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


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