Richard Griswold del Castillo, Book Review Editor
Spanish Borderlands Sourcebooks. Vol. 3, Ethnology of the Alta California Indians I: Precontact, and Vol. 4, Ethnology of the Alta California Indians II: Postcontact.
Edited by Lowell J. Bean and Sylvia Brakke Vane. New York: Garland Publishing Company, 1991. Bibliography. Illustrations. Maps. 898 and 970 pages. $75.00.
Reviewed by Richard L. Carrico, Instructor of American Indian History, San Diego State University and Mesa Community College. Author of Strangers in a Stolen Land: American Indians in San Diego: 1850-1880 (1987) and numerous articles on Native American archaeology and history.
Instructors of Native American history and ethnology are often asked by students and researchers for references and sources that go beyond the broad, and often erroneous, views offered in standard text books. Until recently, this usually meant that the intrepid researcher was sent off on an often bewildering excursion through stacks of obscure journals and out of print monographs. The problem was not so much that the California Indians are undocumented, it was that the level of documentation was spread like the tribes themselves, across time and space.
These two volumes, part of a 27 volume set of more than 450 articles, goes a long way towards remedying the dilemma of readily available source material. While not all inclusive, the two volumes provide an extensive and well-selected cross section of California Indian ethnological and ethnohistorical literature. Volume 3 runs the gamut from articles originally published between 1908-1984 while Volume 4 covers even more ground extending from 1883-1988. Volume 3, which consists of 27 articles, is devoted largely to ethnological accounts. A roll call of the authors reveals the depth and quality of the volume; A. L. Kroeber, Robert F. Heizer, Lowell J. Bean, Sherburne F. Cook and Campbell Grant are highly regarded scholars of great magnitude. Topics in Volume 3 range from Native American social organization to world view through science and literature. With 42 articles, Volume 4 leaps through even more fertile fields of research. The older schools of scholarship represented by Cook, Kroeber, and Heizer are again presented but this volume carries some of the more recent works by the next generation of academes including Robert F. Jackson, James Rawls, and a Native American scholar, Edward D. Castillo. Major topics in Volume 4 include the California mission period and secularization, regional histories, and culture change in the American period. In virtually all aspects of scholarship, Davis Hurst Thomas, the general editor of the source books, and Lowell J. Bean and Sylvia Brakke Vane, the two volume editors, should be lauded for their efforts. They have accomplished their goal of providing access to major scholarly works. The few criticisms that can be directed towards the two volume set are those generic for Garland Publishing. Because the articles are facsimiles of the originals, the typefaces vary from nearly antique (and sometime hazy) to modern computer typeset. Likewise, the illustrations range from crisp and clear, especially for the maps, to nearly obscure archival photographs. While it is understood that the facsimile process is necessary to keep the cost of such a huge undertaking down, there seems little excuse for the underlined words and handwritten notations that occur in A. L. and C. B. Kroeber’s article in Volume 4, surely an unmarked version of this 1973 publication existed for duplication.
For the academic researcher and the more casual reader, these two volumes are wonderful source books. Bernard Fontana, borderlands historian of the University of Arizona, has called the series a monumental compilation of scholarly articles. I agree and would expect these two volumes to be on the shelves of serious scholars of California and borderlands history.