David J. Weber, Book Review Editor
The Cocopah People. By Anita Alvarez de Williams. Phoenix: Indian Tribal Series (20th Issue), 1974. Bibliography. Illustrations. Maps. Suggested Readings. 104 pages. Hardcover with medallion, $16.00.
Reviewed by Lowell John Bean, Chairman of the Department of Anthropology at California State University, Hayward, President 1975-76 of the Southwestern Anthropological Association, Associate Editor, Journal of California Anthropology, and Editor of the Ballena Press Anthropological Papers Series.
This elegant small volume on Cocopah culture and history is a most welcome addition to the literature of the Northern American Indian. While written by a scholarly expert in Southwestern and Baja ethnography, it is aimed at a popular market and provides scholars unfamiliar with the literature and circumstances of this significant tribal group an excellent introduction to the prehistory, culture, ethnohistory, recent history, and contemporary events of the Cocopah.
The work is largely historical in nature, taking most of its materials from accounts of early travelers. It is not organized in the usual ethnographic format but rather in a highly readable narrative account of the Cocopah as seen through the eyes of various reportersand in the matter of recent history, through their own eyes.
The inclusion of materials from Cocopahs themselves considerably enhances this volume’s contribution to our literature of the Cocopah. Especially noteworthy in this regard is the narrative of the Cocopah creation accounts by Peter Soto, an educator of Cocopah descent who has returned to his people so that he may use talents and skills for their enhancement. Materials especially well covered ethnographically are material culture, relations with other tribes (e.g. trade, warfare, and alliances), the native contemporary social organization, and the efforts of the Cocopah today to retain their identity in the context of multicultural pressures. Their successful innovations in education, tribal government, and economic self-help are inspiring examples of what many small, previously powerless American Indian groups are doing to maintain cultural identity. They continue their cultural growth, preserving those portions of their traditions which are most valuable to them while reshaping and adapting old institutions as needed, and adopting new ones as well.
The book is well illustrated and contains a bibliography of resource materials on the Cocopah. Proceeds from the sale of the book are to be used for financing Cocopah tribal endeavors. The author, but especially the Cocopah people, are to be congratulated for allowing us this glimpse into their past and their future.