Stolen Continents

by Ronald Wright. Houghton Mifflin/Peter Davison, $22.95. The subtitle of Mr. Wright’s well-written history is “The Americas Through Indian Eyes Since 1492.” The author has located a great deal of information and testimony from Native Americans who experienced the disastrous collision with Europeans, and while some of it is predictable, much is seldom mentioned, much less detailed, in standard textbooks. In describing Indian societies from the Aztec to the Mohawk, Mr. Wright concentrates on their merits and accomplishments. He quotes eloquent leaders and describes the successes of war chiefs and speculates on how well the white invaders would have fared without invisible allies like smallpox and plague. He succeeds, in short, in plausibly maintaining a non-European viewpoint throughout his unusual and fascinating work.