Review: Turtle Island

Turtle Island: The Story of North America’s First People was an incredibly educational read. It’s aimed at children, but I think it’s a good start to further reading for anyone.

Goodreads synopsis: Unlike most books that chronicle the history of Native peoples beginning with the arrival of Europeans in 1492, this book goes back to the Ice Age to give young readers a glimpse of what life was like pre-contact. The title, Turtle Island, refers to a Native myth that explains how North and Central America were formed on the back of a turtle. Based on archeological finds and scientific research, we now have a clearer picture of how the Indigenous people lived. Using that knowledge, the authors take the reader back as far as 14,000 years ago to imagine moments in time. A wide variety of topics are featured, from the animals that came and disappeared over time, to what people ate, how they expressed themselves through art, and how they adapted to their surroundings. The importance of story-telling among the Native peoples is always present to shed light on how they explained their world. The end of the book takes us to modern times when the story of the Native peoples is both tragic and hopeful.

My rating: 4 stars.

Review

As I said, I learned a lot from this book. I loved that it went back all the way to the Ice Age and explained different archaeological methods for learning about the past, instead of just telling you the information gotten through those methods. I think it’s interesting to learn about how we know about history, as well as just learning about history itself.

There is so much I didn’t know about the indigenous people of North America. A few fun facts I learned from this book:

  1. One of the longest existing civilisations in the history of the world existed in North America (the Honokam people, near modern Phoenix, Arizona).
  2. Another North American civilisation, the Anasazi in Chaco Canyon, created apartment buildings.
  3. The Vikings didn’t just leave America of their own accord; they came there to settle, but were probably chased away by the Thule people.

I also learned a couple of not-so-fun facts, like: it wasn’t the Europeans’ ‘superior technology’ that killed so many Native Americans, because their guns were way too slow to load, but the illnesses they and their pigs brought with them. (I already knew the illnesses were deadly, but until now I’ve always heard it told as ‘guns and germs’.)

All in all, I think a lot of people could learn from this book. If you know/are a child with an interest in history, archaeology, or different cultures, I highly recommend Turtle Island. I also recommend it to anyone who’d like somewhere to start learning about the indigenous people of North America.

I received this book as an eARC through Netgalley.

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