John Muir is widely and rightly lauded as the nature mystic who added wilderness to the United States' vision of itself, largely through the system of national parks and wild areas his writings and public advocacy helped create. That vision, however, came at a cost: the conquest and dispossession of the tribal peoples who had inhabited and managed those same lands, in many cases for millennia. Muir argued for the preservation of wild sanctuaries that would offer spiritual enlightenment to the conquerors, not to the conquered Indigenous peoples who had once lived there. "Somehow" he wrote, "they seemed to have no right place in the landscape."
Cast out of Eden tells this neglected part of Muir's story — from Lowland Scotland and the Wisconsin frontier to the Sierra Nevada's granite heights and Alaska's glacial fjords — his take on the tribal nations he encountered, and his embrace of an ethos that forced those tribes from their homelands. Although Muir questioned and worked against Euro-America's distrust of wild spaces and its deep-seated desire to tame and exploit them, his view excluded Native Americans as fallen peoples who stained the wilderness's pristine sanctity. Fortunately, in a transformation that a resurrected and updated Muir might approve, this long-standing injustice is beginning to be undone, as Indigenous nations and the federal government work together to ensure that quintessentially American lands from Bears Ears to Yosemite serve all Americans equally.
"To most Americans, John Muir is a folk hero, a writer and thinker who inspired the nation's wilderness preservation movement. Robert McNally's powerful new biography offers a darker vision, situating Muir's life and work in America's violent campaigns of Indigenous land dispossession and genocide. Cast Out of Eden is a vivid and absorbing read, one that will challenge everything you think you know about one of America's most famous environmentalists."
— Megan Kate Nelson, author of The Three-Cornered War, finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in History
On a cold, rainy dawn in late November 1872, Lieutenant Frazier Boutelle and a Modoc Indian nicknamed Scarface Charley leveled firearms at each other. Their duel would trigger a war that capped a decades-long genocidal campaign emblematic of the United States’ conquest of Native America’s peoples and lands. Robert Aquinas McNally tells the wrenching story that climaxed in the Modoc War of 1872–73, illuminating a dark, long-forgotten corner in our national history.
“Well-paced, with vividly drawn characters and exciting, dramatic prose, Robert Aquinas McNally’s narrative history of the Modoc War is the most thoroughly researched and historically accurate account of that tragedy to date. A tour de force of historical storytelling, The Modoc War is an insightful exploration of one of America’s most important but forgotten Indian wars.”
"Oh, would John Muir hang his head if he could see what has happened since he first called attention to the encroachment of modern man on the wilderness he loved. This book and its beautiful prose is an absolute must-read."