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


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