Shopping cart is empty.

Birchbark Blog

Everything You Know About Indians Is Wrong

Louise Erdrich - Monday, October 19, 2009
Everything You Know about Indians Is Wrong, a satisfyingly complex book by Paul Chaat Smith, who maintains that although we are considered somehow primitive and simple we are actually oceans of terrifying complexity.  I have been called this by men, with no regard to my Turtle Mountain heritage.  Just . . . an ocean of complexity.  And this book, too, is so complicated that I found my emotions were all mixed up.  Irony, laughter, rage, weariness.  A mixture -- a complex character trait but as one of my character flaws is a vague obscurity I appreciated the harsh wit and intelligence in these essays.  A recommendation with many stars after it.

I'll be taking this book along on my next trip along with Chitra Divarakuni's One Amazing Thing, covering Indians -- East to West.

And some favorite post snow fall reading -- Homer and Langely, by E.L.Doctorow.  I loved this novel for its quirky, mild mannered fidelity, for its courtly reserve, and at last for the gentle horror of its ending.  I thought it beautifully imagined and restrained.  A perfect work.  The portrait of a consciousness cut off from even the world of music, floating in soundless space, the last 10 pages were extraordinarily moving to me.

Axsel Bjorklund commented on 22-Oct-2009 08:28 AM
On the one hand, not having read the same books, I hesitate to comment. On the other hand, under the guiding principle of "fools rush in...", I must say that simplicity and complexity are two sides of the same coin. Recently, scientists have progressed from Chaos Theory to a theory of complexity where there is what they term a "self-organizing principle". This leads me to believe that you, me, or anybody else that is hassling with this framed in terms of a problem can henceforth rest easy. In short, everything will be OK.
Gary Deason commented on 31-Oct-2009 02:51 PM
CULTURE: We Anglos value our complex world of science-technology-economics-business, but remain pretty simplistic, even naïve, about the equally complex world of spirit-religion-land-art-culture-family-human relationships. Anglos misunderstand and devalue Indians by reducing their expectations to what they themselves cherish and practice (technology, business, etc) instead of what Indians cherish and practice(spirituality, family, etc). We all see through our own lenses. Measured by the standards of white culture, not surprisingly, Indian cultures come up short. If one reverses the viewpoint, Anglos come up equally short, probably even shorter.

RELATIONSHIPS: Maybe this is part of the larger social and cultural background (there’s also the genetic) of male-female relationships, particularly a (white) male attitude toward a woman of native heritage living her uncommonly rich spiritual, cross-cultural, and family background. Static, linear, deductive heads and hearts struggle to understand and appreciate kinetic, relational, value-laden thoughts and emotions. The reverse is true too.

UPSHOT: If inter-cultural relations and male-female relations were more like Yin-Yang or Same-Other, with a healthy dose of respect maintaining equilibrium, the tension would power compelling outcomes.

Hmmm... that turned out too cerebral. The important point is: I hope we all keep trying on both fronts!
Barbara Scott Zeller commented on 20-Nov-2009 09:13 AM
I am an Anglo who does not recognize herself in Gary's post, so "We Anglos" may be a stretch. Cultural generalities scare me.
Post a Comment!

Canoe Family

Recent PostsRSS


Up Late Again boarding school This Green World favorite dog Aza Zombies green Hillary Clinton Mohamed's Ghosts Bleak House British Navy Empire of the Summer Moon Let's Take the Long Way Home the most romantic city in the world ireland Louise Nero Easter Island The Resilient Gardener Too Loud A Solitude support Keeping Heart on Pine Ridge Ojibwemowin The Ojibwe Tree Houses Minneapolis coyote Dartmouth anniversary sweden William Trevor japan knowledge NACDI:All My Relations Brown Dog Chickadee pilgrims Love Too Much Happiness Alice Munro Gail Caldwell book and dinner club show your love Native Arts italy neighborhood Botany Wolf Hall favorite tree Aubrey/Maturin Keystone XL plants The Blue Sky cafe The Royal Prussian Library Vic Glover twins Our Knowledge Is Not Primitive Gryphon Press Patrick O'Brian National Book Award china post holiday reads ependent photography Birchbark Books Bohumil Hrabal Pembina ptsd The Wealth of Nature devoted customers aquifer Mankato Powwow Wastepaper birchbark house series State Troopers Kabul adventure fresh water Roberto Bolano friends Ice Women and Trees Remarkable Trees Green Team Rare Books Small Bookstores as Commons spring Canada Dogs Ojibwe joy Interview monkey in a dryer Light in August euphoria H2Oil Native People solstice, Thomas King World on the Edge thanks The Farmer's Daughter Poetry Greenland Anton Treuer Kate DiCamillo Book Review peculiar touches of green and gold E.L. Doctorow gardens 2666 Anishinabe The Round House Guthrie Theater bill mckibben Fireworks Crushing Books S.C. Gwynne Peak Water Nemesis Michael Jackson The Porcupine Year The Transition Handbook Makoons The Game of Silence Chitra Divakaruni Wendy Makoons Geniusz favorite book tree books gratitude Gary Clement mississippi More Remarkable Trees Tar Sands Beth Dooley trees germany Ha Jin Stephen Salisbury Population north dakota Alan Weisman how good looking you are Anishinabemowin Minnesota The Birchbark House Philip Roth Catalyst Unnatural Disasters Keepers of the Trees Magers and Quinn cafe closing School Gardens Kenwood Gardens Jim Harrison health care reform leaves and snow President Obama incarnation language revitalization city of books Islam Milkweed Press local economy Emily Johnson Climate Change Afghanistan customers buffalo Hilary Mantel Victory Gardens Peak Oil Czech Writer Bill Moyers Journal post holiday Education thank you friends graphix Collective Denial Video Master Butchers Singing Club france