The Rediscovery of America: Native Peoples and the Unmaking of U.S. History (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews

Blackhawk adds to a series of highly praised recent books on indigenous history by going beyond cultural perspectives to offer an objective and encompassing new look at America. He’s focused on how original communities have both shaped and been shaped by the newcomers to this land throughout U.S. development. Past portrayals of European arrivals leading glorified national progress have been incomplete at best and a continuation of indigenous elimination at worst. Here we have a new foundation for history, showing how all aspects of America have been influenced by its complex Native-newcomer interface. Beginning with the Spanish arrival in the southwest and ending with late 20th century activism to renew self-determination, Blackhawk (Western Shoshone) shows us the work he’s doing as a Yale history professor and faculty coordinator of the Yale Group for the Study of Native America. Meanwhile, I’m the grateful retired teacher who’s forever waking up to the ways our past defines our present. Blackhawk’s advanced scholarship and interpretation are enormous contributions to my quest. His elaborately documented accuracy satisfies beyond anything I’ve read in a career of teaching young children about American history.

— Tim McCarthy


Winner of the 2023 National Book Award in Nonfiction • National Bestseller • A New Yorker Best Book of 2023 • A New York Times Notable Book of 2023 • A Washington Post Notable Work of Nonfiction of 2023 • An Esquire Best Book of 2023 • An NPR “Book We Love” for 2023 • A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2023 • A Tribal College Journal Best Native Studies Book of 2023 • A Michigan Notable Book of 2024 • A Powell’s Books “Best Books of 2023: Nonfiction” • A Barnes & Noble Best Book of 2023 • Finalist for the 2024 Los Angeles Times Book Award, history category
A sweeping and overdue retelling of U.S. history that recognizes that Native Americans are essential to understanding the evolution of modern America
“Eloquent and comprehensive. . . . In the book’s sweeping synthesis, standard flashpoints of U.S. history take on new meaning.”—Kathleen DuVal, Wall Street Journal
“In accounts of American history, Indigenous peoples are often treated as largely incidental—either obstacles to be overcome or part of a narrative separate from the arc of nation-building. Blackhawk . . . [shows] that Native communities have, instead, been inseparable from the American story all along.”—Washington Post Book World, “Books to Read in 2023”

The most enduring feature of U.S. history is the presence of Native Americans, yet most histories focus on Europeans and their descendants. This long practice of ignoring Indigenous history is changing, however, as a new generation of scholars insists that any full American history address the struggle, survival, and resurgence of American Indian nations. Indigenous history is essential to understanding the evolution of modern America.
Ned Blackhawk interweaves five centuries of Native and non‑Native histories, from Spanish colonial exploration to the rise of Native American self-determination in the late twentieth century. In this transformative synthesis he shows that
• European colonization in the 1600s was never a predetermined success;
• Native nations helped shape England’s crisis of empire;
• the first shots of the American Revolution were prompted by Indian affairs in the interior;
• California Indians targeted by federally funded militias were among the first casualties of the Civil War;
• the Union victory forever recalibrated Native communities across the West;
• twentieth-century reservation activists refashioned American law and policy.  
Blackhawk’s retelling of U.S. history acknowledges the enduring power, agency, and survival of Indigenous peoples, yielding a truer account of the United States and revealing anew the varied meanings of America.

About the Author

Ned Blackhawk (Western Shoshone) is the Howard R. Lamar Professor of History and American Studies at Yale University, where he is the faculty coordinator for the Yale Group for the Study of Native America. He is the author of Violence over the Land: Indians and Empires in the Early American West. He lives in New Haven, CT.

Praise For…

“Eloquent and comprehensive. . . . By presenting post-1492 history as a series of encounters between the various peoples of the Americas and the peoples from Europe, Africa, and Asia—rather than as an account of Europe’s discovery of a new world—Blackhawk provides a view of that past from multiple perspectives. . . . In the book’s sweeping synthesis, standard flashpoints of U.S. history take on new meaning.”—Kathleen DuVal, Wall Street Journal

“Even as the telling of American history has become more complex and nuanced, Native Americans tend to be absent. Blackhawk, a professor at Yale, confronts that absence in this sweeping account of how Native Americans shaped the country legally, politically, and culturally.”—Washington Post, “50 Notable Works of Nonfiction” (2023)

“A sweeping, important, revisionist work of American history that places Native Americans front and center.”—New York Times Book Review (cover review)

“[A] monumental reappraisal of the United States’ history. . . . Blackhawk . . . foregrounds the endurance of Native Americans’ autonomy and traditions in the face of their near-eradication.”—New Yorker, “The Best Books of 2023”

“An ambitious retelling of the American story . . . placing Indigenous populations at the center, a shift in perspective that yields fresh insights and thought-provoking questions.”—Greg Cowles, New York Times Book Review, “Editors’ Choice”
“In accounts of American history, Indigenous peoples are often treated as largely incidental—either obstacles to be overcome or part of a narrative separate from the arc of nation-building. Blackhawk . . . challenges those minimalizations and exclusions, showing that Native communities have, instead, been inseparable from the American story all along.”—Washington Post Book World, “Books to Read in 2023”

“This ambitious retelling of the American story, by a historian who is also a Native American, places Indigenous populations at the center, a shift in perspective that yields fresh insights and thought-provoking questions.”—New York Times, “100 Notable Books of 2023”

“[Blackhawk’s] book will become an indispensable text for a generation of researchers, educators and students.”—Caroline Dodds Pennock, BBC History Magazine

A Publishers Weekly Top 10 Best Book of 2023

“Gripping and nuanced, The Rediscovery of America is an essential remedy to the historical record.”—Adrienne Westenfeld, Esquire, “The 20 Best Books of 2023”

“Building on years of groundbreaking work by Indigenous and settler scholars, Rediscovery clearly sets out how Indigenous nations were key actors in shaping the very foundations of the US, from the American Revolution and the national Constitution to the country’s eventual borders.”—Brian Bethune, The Walrus
“Blackhawk demonstrates how inextricably linked Indigenous history is with all aspects of American life and politics in this expansive survey, which teases out the deep connection between the aims and attitudes of the developing nation and its dealings with Native peoples. Reorienting the history of America as foremost that of an Indigenous colony, Blackhawk calls for a fundamental change of perspective.”—Publishers Weekly
“A thoughtful, innovative, and provocative book. . . . The legends about the founding and growth of the United States have been promulgated so often and so widely that Blackhawk’s conception of American history is long overdue. It is, more than any other attempt at re-interpreting our national story, US history turned upside down.”—David Shribman, Boston Globe

“Ned Blackhawk has opened the door to a national conversation. . . . While academics and educators can argue about whether Blackhawk’s new paradigm should replace existing frameworks for understanding American history, he has succeeded in demonstrating that a deeper knowledge of Native American history should supplement (if not supplant) our understanding of our collective national experience. . . . It’s a conversation worth having. And long overdue.”—Sara Bhatia, Washington Monthly

“Striking a masterful balance between the big picture and crystal-clear snapshots of key people and events, this is a vital new understanding of American history.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Illuminating and ambitious, . . . rewarding and essential.”—Patrick Rapa, Philadelphia Inquirer, “Best New Books to Read in May”

“Deeply researched and engagingly written, the book is a monumental achievement.”—Rhoda Feng, Mother Jones

“A wide-ranging study that moves Indigenous peoples from the periphery to the core of continental history.”—Kirkus Reviews

“As Blackhawk puts it, ‘Encounter—rather than discovery—must structure America’s origins story.’ The Rediscovery of America shows the power of encounter in many places—from the Monroe Doctrine to Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty.”—Craig Fehrman, Boston Globe

“Raise your hand if you didn’t learn Indigenous history in school—or if you only learned a racist, white-centric, colonizer version of it. Infuriatingly, the prevalence of harmful myths about Native history is still far, far too common. In this comprehensive history of Native America, Ned Blackhawk adds his voice to the growing chorus of Indigenous scholars and historians who are fighting back against this erasure.”—Laura Sackton, Book Riot

“Blackhawk argues that U.S. history cannot be understood without understanding how Indigenous and settler histories are interwoven.”—Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal

“Blackhawk . . . masterfully webs together a challenge of the nationalist, oversimplified narratives Americans know so well. . . . I found nuggets on every page. I could have spent weeks poring over the bibliography, running back and forth between Blackhawk’s synthesis and other sources. There’s so much to learn and absorb. It’s my hope that this book gets into the hands of every history teacher in this country.”—Izzie Ramirez, Vox

“Engrossing and thought-provoking, . . . highlight[ing] the myriad ways Indigenous people have shaped the United States’ politics, Constitution, diplomacy and culture.”—Bridget Bentz, NPR’s “Books We Love” for 2023

“Eschewing reductive or binary narratives, Blackhawk approaches the history of America as an overlay of stories that both intertwine and diverge. Of course, the center of his chronicle is the reality that the space occupied by the world’s model for democracy is land that was taken from Indigenous people. From first contact, through wars, revolution, and ever-changing federal policy, Blackhawk’s National Book Award–winning text shows how Native people shaped America’s story.”—Ryan Winn, Tribal College Journal, “Best Native Studies Books of 2023”

“Blackhawk’s achievement in the book is to direct our attention to the many ways in which U.S. history is closely intertwined with that of Native Americans; he shows how interactions with native peoples have shaped not only ideas of American nationhood but even constitutional structures.”—The Bulwark
2023 National Book Award winner, nonfiction category, sponsored by the National Book Foundation

Selected for the 2024 Michigan Notable Books list

The Rediscovery of America is a testimony to the transformation of the field of American Indian history over the past several decades, and Blackhawk has abandoned the ‘interpretive tools’ of generations of American historians.”—Brenda J. Child, University of Minnesota
“Ned Blackhawk’s elegant and sweeping account of American history illuminates five centuries of Native American history. He upends familiar narratives to reveal the enduring centrality and vitality of Native peoples in American political life.”—Barbara Krauthamer, Emory University
“Ned Blackhawk not only restores Native Americans to the core of the continent’s story but also offers a running analysis spanning immense times and climes.”—Andrés Reséndez, author of Conquering the Pacific

“On his search to rediscover America, Blackhawk brilliantly rewrites U.S. history, illustrating that it cannot be told absent American Indians. This is the history text we have been waiting for.”—Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, author of An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States

“Richly told and deeply informed, The Rediscovery of America demonstrates the centrality of Indigenous Americans to U.S. history. Blackhawk shows that at every turn the enduring relations between natives and newcomers have shaped the course of the American republic.”—Claudio Saunt, author of the National Book Award finalist Unworthy Republic

“Ranging across the continent and across the centuries, Ned Blackhawk skillfully interweaves American history and Native American history, demonstrating conclusively that we cannot properly understand one without the other.”—Colin  G. Calloway, Dartmouth College

“Refusing to tell simple stories of subordination or resistance, Ned Blackhawk shows how American politics, law, diplomacy, the economy, and popular culture become incomprehensible without a Native presence.”—Richard White, Stanford University

Product Details
ISBN: 9780300244052
ISBN-10: 0300244053
Publisher: Yale University Press
Publication Date: April 25th, 2023
Pages: 616
Language: English