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Native Peoples of North America

textbook cover image
Teotihuacan Mural ( by William Neuheisel ( used under a CC-BY license (

Description: Native Peoples of North America is intended to be an introductory text about the Native peoples of North America (primarily the United States and Canada) presented from an anthropological perspective. As such, the text is organized around anthropological concepts such as language, kinship, marriage and family life, political and economic organization, food getting, spiritual and religious practices, and the arts. Prehistoric, historic and contemporary information is presented. Each chapter begins with an example from the oral tradition that reflects the theme of the chapter.

Author: Dr. Susan Stebbins, Open SUNY

Adoption (faculty): Contact us if you are using this textbook in your course

Adaptations: Support for adapting an open textbook

Open Textbook(s):

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Creative Commons License
Native Peoples of North America by Dr. Susan Stebbins, Open SUNY is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

1. Reviewed by: E Benson
  • Institution: Simon Fraser University
  • Title/Position: Teaching Assistant
  • Overall Rating: 2.8 out of 5
  • Date:
  • License: Creative Commons License

Q: The text covers all areas and ideas of the subject appropriately and provides an effective index and/or glossary

The text does not comprehensively cover the topic of Indigenous
Peoples of North America. Rather, the emphasis of the text is primarily on introducing anthropological
concepts and areas of study.

The text discusses selected peoples and regions but does not always provide enough
background and contextual information; it may be challenging for students to contextualize
the discussions of selected peoples effectively and to
develop an understanding of the diversity of peoples of North America and their societies, cultures and histories from
reading this textbook.

Glossary: The text highlights key terms in bold; however, the
terms are not followed up with a glossary/definitions at the end
of the chapter.

Index: There is no index.

Comprehensiveness Rating: 2 out of 5

Q: Content is accurate, error-free and unbiased

The content is overly-generalized at times and
appears biased/inaccurate in some areas. Many of the arguments made in the text could use more supporting information, examples, and references.

There are some errors, particularly with incorrect and inconsistent spelling for Indigenous nations' names (example: page 80).

Content Accuracy Rating: 3 out of 5

Q: Content is up-to-date, but not in a way that will quickly make the text obsolete within a short period of time. The text is written and/or arranged in such a way that necessary updates will be relatively easy and straightforward to implement

The information and arguments are very general, and in that
sense are not likely to become obsolete in a short period of time.

Some of the sources are outdated or not strong/credible sources (example: discussion of Jared Diamond's work in Chapter 3).

Relevance Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: The text is written in lucid, accessible prose, and provides adequate context for any jargon/technical terminology used

The text is written in an accessible way. There is often enough context for the jargon/technical
terminology used. It is not always clear why specific terms have been emphasized within the text (in bold), as they
do not always seem essential/topical, or are in common usage (example "withdrawing", "storytelling").
In addition, the bolded terms are often not contextualized within a cohesive group of related terms, and are not defined in a glossary.

Clarity Rating: 3 out of 5

Q: The text is internally consistent in terms of terminology and framework

The terminology is not always consistent. For example, the
author uses the term "equalitarian" frequently, but occasionally
uses the term "egalitarian" to mean the same thing. The
author uses the terms "Native", "indigenous", and "aboriginal"
interchangeably (intentionally, as she points out in the
introduction). This could be confusing for students. The terms
also can have very different connotations. For example, the
term "aboriginal" has a very specific legal meaning and
implications in Canada. It might be preferable to be consistent
with the terminology. The framework for the book is not always

Consistency Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: The text is easily and readily divisible into smaller reading sections that can be assigned at different points within the course (i.e., enormous blocks of text without subheadings should be avoided). The text should not be overly self-referential, and should be easily reorganized and realigned with various subunits of a course without presenting much disruption to the reader.

The text could be structured much more clearly. As it is, it would be difficult to break into
smaller sections for course readings. There are few
subheadings within the chapters. The order of the paragraphs
does not always follow a clear structure. The topics within the
subsections are unfocused at times.

Modularity Rating: 1 out of 5

Q: The topics in the text are presented in a logical, clear fashion

The topics in the text could be presented in a more clear
fashion. The information on specific peoples, anthropology,
methods, critiques of anthropology, as well as the author's own
perspectives, are all interspersed, which can make the text confusing at times. The focus/goal of each chapter is not always clear.
The paragraphs do not always logically build upon one another.
Overall, the ideas in the text could be presented in a more clear

Organization Rating: 1 out of 5

Q: The text is free of significant interface issues, including navigation problems, distortion of images/charts, and any other display features that may distract or confuse the reader

Many of the maps and images have poor resolution and illegible text (i.e., maps/images on pages 11, 13, 15, 39, and 114).
The kinship charts on page 58 and 73 have poor resolution and the text is barely legible.

Interface Rating: 3 out of 5

Q: The text contains no grammatical errors

The text is generally free of grammatical errors (with a couple of small exceptions).

Grammar Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: The text is not culturally insensitive or offensive in any way. It should make use of examples that are inclusive of a variety of races, ethnicities, and backgrounds

There are many generalizations in the text from one group to entire regions, and from one group of people to Indigenous
people as a whole. The text could be much improved by using more specific examples to illustrate the author's claims, and by offering more context, references and supporting information for broad claims.

Cultural Relevance Rating: 3 out of 5

Q: Are there any other comments you would like to make about this book, for example, its appropriateness in a Canadian context or specific updates you think need to be made?

The book focuses primarily on the United States, without as much emphasis on Canada.

The information provided in the text is often very general, and the arguments often lack sufficient supporting information and references. The organization and structure of the text could also be much improved.