This War is for a Whole Life – Book Review

This War Is For a Whole Life Book Summary

Presently, there are many publications exploring the difficulties that have defined the lives of indigenous Americans especially from the 19th century. The publications include Walter Hixson’s “American Settler Colonialism: A History” and Richard Hanks’ “This War Is for a Whole Life: The Culture of Resistance among Southern California Indians, 1850-1966.” The latter covers the struggles that American Indians have undergone from mid-19th century to date. The struggles include the American Indians’ clashes with the American government. Richard Hanks explores the reasons why American Indians continue to fight for cultural integrity, land, sovereignty, and civil rights from the time when Europeans moved into their lands to date. The fight characterizes what Hanks presents as Pan-Indian activism.

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“This War Is for a Whole Life” presents the controversies between American Indians and those who came in to occupy their lands as stemming from the setting aside of foreign and tribal land trust protections. The book shows that efforts geared towards the assimilation of American Indians into the mainstream society over the years have been hampered by controversies. Most of the controversies take legal dimensions. The author focuses on the mainstreaming of the American Indian population that moved to California. The population was embraced, as well as accepted, by the dominant community that had already occupied the area. The mainstreaming of the American Indian population in California was characterized by various challenges, owing to its special culture.

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This War Is For a Whole Life Book Chapter Analysis

The first chapter in “This War Is for a Whole Life” explores the reforms forced by activists following the enactment of the Indian Reorganization Act. The chapter zeroes in on the act’s introduction, as well as implementation, particularly in relation to the survival of American Indians in the southern areas of California. It sheds ample light on the political, as well as tribal, conflicts in the areas. When one goes through the chapter, he or she appreciates the 1950s’ termination program that defined the lives of the Indians. Notably, the program was tied closely to the Indian Bureau’s manipulation, which made the Indians distrust government functionaries and agencies.

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From the chapter, it is obvious that the act’s introduction, as well as implementation, bequeathed various benefits on individuals living within Californian reservations. Communism and socialism were allowed into the American Indian country, persuading marked criticism relating to IRA. The chapter demonstrates how the difficulties christened the Indian problem were eliminated from mainstream political discourses in the 1930s and the 1940s on purpose. Discussions on the problem left the national scene rather fast as American authorities increased its focus on how to lift the country from the then ongoing depression and the Second World War.

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The second chapter presents a critical appraisal of the period when there were many calls for termination to happen and the corresponding activist reforms. The entry of America into the war saw increased political agitation for the scrapping off the Indian Bureau. The bureau was charged with promoting governance and harmony within the areas dominated by American Indians. The chapter makes it rather clear that the government moved the mandate of the bureau’s office to allow for proper coordination of the war’s operations. The office was moved to Chicago. Besides, the office was moved to decimate the influence that the American Indians were developing especially within California.

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American Indians were keen on fighting the discriminatory policies and practices directed against them by the federal, local, as well as state American governments. Those in support of the termination were keen on eliminating the trust land protections enjoyed by the Indians. The chapter covers the efforts made by the Indians in persuading the governments to preserve the protections comprehensively.

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The third chapter covers the period in which the contestations regarding the termination issue escalated markedly. Indian activists were facing more and more rejection whenever they engaged the Congress. The chapter presents ample information on how mission Indians, Indian spokesmen, and other stakeholders in the termination debate engaged in activism. Those who held anti-termination sentiments were rather loud in making their arguments against the process of termination and loosing of Indian lands. The process was colored by hypocritical actions. Mission Indians were allowed to elect their representatives. The representatives were to be incorporated into government structures charged with executing the process. From the chapter, it is rather clear that the governments and those championing Indian interests were pursuing conflicting agendas discreetly.

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From the chapter, it is evident that the interests’ champions were keen on explaining to the non-Indian populations the problems that were bedeviling the Indians, often in vain. Their positions received limited publicity, reducing their leverage on the direction taken by the process. Even then, in mid-1953, the Indian reservations with California were terminated on the strength of a resolution of the Congress.

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The fourth chapter examines closely how the law christened Public Law 280 and the corresponding congressional resolution facilitated the doing away with the reservations. On the other hand, the chapter examines how Indians fought the doing away with the reservations. The Indians and their sympathizers put marked efforts into trying to save their hold on tribal lands. Indian activists argued that the doing away with the reservations would have destroyed the lives of their tribesmen especially in the southern areas of California. The chapter makes it obvious that the activists engaged in multiple negotiations with the governments to persuade them to go slow on the process.

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The last chapter in “This War Is for a Whole Life” leads readers in reflecting on the responsibilities of the governments in supporting American Indians’ wellbeing, especially after the termination of the protections. When the resolution came into effect, the Californian state government took up the role of addressing the Indian problem. The government put in place critical mechanisms for making certain that settler and native communities lived harmoniously especially in the southern areas of the state. The government put in place programs aimed at addressing the adverse outcomes of the process. Public resources were committed to the facilitation and championing of communism and related social demands in the areas. Notably, the chapter makes it clear that the mission Indians remained unrelenting in opposing the process all through. Ultimately, they stopped it.

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General Analysis of the Key Historical Events in the Book

As demonstrated earlier, “This War Is for a Whole Life” covers diverse, significant historical events. The events relate to the troubles faced by American Indians especially in the southern areas of California from mid-19th century to date. When reading the book, one gets the feeling that he or she is listening to accounts of the troubles from elderly Indians. Notably, Hanks relied a lot on elderly American Indians in building own appreciation of the troubles and the events that gave rise to the troubles.

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The book provides a clear explanation of the series of historically significant events that have shaped the lives of southern California Indians from the 19th century. Generally, the events’ outcomes, which were commonly adverse, were mitigated by the harmonious living of the populations in the southern areas of the state. Over time, the challenges facing Americans came to preoccupy all Californians, a position that Heizer and Whipple concur with (297-299). The first event was the enactment of the Indian Reorganization Act, which, as noted earlier, bequeathed various benefits on individuals living within Californian reservations. The second event that had marked impacts on the Indians was America’s into the Second World War. As noted earlier, the entry saw increased political agitation for the scrapping off the Indian Bureau.

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The third event that had marked impacts on the Indians was the termination of the reservations in mid-1953 on the strength of a congressional resolution. The fourth one was the enactment and implementation of Public Law 280. The fourth event was rather significant since it helped facilitate the doing away with the reservations against the wishes of the Indians. Indians put in lots of efforts in fighting the law and its intended aims. Overall, “This War Is for a Whole Life” gives a clear appreciation of the American Indians’ tribal culture and the challenges they have faced in recent centuries as a community.  The book provides a precise and interesting history of the Indians, who are the native people of America.

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