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Native Peoples of North America

Narrated by: Daniel M. Cobb
Length: 12 hrs and 35 mins
Categories: History, Americas
3.5 out of 5 stars (6 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

History, for all its facts and figures, names and dates, is ultimately subjective. You learn the points of view your teachers provide, the perspectives that books offer, and the conclusions you draw yourself based on the facts you were given. Hearing different angles on historical events gives you a more insightful, accurate, and rewarding understanding of events - especially when a new viewpoint challenges the story you thought you knew.

Now the Great Courses has partnered with Smithsonian to bring you a course that will greatly expand your understanding of American history. This course, Native Peoples of North America, pairs the unmatched resources and expertise of the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian with the unparalleled knowledge of Professor Daniel M. Cobb of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to provide a multidisciplinary view of American history, revealing new perspectives on the historical and contemporary experiences of indigenous peoples and their impact on the history of our country.

This insightful and unique 24-lecture course helps disprove myths and stereotypes that many people take as fact. Professor Cobb presents a different account of the Seven Years' War, the American Revolution, the War of 1812, the Civil War, the Gold Rush, the Transcontinental Railroad, and beyond, providing the stories of the American Indian people who fought and negotiated to preserve their ancestral lands.

Native Peoples of North America recounts an epic story of resistance and accommodation, persistence and adaption, extraordinary hardship and survival across more than 500 years of colonial encounter. As the Smithsonian curators stated, "The past never changes. But the way we understand it, learn about it, and know about it changes all the time." Be prepared - this course is going to change how you understand American history. And no matter how much you know about this subject, you will be surprised.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2016 The Great Courses (P)2016 The Teaching Company, LLC

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Amazon Customer
  • 2017-04-26

Could be much better

I find the presentation to be very poor. I prefer to be spoken to, rather than laboriously read to. The reading was slow, pedantic, and boring, not to mention poorly edited. Everyone makes mistakes while speaking or reading, but surely the mistakes could be edited out, especially as the narrator went right back to his script. I found myself wondering who the presentation was written for, as surely university level students do not have to have the Cold War explained to them. I was hoping for more information on who the various tribes were/are, rather than having them presented as monolithic and with all beliefs and cultures mashed together as if there were no differences among them. More anthropology and less blaming would be welcome.

49 of 50 people found this review helpful

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  • Stacy
  • 2018-05-11

OK, but misleading title

The author apparently doesn't know what North America is. But the book is not bad overall.

SUBJECT: It focuses quite a bit on government relations with tribes, including various legal and diplomatic issues. Art, culture, music, language, etc are mentioned, but if these are your main interest, this is not the book for you.

TIME: The time span is essentially European contact through the present. There is not much about pre-contact life on the front end. And on the back end, whereas some books on this topic might choose to end with 1890, in this book 1890 is about the midpoint. There is significant focus on more recent history.

PLACE: Despite the title, it is exclusively about the USA (and predecessor colonies), mentioning Canada and Mexico only when events overlap the border. It is mostly about the lower 48 states of the USA, with some mentions of Alaska, and perhaps one passing mention of Hawaii.

NARRATOR: The narrator is good enough. I lost focus and had to back up a few times, but probably due to the dry subject, not specifically the narrator's style.

SUMMARY: Overall I am glad I chose it, but I can't give it a 5 star rave review.

14 of 14 people found this review helpful

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  • Mark
  • 2016-11-13

Worthwhile, but frustrating

Any additional comments?
The last half of the course is much better than the first since it recounts more recent history and Native Americans are allowed to speak for themselves through their writings. In the first half, Prof. Cobb too frequently ascribes thoughts, feelings and intentions to Native historical figures who left no records on which to base such conclusions. In Lecture 4, for example, he somehow intuits Matoaka’s motives in assisting the Virginia colony and divines that her actions were orchestrated by her father, Powhatan. No evidence is cited to support this interpretation of events, and the PDF Course Guide contains no documentation other than a thin suggested reading list. Prof. Cobb may be right, but it would be nice if readers could somehow follow the path which led him to his often revisionist view of history.

81 of 86 people found this review helpful

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  • Robert Stevens
  • 2019-01-22

There are better courses

A much better Great Courses which should probably heard first is ANCIENT CIVILIZATIONS OF NORTH AMERICA which was fascinating and really eye-opening. Having lived on 4 different Indian Reservations myself while growing up, it still told me of Indian Culture in a way I had rarely heard about. Regarding NATIVE PEOPLES OF North America, it is important in that it very clearly and thoroughly identifies ways in which Native Americans really have been wronged; even up to relatively modern times where land would be exchanged for promises for food and schools, that the government typically failed to provide, leaving the Native Americans often starving. More people should be aware of that history. However, the topic covered by the professor, while very broad does not go very deep. Also, his penchant for disputing word usage was terribly annoying. Of several examples, he derides the use of the world WILDERNESS to refer to deeply forested America as "foolish" on the part of French explorers because they were unaware of the Indian paths. If I were there I would have thought I was in a wilderness because I probably couldn't have survived. The fact that the Iroquois didn't consider it a wilderness, but I, did wouldn't have made me foolish. Not a big deal except this happens over and over again in the book in a way that is really unscholarly for a historian

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2017-03-27

great info but poorly read really annoying cadence

hard to listen to because of terrible narration
really annoying cadence
better if narrated by someone else

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • SzoBee
  • 2017-03-21

Needs To Be Re-Thought

Gets off to a bad start with a homily insinuating that many of the things we take for granted today are actually the result of Native American contact with the Europeans. Of course, if one has chosen to listen to this course, it is because he or she already has a bit of an inkling of the Native American perspective being overlooked. This would be fine except that the preaching continues at least throughout the next 2/3rds of the course (I haven't made it to the last third yet). In every instance, the noble Native Americans are taken advantage of by the wily Europeans. Which probably is the case. However, when a teacher takes a side in the history course, portraying their favored side as the only one you should have any sympathy for, then it is hard to trust that this retelling of history is valid.

One of the greatest crimes in history-telling is presuming that you are supposed to cheer for one side over another. History is a complicated thing, made more complex by the morales of the time. Progressives of one time were not as progressive as those of today, but to blame them for this supposed short-sightedness is rather snobbish (as the professor does whenever a European steps forward to try to be a good samaritan to the Native Peoples.)

A more useful and respectful history of the Native People would be to not romanticize them as a people who meant no harm and got run over by greedy Europeans, but to recognize that this was a culture clash in which both cultures had their reasons for seeing the world as they saw it, and this is just the way it was. Europe, for instance, happened to have developed technologies and materials the Peoples of the Americas did not have, and along with these Powers came vices, as they always do. And to presume that Native Americans, had they had the same or greater technologies than Europe, would not have done something similar to Europe, had the shoe been on the other foot, is an impossible thing to argue. It's a blind argument with no fair answer. If the Native Americans had had the same awesome military technology as the Europeans and yet chose to withhold it in the name of Peace, then you could perhaps fairly take sides in history and say, "Look what awful things happened to this culture." But, as the professor shows, the Native People also had their wars, and even though he goes on to put a positive spin on their wars (with the Orwellian spin that the Native American wars against each other weren't destructive but constructive because they sought to replenish their own tribe with prisoners), it doesn't take away from the bigger question: If Native Americans had developed the kind of technology that the Europeans had, would they have suffered from the same vices? And in the absence of these technologies, military or otherwise (read Guns, Germs, and Steel if you're interested in this subject) to tempt them to conquer, does it really mean they were always the good guys no matter what the instance?

As always, even mis-performed history has its lessons to teach, and there are a few nuggets here and there, but one comes away with a scattershot history of the Native People. I came him hoping to get a taste of what daily life was like and what a year amongst them would entail, but mostly we're given a vague representation of how life was in America with the Native People and almost no sense that there was any dissension or disagreement among them. When there is, we're given the impression that its only because the Europeans have forced a wedge between them.

All in all, there has got to be a better history of the Native People out there, somehow somewhere. Though there seem to be no written sources (since the Native People didn't develop a written word until the supposedly evil Europeans came up with a system in order to trick them into preserving the beautiful history) :) -- one would hope there would be a way to put together a day in the life of the native people, flaws and all.

59 of 72 people found this review helpful

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  • Wilson Beaver
  • 2016-10-26

Needs more history, less preaching

I would have liked if this had been more of a straight historical lesson and less of a political polemic. The times when he covered legitimate history were interesting, but he spends way too much time pontificating. For example, if he wants to rename "Pontiac's War," fine. But he insisted on referring to it every single time as "The War Called Pontiac's" or "The so-called Pontiac's War." It would be like listening to a Southerner give a talk about the civil war where he called it "The War of Northern Aggression" every time and never used the common term "Civil War." If I had known this was not a history of the Native Peoples of North America, but rather a political polemic and over the top attempt at historical revisionism, I would not have bought it. Kindly make that more clear in the description.

74 of 95 people found this review helpful

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  • just asking for some common sense
  • 2019-02-01

Mostly great overview, mostly USA

This is an excellent overview, although I wanted more about Mexican and Canadian Native Peoples. This really does tell the story fairly strongly, although it is a but dry. It's very much like a textbook and I think there are PDFs available which would be quite helpful. They use the term Indians which some people object to, but it makes sense here

Some of this I've known for a long time, some like when US soldiers gave smallpox infected blankets to some tribes, I hadn't known until recently. Indigenous Peoples around the World have suffered at the hands of others - Europeans here of course.

The mistreatment of our Native Peoples has not ended. The Keystone Pipeline is evidence of how much our government and corporations have screwed these people. We as a society need to do better. This book really gives a good overview.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2017-07-21

Not North American just partial US

Narrator had unrelenting cadence. not North American only US and really only Eastern seaboard. Very little information about Spanish contact with native peoples other than De Soto. Minimal info about contact in New Mexico, Arizona. really nothing about contact in Northwest or California. This is a high school level course.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Jacob Roos
  • 2017-03-16

Overrated

Only covers Native American history from European contact to present. There is a lot more history of Native Americans than just when white people came to America. Is not a good summary of Native Americans

12 of 18 people found this review helpful