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Killing The White Man's Indian; Reinventing Native Americans at the End of the Twentieth Century Hardcover – January 1, 1996


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Are the modern Indian nations little more than "reminders of a history that we would prefer not to remember," a guilty afterthought? Bordewich answers that yes, thanks to a century and more of federal mismanagement of Indian affairs, they are. Their people are plagued by alcohol, suicide, despair, and neglect. In writing of our nation's dishonorable dealings with its indigenous peoples, Bordewich asks that we examine history closely and that we take issue with received wisdom. After looking at past and present in this lively and provocative book, Bordewich envisions a future in which Native America determines its own destiny.

From Publishers Weekly

A new generation of politically astute Native Americans is developing aggressive tribal governments bent on resuscitating once-moribund cultures and on managing federal programs without the paternalistic oversight of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Bordewich, a roving editor for Reader's Digest, who spent three years visiting reservations, believes that today's tribal sovereignty movement represents the best hope in decades for restoring economically crippled communities. Yet the movement, in his opinion, is tinged with separatist ideology and an "overwhelming, largely irrational fear of yet more loss and betrayal." Arguing that in some states, Native Americans' claims to water and fishing rights and their demand for sacred lands pose a threat to local economies, Bordewich maintains that the sovereignty movement runs the risk of creating a multitude of independent statelets, some economically unviable and ill governed. His vibrant, compelling, diversified portrait of contemporary Native Americans dispels whites' lingering stereotypes of Indians either as permanent victims or as morally superior beings living in primeval, unchanging communion with nature.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; 1st edition (January 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385420358
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385420358
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.8 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,278,187 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

FERGUS M. BORDEWICH is the author of six non-fiction books: America's Great Debate: Henry Clay, Stephen A. Douglas, and the Compromise that Preserved the Union (Simon & Schuster, 2012); Washington: The Making of the American Capital (Amistad/HarperCollins, 2008); Bound for Canaan: The Underground Railroad and the War for the Soul of America (Amistad/HarperCollins, 2005); My Mother's Ghost, a memoir (Doubleday, 2001); Killing the White Man's Indian: Reinventing Native Americans at the End of the Twentieth Century (Doubleday, 1996); and Cathay: A Journey in Search of Old China (Prentice Hall Press, 1991).

In his newest book, America's Great Debate, Bordewich tells an epic story of the nation's westward expansion, slavery and the Compromise of 1850, centering on the dramatic congressional debate of 1849-1850 - the longest in American history - when a gallery of extraordinary men including Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, John C. Calhoun, Stephen A. Douglas, Jefferson Davis, William H. Seward, and others, fought to shape, and in the case of some to undermine, the future course of the Union.

He has also published an illustrated children's book, Peach Blossom Spring (Simon & Schuster, 1994), and wrote the script for a PBS documentary about Thomas Jefferson, Mr. Jefferson's University. He also edited an illustrated book of eyewitness accounts of the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre, Children of the Dragon (Macmillan, 1990). He is a regular contributor to Smithsonian magazine, mainly on subjects in nineteenth century American history. He lives in Washington, DC with his wife and daughter.

Bound for Canaan was selected as one of the American Booksellers Association's "ten best nonfiction books" in 2005; as the Great Lakes Booksellers' Association's "best non-fiction book" of 2005; as one of the Austin Public Library's Best Non-Fiction books of 2005; and as one of the New York Public Library's "ten books to remember" in 2005.

Washington was named by Jonathan Yardley of the Washington Post as one of his "Best Books of 2008."

Bordewich was born in New York City in 1947, and grew up in Yonkers, New York. While growing up, he often traveled to Indian reservations around the United States with his mother, LaVerne Madigan Bordewich, the executive director of the Association on American Indian Affairs, then the only independent advocacy organization for Native Americans. This early experience helped to shape his lifelong preoccupation with American history, the settlement of the continent, and issues of race, and political power. He holds degrees from the City College of New York and Columbia University. In the late 1960s, he did voter registration for the NAACP in the still-segregated South; he also worked as a roustabout in Alaska's Arctic oil fields, a taxi driver in New York City, and a deckhand on a Norwegian freighter.

He has been an independent writer and historian since the early 1970s. His articles have appeared in many magazines and newspapers, including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Smithsonian, American Heritage, Atlantic, Harper's, New York Magazine, GEO, Reader's Digest, and others. As a journalist, he traveled extensively in Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and Africa, writing on politics, economic issues, culture, and history, on subjects ranging from the civil war in Burma, religious repression in China, Islamic fundamentalism, German reunification, the Irish economy, Kenya's population crisis, among many others. He also served for brief periods as an editor and writer for the Tehran Journal in Iran, in 1972-1973, a press officer for the United Nations, in 1980-1982, and an advisor to the New China News Agency in Beijing, in 1982-1983, when that agency was embarking on its effort to switch from a propaganda model to a western-style journalistic one.

America's Great Debate joins Bordewich's two previous books in exploring from a new angle the ways in which slavery and sectional conflict distorted American democracy in the years before the Civil War. In the aftermath of the Mexican War, new conquests carried the United States from the Missouri River to the Pacific Ocean. How would the newly acquired empire be governed? Could it even be governed? Would that empire be slave or free? California's request to join the Union as a free state in 1850 pushed slavery's defenders to the brink of armed conflict. Many Americans expected secession and civil war to begin within months, if not weeks. The prevention of war through ten months of fierce debate was one of the greatest political achievements in American history. The compromise that resulted preserved the Union for another decade, ultimately enabling the North to ready itself for a war that it could win. America's Great Debate vividly recounts that story.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Caldonia on December 9, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Romantic or unromantic, why does Bordewich feel he needs to impose his view about what Native folks are really like? Aren't there thousands of Native writers who could do a better job, romantic or not? Sherman Alexie, Adrian C. Louis, Louise Erdrich, Joy Harjo, Ed Edmo, Mourning Dove, Vine Deloria, Jr., Ward Churchill... I could go on.
I took over teaching a class where this was the text - the teacher that quit seemed to think that using a white author (when plenty of Native historians are available) was more objective. He felt his approach was race neutral, colorblind, if you will. But far from it, his decision assumed that whiteness guaranteed a neutral point of view, which it doesn't. The problem with a book like this is that this white author acts as the expert on things Native. Whites can certainly be knowledgeable, but we (yes we) cannot be objective.
When I took over the class, we began to critique the book rather than buy into it. Several students who identified as Native expressed their relief. That is all the "review" I need.
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Format: Hardcover
I disagree with the reviewer on here who thinks the author is trying to push some kind of ridiculous agenda. Although I did learn a lot that I didn't know before, it's pretty common knowledge that many reservations are poorly-run places with little to no infrastructure and utilities where the people live steeped in poverty. Is the author's idea that Native American societies should participate in modern business in order to revitalize their economies and provide for their people a racist and degrading proposition? Do you really think his arguments for overhauling badly mismanaged tribal governments in order to better service native peoples are given in the spirit of racism and deceipt?

I think shedding such a unique and supposedly sell-out perspective as his on the subject is extremely important. Sticking to an agenda of just romanticizing the lost Native world won't soon help alleviate the poverty, alcoholism and dysfunction that plagues "Indian Country" in this day and age.
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15 of 23 people found the following review helpful By J Taylor on October 28, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Bordewich pretends to be dispelling stereotypes about Indian peoples, but this is just a thin disguise for his real agenda. The book is an attack against Indian sovereignty and against the existence of tribal cultures. Bordewich argues that Native peoples should just assimilate into mainstream American culture and forget about their own. Any Indian who dresses in suit and tie and embraces Bordewich's very conservative political agenda is portrayed in this book as a "good Indian". Anyone else is portrayed as a romantic blinded by stereotypes. Bordewich, however, does not have the decency to be honest about his political agenda, but tries to make his conclusions appear as the work of an impartial observer. In order to beef up his argument, he quotes many scholars out of context and completely twists their statements in an effort to give legitimacy to his conclusions. This is one of the most dishonest, sneaky books I have read in a long time.
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