American Indians •  Literature and Photography

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The Shoshoneans: The People of the Basin-Plateau

Expanded Edition

Edward Dorn
Leroy Lucas
Edited by Matthew Hofer

First published almost fifty years ago and long out of print, The Shoshoneans is a classic American travelogue about the Great Basin and Plateau region and the people who inhabit it, never before—or since—documented in such striking and memorable fashion. Neither a book of journalism nor a work of poetry, this powerful collaboration represents the wild wandering of a white poet and black photographer in Civil Rights era (also Vietnam War era) America through a part of the indigenous West that had resisted prior incursions. The expanded edition offers a wealth of supplemental material, much of it archival, which includes poetry, correspondence, the lecture “The Poet, the People, the Spirit,” and the essay “Ed Dorn in Santa Fe.”


Edward Dorn (1929–99) was professor of creative writing at the University of Colorado, where he taught for more than twenty years. He is author of over forty books of poety, fiction, nonfiction, and translation, including the epic Gunslinger; his long-awaited Collected Poems, edited by Jennifer Dunbar Dorn, was published in December 2012.

A working photographer and film maker, Leroy Lucas is the author of Growing up Black, and he contributed the photographs to The Youngest Revolution: A Personal Report on Cuba. He lives in Austin, Texas.

Matthew Hofer is associate professor of English at the University of New Mexico. He teaches and writes about twentieth-century literature, with a special interest in innovative poetry and poetics.


"Not a historical treatise at all, this is a 'with it' account of a contemporary trip into Idaho, Utah and Nevada to find out about 'a people who are still very potential in this hemisphere' although they are among the oldest Americans. Among the 'people of the Basin-Plateau' are Willie Dorsey (102 years old) and his wife who together form 'a substantial prayer of flesh, plasma, spirit,' a young 'acculturated' Reno Paiute, a drunken steer-wrestler . . . Edward Dorn (white) and LeRoy Lucas (black) travelled to Reno and Lovelock ('they're mean in Lovelock'), to Pyramid Lake and Duck Valley ('an inherently excellent place'); saw Indians in cities and on reservations. LeRoy danced the sundance ritual for three days without food, came out of it with a new clarity and calm. His photographs, not seen here, include pictures of the sundance itself, never before photographed, along with wordless commentaries on the clash of cultures and 'faces one cannot forget.'"


Kirkus Reviews (1966)

“Matthew Hofer’s selection of supplementary material in the form of extracts of Dorn’s letters and previously uncollected essays and poems offers both an enriched experience of The Shoshoneans to those familiar with it, and valuable contextualizing information for new readers.”


PN Review

8.5 x 9.25 in. 176 pages 103 halftones, 1 map