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October 11, 1987|Al Logan Slagle

THE EARTH IS OUR MOTHER: A GUIDE TO THE INDIANS OF CALIFORNIA, THEIR LOCALES AND HISTORIC SITES by Dolan H. Eargle, Jr., photographs by California State Parks and Recreation Department Archives, Sacramento, University of California, Berkeley, Lowie Museum of Anthropology, and Dolan Hoye Eargle, Jr. (Trees Company Press: $11.95 paper; 192 pp., illus.).

"The Earth Is Our Mother" aims to provide a "general, overall guide to the present-day Indian people of California." A road map indicating access routes to points of interest prefaces each of the book's three major sections. The first part contains an ethnohistorical overview of the native peoples of California from about 12,000 B.C. to the present. Though it uses scholarly sources, this is a breezy summary, primarily intended for those who have no exposure to the field.

Each of the next five chapters describes a particular geographic region and culture area and ends with a local guide to contemporary federally recognized Indian tribal communities and educational institutions, complete with mailing addresses, phone numbers and specific travel instructions. Eargle urges, "To know is to appreciate."

However, in most cases, Eargle does not indicate whether any particular reservation community is ready to accommodate visitors at present. Though the author has glossed most directory entries with piquant (or pungent) travelogue-like musings, some will find that his approach and tone have given the places, their inhabitants and the prospective visitors short shrift. Eargle's attempt to make the book both a practical tour guide and a stylish but scholarly introduction to California's Indian Country may puzzle readers.

A part on contemporary problems prefaces five appendices that list and describe: the missions, presidios and pueblos (1769-1834); the important ranchos of the period from 1820 to 1850, built with Indian labor; the military posts; and museums with Indian artifacts. Eargle describes settings, facilities, activities and archeological and architectural features. His guide to museums and exhibits of Indian artifacts categorizes collections by contents and tribal provenience. He strongly warns readers not to disturb or remove archeological relics.

The book features rarely-seen still-lifes, landscapes and portraits, including four pages of color plates, derived from state and university archival sources, and from Eargle's own collection. There is also a calendar of Indian cultural activities and events, but consult the sponsors for current information.

Eargle has done articles on popular geography and indigenous peoples. He says that in his research, he tried "to find a general, overall guide to the present-day Indian peoples of California, and found none." However, the "Native American Directory" (1982), the "American Indian Index" (1985) and other specifically California Indian guides are widely available. These works differ from Eargle's in technical detail and editorial quality, evincing greater concern for utility than for style, and for academic, professional and educational value.

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