Everything You Know about Indians Is Wrong

Everything You Know about Indians Is Wrong

4.0 1
by Paul Chaat Smith
     
 

ISBN-10: 0816656010

ISBN-13: 9780816656011

Pub. Date: 04/14/2009

Publisher: University of Minnesota Press

In this sweeping work of memoir and commentary, leading cultural critic Paul Chaat Smith illustrates with dry wit and brutal honesty the contradictions of life in “the Indian business.” 

Raised in suburban Maryland and Oklahoma, Smith dove head first into the political radicalism of the 1970s, working with the American Indian Movement until it

…  See more details below

Overview

In this sweeping work of memoir and commentary, leading cultural critic Paul Chaat Smith illustrates with dry wit and brutal honesty the contradictions of life in “the Indian business.” 

Raised in suburban Maryland and Oklahoma, Smith dove head first into the political radicalism of the 1970s, working with the American Indian Movement until it dissolved into dysfunction and infighting. Afterward he lived in New York, the city of choice for political exiles, and eventually arrived in Washington, D.C., at the newly minted National Museum of the American Indian (“a bad idea whose time has come”) as a curator. In his journey from fighting activist to federal employee, Smith tells us he has discovered at least two things: there is no one true representation of the American Indian experience, and even the best of intentions sometimes ends in catastrophe. Everything You Know about Indians Is Wrong is a highly entertaining and, at times, searing critique of the deeply disputed role of American Indians in the United States. In “A Place Called Irony,” Smith whizzes through his early life, showing us the ironic pop culture signposts that marked this Native American’s coming of age in suburbia: “We would order Chinese food and slap a favorite video into the machine—the Grammy Awards or a Reagan press conference—and argue about Cyndi Lauper or who should coach the Knicks.” In “Lost in Translation,” Smith explores why American Indians are so often misunderstood and misrepresented in today’s media: “We’re lousy television.” In “Every Picture Tells a Story,” Smith remembers his Comanche grandfather as he muses on the images of American Indians as “a half-remembered presence, both comforting and dangerous, lurking just below the surface.” 

Smith walks this tightrope between comforting and dangerous, offering unrepentant skepticism and, ultimately, empathy. “This book is called Everything You Know about Indians Is Wrong, but it’s a book title, folks, not to be taken literally. Of course I don’t mean everything, just most things. And ‘you’ really means we, as in all of us.”

Read More

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780816656011
Publisher:
University of Minnesota Press
Publication date:
04/14/2009
Series:
Indigenous Americas
Pages:
192
Sales rank:
608,152
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.60(h) x 1.00(d)

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

Everything You Know about Indians Is Wrong 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
DennisTheGerman More than 1 year ago
The most provocative thing about Paul Chaat Smith's book, "Everything You Know About Indians Is Wrong," is the title. And even the title is wrong, considering that many people, not just Native Americans, object to the mischaracterization "Indian." Philosophically, Smith argues that you have to be Indian to know Indian. In fact, since he himself is half-white, was raised in a rich suburb of Cleveland, and went to Antioch College, he admits that he doesn't know much about Indians either. He went to Wounded Knee after the standoff to have at least some contact with "real" Indians, the American Indian Movement Activists. Still, the associate director of the Museum of the American Indian in Washington writes very engagingly and offers many interesting facts and insights. I did not know that the movie, "Dancing With Wolves," was based on a Commanche story (Smith's tribe), but filmed on the Sioux reservation using that tribe because, how can you have an Indian movie without bison? That's like using Poilus to make "All Quiet On the Western Front." Since we have sent our warriors halfway around the world to battle savages on the frontiers of Afghanistan and Pakistan, this might be a good time to reflect on the methods we used to pacify the Wild West, with what success we tried to civilize its surviving Native inhabitants, and whether a way of life that seeks harmony with Nature might be a good thing for us too.