In this thoughtful and well-researched work, culminating decades of involvement with the Twenty-Nine Palms Tribe, Clifford E. Trafzer offers what he calls a “historical song-story . . . of the Twenty-Nine Palms Tribe of Chemehuevi . . . one song about one group of Chemehuevi Southern Paiute people who once lived at the Oasis of Mara in the modern-day town of Twentynine Palms, California” (xvi). His description illustrates the challenges of telling a story of dynamic cultural adaptation and survival amid dispossession. Over the last 150 years, Chemehuevi people moved repeatedly, and Trafzer’s narrative forgoes strict chronology and draws on extensive fieldwork to keep the shifting subject in focus.

Traditionally, Chemehuevi territory stretched from the Colorado River west into the Mojave Desert. They developed long-distance communication networks across the region, facilitating political flexibility and cultural continuity. Trafzer argues that the relatively amicable...

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