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.


Comments
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


Tags

Nero Alan Weisman Keepers of the Trees Kabul Guthrie Theater Kenwood Gardens President Obama Botany Makoons Zombies knowledge E.L. Doctorow Too Loud A Solitude favorite dog Video Book Review Collective Denial Anton Treuer Minnesota Light in August Empire of the Summer Moon Beth Dooley thanks euphoria Gary Clement boarding school local economy birchbark house series favorite tree twins Dogs Hillary Clinton leaves and snow The Blue Sky green William Trevor Chickadee language revitalization Poetry Czech Writer Aza Islam favorite book Wolf Hall British Navy The Porcupine Year Kate DiCamillo More Remarkable Trees Emily Johnson Unnatural Disasters neighborhood Tree Houses joy aquifer Alice Munro Aubrey/Maturin Keystone XL Anishinabe show your love mississippi post holiday State Troopers incarnation peculiar touches of green and gold devoted customers Easter Island Up Late Again ireland Fireworks buffalo Mohamed's Ghosts support Gail Caldwell School Gardens Ojibwemowin spring germany north dakota Afghanistan Tar Sands bill mckibben Victory Gardens Jim Harrison book and dinner club tree books Magers and Quinn monkey in a dryer Too Much Happiness 2666 Dartmouth Our Knowledge Is Not Primitive Milkweed Press H2Oil Small Bookstores as Commons Keeping Heart on Pine Ridge S.C. Gwynne photography Love National Book Award Climate Change Bill Moyers Journal The Round House sweden Bohumil Hrabal the most romantic city in the world Greenland World on the Edge Anishinabemowin Education The Ojibwe Ha Jin gratitude gardens The Royal Prussian Library Crushing Books friends Population Mankato Powwow japan NACDI:All My Relations Women and Trees fresh water Ojibwe france Nemesis pilgrims city of books Interview The Wealth of Nature Canada china trees Vic Glover anniversary solstice, Thomas King post holiday reads ependent Louise cafe closing Remarkable Trees health care reform cafe Native People Gryphon Press Patrick O'Brian Hilary Mantel This Green World thank you friends The Farmer's Daughter Green Team Chitra Divakaruni Stephen Salisbury Wendy Makoons Geniusz Master Butchers Singing Club Roberto Bolano italy The Transition Handbook Birchbark Books The Game of Silence Wastepaper plants Let's Take the Long Way Home Pembina how good looking you are ptsd Ice adventure Rare Books Philip Roth coyote Peak Water Native Arts The Resilient Gardener Brown Dog Bleak House Peak Oil customers Catalyst graphix The Birchbark House 350.org Michael Jackson Minneapolis

Archive