2 out of 4 stars
Share This Review
I picked up David Tate: Origins with high expectations. I’m fascinated by Native American history, and since this is a biography about a Creek (Muscogee) chief during the 19th century, my interest sparked like kindling. Unfortunately, the book has some major structural issues that sometimes overshadow its strengths.
First, on the history and the book’s content. David Tate is not a well-known figure in American history, but he lived in a tumultuous time for the Creek nation. Mixed-race Creek and British, he was educated under a “civilizing” program run by the government. This program was intended to make Natives more European. After his education in Scotland, Tate returned to his homeland and, despite only being 1/8 Creek, eventually became a minor chief in his nation. He participated in the Red Stick Rebellion of 1812-1814 which resulted in the cession of almost all Creek land to the US government. Tate died some years later, a much poorer and less-influential man.
Now, the history of this book is fascinating. I had never heard of the Red Stick Rebellion nor how exactly the Muscogee people lost over half their land in a single treaty. David Tate was chosen by the author for familial reasons, and his life makes for a good biography. His mixed-race ancestry and high status in both Native and American society means that we the readers are privileged to both sides of the story, so to say.
But the book is organized in such a way that I found it almost impossible to follow. Unclear headers roughly divide the text into different sections of his life, but the narrative has trouble sticking to those timeframes. In the section about the Red Stick Rebellion, for example, we’re made to understand that this section will cover the years 1812-1814. However, we’re told in the same section about multiple deaths that don’t happen until the 1820s, then jump back to 1812. There’s a lot of dense, well-researched information in this book which made the poor organization all the more frustrating. Hard as I tried to follow the history, so many time jumps and characters and places made the book feel more like homework than an enjoyable read.
Which is a shame. The craft itself isn’t bad; battles are described in good detail, and I got a sense of the attitudes of the various tribes as they struggled to maintain sovereignty in the face of the ever-encroaching US government. Yet it was only a sense. I was never able to fully immerse myself in the book because I was spending so much mental energy just trying to keep up with it. Perhaps it’s a better fit for history buffs who can decipher the language a little better, but the armchair historian will have trouble staying with it. So, I have to give it 2 out of 4 stars. I hope future editions of the book will clear up any issues so that we the readers can really appreciate David Tate’s unusual life.
David Tate : Origins:
View: on Bookshelves
Like DustinPBrown's review? Post a comment saying so!