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Indians in Unexpected Places

Philip J. Deloria

New in Paperback: March 2006
xii, 300 pages, 51 photographs, 5-3⁄4 x 9-1⁄4
Paper ISBN 978-0-7006-1459-2, $18.95

Also available in cloth:
ISBN 978-0-7006-1344-1, $24.95 (t)



book cover imageDespite the passage of time, our vision of Native Americans remains locked up within powerful stereotypes. That’s why some images of Indians can be so unexpected and disorienting: What is Geronimo doing sitting in a Cadillac? Why is an Indian woman in beaded buckskin sitting under a salon hairdryer? Such images startle and challenge our outdated visions, even as the latter continue to dominate relations between Native and non-Native Americans.

Philip Deloria explores this cultural discordance to show how stereotypes and Indian experiences have competed for ascendancy in the wake of the military conquest of Native America and the nation’s subsequent embrace of Native “authenticity.” Rewriting the story of the national encounter with modernity, Deloria provides revealing accounts of Indians doing unexpected things—singing opera, driving cars, acting in Hollywood—in ways that suggest new directions for American Indian history.

Focusing on the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries—a time when, according to most standard American narratives, Indian people almost dropped out of history itself—Deloria argues that a great many Indians engaged the very same forces of modernization that were leading non-Indians to reevaluate their own under-standings of themselves and their society. He examines longstanding stereotypes of Indians as invariably violent, suggesting that even as such views continued in American popular culture, they were also transformed by the violence at Wounded Knee. He tells how Indians came to represent themselves in Wild West shows and Hollywood films and also examines sports, music, and even Indian people’s use of the automobile—an ironic counterpoint to today’s highways teeming with Dakota pick-ups and Cherokee sport utility vehicles.

Throughout, Deloria shows us anomalies that resist pigeonholing and force us to rethink familiar expectations. Whether considering the Hollywood films of James Young Deer or the Hall of Fame baseball career of pitcher Charles Albert Bender, he persuasively demonstrates that a significant number of Indian people engaged in modernity—and helped shape its anxieties and its textures—at the very moment they were being defined as “primitive.”

These “secret histories,” Deloria suggests, compel us to reconsider our own current expectations about what Indian people should be, how they should act, and even what they should look like. More important, he shows how such seemingly harmless (even if unconscious) expectations contribute to the racism and injustice that still haunt the experience of many Native American people today.

“A trenchant and enlightening examination of American
Indian identity and of federal policy that has affected it.”--Montana The Magazine of Western History

“An eminently readable work. . . . Deloria tells some
achingly beautiful stories of the kinds of lives his own relatives managed to carve out in the face of white expectations.”--Multicultural Review

“Highly recommended for public, high school, and academic libraries with multicultural interests.”--Library Journal

“Deloria succeeds brilliantly.”--Journal of the West

“Deloria’s endpoint is to quiz stereotypes for their impact on ideological discourse, which he accomplishes with humor, grace, and depth. Highly recommended.”—Choice

“Subtle and complex, this fascinating, well-researched book will no doubt find its way into unexpected places of honor in American cultural studies.”—Santa Fe New Mexican

“An excellent book that reveals a secret history of Indian modernity too often obscured by our powerful wish to associate Indians with the traditional, the primitive, and ‘the blanket.’”--Werner Sollors, author of Neither Black Nor White Yet Both

“Well written, funny, thoughtful and thought provoking. The chapter on athletics, framed by family history, is a particular gem.”--Brian W. Dippie, author of
The Vanishing American: White Attitudes and U.S. Indian Policy

“The thematic and chronological sweep of Deloria’s brilliant new book is remarkable.”--David R. Roediger, author of The Wages of Whiteness and Colored White

“Deloria is as good a cultural historian as there is writing today. Here he takes what in lesser hands would be the ephemera of American Indian life and uses it to illuminate a whole world not apart from American society but locked in the heart of it.”—Richard White, author of It’s Your Misfortune and None of My Own: A History of the American West

“A provocative, intriguing, and fascinating book that demonstrates a new sophistication in cultural studies about identity and power, continuity and change, and authenticity and artifice.”—George Lipsitz, author of American Studies in a Moment of Danger

PHILIP J. DELORIA of Dakota Sioux heritage, is professor of history and director of the Program in American Culture at the University of Michigan. He is author of Playing Indian and coeditor of the Blackwell Companion to Native American History.

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