The "Native universe" could describe the whole of the Americas and Caribbean, as well as the varied, mysterious and complex societies of Native peoples. Native Universe: Voices of Indian America is the inaugural book of the new National Museum of the American Indian at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. The book provides a fascinating overview of Native American history and traditions and presents perspectives on the role of Native people in current society by Indian tribal leaders, writers, scholars, poets and storytellers. Native Universe is packed with stunning pictures of ancient clothing, tools and artifacts that accompany numerous essays on rituals, beliefs, cultural milestones and how they all connect to modern Native American life. Among the subjects covered are: the "accidental" gift of horses descended from mounts of Spanish colonial soldiers, which became a "profound agent of change" for Native peoples; "This Land Belongs to Us," the brief and heartbreaking statement of Lakota chief Sitting Bull in 1882 before the Battle of the Little Big Horn; documents and pictures from a revisit of Wounded Knee during the 1970s Indian movement; a discussion of the war bonnet, a symbol appropriated by American popular culture; and the ancient warrior culture exemplified in modern times by Hopi tribal member Lori Ann Piestewa, who lost her life in the Iraq War.

Deanna Larson is a writer in Nashville.

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