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Everything You Know about Indians Is Wrong (Indigenous Americas Series) Hardcover – April 14, 2009

ISBN-13: 978-0816656011 ISBN-10: 0816656010 Edition: 1st
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this acerbic collection of essays, Comanche cultural critic and art curator Smith (Like a Hurricane) riffs on the romantic stereotypes of Indian as spiritual masters and first environmentalists, as tragic victims of technology and civilization, as primal beings brimming with nomad authenticity, their every artifact a gem of folk art. Such tropes, he complains, hide the riotous complexity of the modern Indian experience, which he visits in pieces that explore his grandfather's Christian church, Sitting Bull's savvy manipulation of his media image (he had an agent) and the author's own Comanche forebears, who were both world-class barbarians and avid adopters of the white man's gadgetry. These loose-limbed essays range all over the landscape, from Hollywood westerns to the 1973 siege of Wounded Knee to (somewhat obscurely) the contemporary Indian art scene. Smith doesn't entirely square his view of Indians as just plain folks with his advancing of a unique Indian cultural perspective, but his keen, skeptical eye makes such ironies both amusing and enlightening. Photos. (May)
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Review

Smith's recognition of the contradictions within his own life inspires his readers to resist adherence to categories that may seem comforting but actually limit personal growth.  --NeoAmericanist (added by author)

In this rigorously insightful collection of essays written between 1992 to 2008, Smith, a wry, sharp-edged cultural critic, and associate curator for the NMAI, addresses the myriad ironic complexities of American Indian reality. --Washington Post (added by author)


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Product Details

  • Series: Indigenous Americas
  • Hardcover: 212 pages
  • Publisher: University of Minnesota Press; 1st edition (April 14, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0816656010
  • ISBN-13: 978-0816656011
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.7 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #127,139 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Paul Chaat Smith is a Comanche writer and curator whose work is focused on American Indian political and cultural space. He is the author of Everything You Know about Indians Is Wrong and coauthor of Like a Hurricane: the Indian Movement from Alcatraz to Wounded Knee, as well as numerous essays on cultural politics. Smith lives in Washington, DC.

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

44 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Ursiform TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 25, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Paul Chaat Smith is an associate curator at the National Museum of the American Indian, an institution he once described as "a bad idea whose time has come". That line alone should give warning about the unvarnished opinions he offers in this book of essays, grouped to offer a flow of sorts.

In the earlier parts of the book he discusses how the idea of "Indians" didn't exist until the Europeans arrived. Before that time the Americas was divided up between nations, much as Europe was. There were conflicts between nations, and boundaries changed with time, but that also happened in Europe. It was the Europeans who imposed the idea that all natives were one group of primitive people divided into "tribes", rather than a kaleidoscope of cultures similar to the situation in Europe.

[Note: For an outstanding book on what the Americas were really like before the landing of Columbus, and how the nations of the new world fell, see "1491" by Charles C. Mann, an outstanding book.]

He continues on to explain, often quite amusingly, how movies and other media formed a popular but inaccurate image of native people. (Crazy Horse was nicknamed "Curly" as a kid?!)

Next Smith talks about his involvement with the American Indian Movement. For those who lived through the era, it provides another viewpoint. (A dysfunctional take, by the way.) For younger readers it can serve a brief primer on ancient history.

Then he move into contemporary Indian art. I'll just say I have different tastes than the author, especially regarding performance art.

In the end he returns to the dichotomy between how Indians are viewed and how they really live.

There are parts of this book I really enjoyed, and parts where I disagreed with the author. But it's a short book, and a personal one, and his voice deserves to be heard. If the subject interests you, go ahead and read it. Even when you disagree you'll be forced to think.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Jan Masaoka on September 19, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A compelling insight on every page, and your friends will be grow tired of your telling them cool stuff you learned from this wonderful book. Beautifully written.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful By E. Begody on August 8, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I like parts of it. Kindly I can call is episodic, but Smith might have wandered away from his topic a few times. Though the strong topics are quite compelling and humorous. Smith provides interesting facts in a kind, jabbing style, but obviously I had a lot to learn about photographs and Sitting Bull. A film buff, Smith explores Natives in contemporary films. These were my favorite topics.

The episodic chapters add to a unique form. For the patient reader, Smith will be both informative and witty.

I add 4 stars because I didn't expect to find such a title nor did I think I'd enjoy its tone. I'd recommend it. In fact, my son is reading this right now.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Joyce Godwin Grubbs on November 19, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The most outstanding book I have read on Indians (Indigenous Americans) and one of the best I have read of Paul Chaat Smith. The book is authentic, edgy, no-holds-barred. It is what all Americans need to read to get to the crux of all that is the Indian struggle and the Indian successes. This is an inspiration to the Indians, and to the readers who seek to truly understand the culture that is North American Indigenous.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Theresa Potente on May 10, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Some of the essays are better than others but the shift in the perspective the reader gets, is interesting and challenging.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Cynthia Wimer on August 29, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
well, maybe not everything, but all the bad stuff. this isn't as relevant as it would have been 20 years ago...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Terri Jean on December 6, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Direct, to the point and, in many areas, absolutely hilarious. A wonderful read.
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