Damon B. Akins and William J. BauerJun 16, 2021
We Are the Land
A History of Native California
University of California Press 2021
California is often used as a synecdoche for the United States itself - America in microcosm. Yet, California was, is, and will always be, Native space. This fact is forcefully argued by Damon Akins and William J. Bauer, Jr. in We Are the Land: A History of Native California (University of California Press, 2021). Akins, an associate professor history at Guilford College, and Bauer, a professor of history at UNLV, track the long history of the Pacific Coast, from ocean to mountain, with an emphasis on Native spaces, Native power, and Native resiliency. California historically contained (and indeed, still does contain) a dizzying array of Native nations, tribes, and societies, and We Are the Land does the work of attempting to cover, in some small amount, as many as possible over several centuries worth of history. It is a crisply written survey that doesn't shy away from the horrors of the past, but also dwells on moments of power and activism - this is no simple story of decline and tragedy. California, Akins and Bauer maintain, cannot be understood apart from its Native context - indeed the land and its people are in many ways one and the same.
Dr. Stephen R. Hausmann is an assistant professor of history at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota.