Essays on Contemporary Native Culture
Paper 304 pp.
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Since first contact, Natives and newcomers have been involved in an increasingly complex struggle over power and identity. Modern “Indian wars” are fought over land and treaty rights, artistic appropriation, and academic analysis, while Native communities struggle among themselves over membership, money, and cultural meaning. In cultural and political arenas across North America, Natives enact and newcomers protest issues of traditionalism, sovereignty, and self-determination. In these struggles over domination and resistance, over different ideologies and Indian identities, neither Natives nor other North Americans recognize the significance of being rooted together in history and culture, or how representations of “Indianness” set them in opposition to each other.
In Indian Country: Essays on Contemporary Native Culture, Gail Guthrie Valaskakis uses a cultural studies approach to offer a unique perspective on Native political struggle and cultural conflict in both Canada and the United States. She reflects on treaty rights and traditionalism, media warriors, Indian princesses, powwow, museums, art, and nationhood. According to Valaskakis, Native and non-Native people construct both who they are and their relations with each other in narratives that circulate through art, anthropological method, cultural appropriation, and Native reappropriation. For Native peoples and Others, untangling the past—personal, political, and cultural—can help to make sense of current struggles over power and identity that define the Native experience today.
Grounded in theory and threaded with Native voices and evocative descriptions of “Indian” experience (including the author’s), the essays interweave historical and political process, personal narrative, and cultural critique. This book is an important contribution to Native studies that will appeal to anyone interested in First Nations’ experience and popular culture.
Gail Guthrie Valaskakis was Distinguished Professor Emerita of Concordia University in Montreal and the director of research at the Aboriginal Healing Foundation in Ottawa. She was a founding member of the boards of Waseskun Healing Lodge, the Montreal Native Friendship Centre, the Native North American Studies Institute, and Manitou Community College and served on numerous boards dealing with issues involving women, First Nations, race, and culture. Her background is Chippewa and she was raised on the Lac du Flambeau reservation in Wisconsin. In 2002, she received a National Aboriginal Achievement Award for her contributions to Aboriginal media and communications. Her writing on the development and impact of northern and Native communications and on issues of Aboriginal cultural studies is widely published.
“This collection of essays is easily one of the most authoritative and best documented treatments of contemporary Indigenous issues....Read the book, but you will not finish it in one sitting. In fact, once hooked, you will return to it again and again for intrique and inspiration.”
— Canadian Ethnic Studies
“Indian Country is a perceptive analysis of the interrelated histories and family encounters of Natives in Canada and the United States. Gail Guthrie Valaskakis weaves the distinct narratives of personal experiences, political practices, treaties, and social science observations into a mature, memorable collection of critical essays.”
— Gerald Vizenor, Professor Emeritus, University of California, Berkeley.
“Creates an intriguing and insightful account of ‘interrelated realities: individual and collective, past and present, Indian and Other.’... Having read Valaskakis’s book, researchers in ‘Indian Country’ will never agan consider Native people and their articulations ‘transparent’ but will extend their research into composite methods of ‘interpreting practice, decoding silence, and reconstructing absence’ — only to arrive at ‘truths’ [that] are ... changeable and ambiguous.”
— Renate Eigenbrod, University of Toronto Quarterly, Letters in Canada 2006
“Indian Country...offers a unique perspective on Native political struggles in both Canada and the United States....Literate, well-researched, and matter-of-factly introducing the reader into how the American government, among other entities, regards Native Americans in modern times Indian Country is a welcome contribution to contemporary Native studies shelves and recommended reading for individuals of all backgrounds striving to better understand the Native American experience.”
— The Native American Shelf
“Indian Country is an excellent example of the emerging paradigm of indigenous scholarship in its blend of the personal with indigenous and mainstream academic theory. It is firmly grounded in the personal lived experiences of the author, which ground and inform the theoretical analysis and reflection.”
— David Newhouse, Trent University, Peterborough
“There are books you wait for, patiently, because you know that when they finally arrive, your patience will be rewarded. I have been waiting patiently for Gail Guthrie Valaskakis’s Indian Country: Essays on Contemporary Native Culture and my patience has been rewarded! These essays are a joy to read, filled with insights not only on Native culture, experience, and politics but also on the value and practice of cultural studies. Indian Country is one of those books you will share with your colleagues, assign to your students, and recommend to your friends. It is, quite simply, one of the best books on questions of culture, identity, and belonging that I have read in a long time.”
— Lawrence Grossberg, Morris Davis Distinguished Professor of Cultural Studies,University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
“One of the volume’s strong points is its elimination of the artifical border we call the 49th parallel dividing Turtle Island into Canada and the United States. Another is that throughout the volume Valaskakis continually gives examples of the relationships betwee Indian people and non-Indian people ... in a well-balanced manner.... I recommend this volume highly to anyone who wishes to learn ... about the worldview of Indian people.”
— William Asikinack, Great Plains Quarterly
“Illustrated with fascinating images and photographs, Valaskakis’ accounts are dense, intensely researched, theoretically sophisticated, and highly personal. The result is impossible to summarize, but tremendously enlightening and interesting to read.”
— Margery Fee, Canadian Literature