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First Peoples, First Contacts

First Peoples, First Contacts

Native Peoples of North America

J. C. H. King

ISBN 9780674626553

Publication date: 07/30/1999

From the Big-Game Hunters who appeared on the continent as far back as 12,000 years ago to the Inuits plying the Alaskan waters today, the Native peoples of North America produced a culture remarkable for its vibrancy, breadth, and diversity--and for its survival in the face of almost inconceivable trials. This book is at once a history of that culture and a celebration of its splendid variety. Rich in historical testimony and anecdotes and lavishly illustrated, it weaves a magnificent tapestry of Native American life reaching back to the earliest human records.

A recognized expert in North American studies, Jonathan King interweaves his account with Native histories, from the arrival of the first Native Americans by way of what is now Alaska to their later encounters with Europeans on the continent's opposite coast, from their exchanges with fur traders to their confrontations with settlers and an ever more voracious American government. To illustrate this history, King draws on the extensive collections of the British Museum--artwork, clothing, tools, and artifacts that demonstrate the wealth of ancient traditions as well as the vitality of contemporary Native culture. These illustrations, all described in detail, form a pictorial document of relations between Europeans and Native American peoples--peoples as profoundly different and as deeply related as the Algonquians and the Iroquois, the Chumash of California and the Inuipat of Alaska, the Cree and the Cherokee--from their first contact to their complicated coexistence today.


  • For more than two centuries the British Museum has been a major repository for historical and cultural artifacts from cultures throughout the world. The 298 photos, drawings, and illustrations from the collection provide wonderful insights into the material cultures of native peoples residing north of the Rio Grande river in North America throughout the extensive periods of exploration. In addition there is an awareness of the contemporary trend toward tribal name changes by indigenous peoples. The historical information includes fascinating observations by non-Indians of their experiences and reactions on first contact.

    —N. C. Greenberg, Choice


  • Jonathan C. H. King, a visual anthropologist, spent 40 years as a curator in the Department of Ethnography (later the Department of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas) at the British Museum. In 2012 he was named the first Von Hügel Fellow at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge. He is the author of Arctic Hunters and coauthor of Aspects of Early North American Metallurgy.

Book Details

  • 288 pages
  • 7-1/2 x 9-3/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press