen categories, the authors have added contextual information including explanations of significant events, federal legislation, and further online and print resources. Collectively the chapters offer an overview of each topic in addition to the Native Americans who have helped shape them.

Disciplines covered include economic development, education, health, literary and performance art, military service, science and technology, and tribal government, with each chapter offering a wealth of knowledge. The book contains thousands of facts. For example, it notes that in 1899 Carlos Montezuma (Yavapai) and Susan LaFlesche Picotte (Omaha) were the first American Indian doctors; that in 1948 Mary G. Ross (Cherokee) became the first Native American woman engineer; that 1966 marked William R. Pogue (Choctaw) as the first American Indian astronaut. It also cites Caleb Cheeshahteaumuck (Wampanoag) as the first American Indian to graduate from Harvard in 1665; that the first federal boarding school was opened at the Yakima Indian agency in 1860; and that in 1968 Navajo Community College (renamed Diné College in 1997) became the first tribally chartered and controlled college. Moreover, the text also contains a range of information including a timeline of American Indian contact with Europeans, 17 representations of Pocahontas, statements about Native American policy by U.S. presidents, and the names of the tribes whose code talkers served their country in both world wars.

Today, progressive course textbooks include more minority achievements with each passing edition. But educators could still employ the wealth of supplemental knowledge contained in this invaluable text to both enrich their courses and provide students with tangible evidence that Native American achievements are abundant rather than anomalous.


Ryan Winn is the Humanities Department chair at the College of Menominee Nation in Keshena, Wisconsin.

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