Reimagining Indians

Reimagining Indians : Native Americans Through Anglo Eyes, 1880-1940

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This is an investigation of a group of Anglo-American writers whose books about Native Americans helped reshape Americans' understanding of Indian peoples at the turn of the 20th century. Hailing from the Eastern United States, these men and women travelled to the American West and discovered "exotics" in their midst. Drawn to Indian cultures as alternatives to what they found distasteful about modern American culture, these writers produced a body of work that celebrates Indian cultures, religions, artistry and simple humanity. Although these writers were not academically trained ethnographists, their books represent popular versions of ethnography. In revealing their own doubts about the superiority of European-American culture, they sought to provide a favourable climate for Indian cultural survival in a world indisputably dominated by non-Indians. They also encouraged notions of cultural relativism, pluralism and tolerance in American thought. For the historian and general reader alike, this volume speaks to broad themes of American cultural history, Native American history, and the history of the American more

Product details

  • Hardback | 286 pages
  • 163.6 x 241 x 23.9mm | 597.18g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 0195136357
  • 9780195136357

Review quote

"In looking again at images of Indians, Sherry Smith breaks down stereotypes about the people who held and created images of the American West and its peoples for an essentially eastern audience. As in the writings of earlier European authors, positive statements about Indian life and culture often revealed underlying or open dissatisfaction with one's own society rather than an accurate record of Indian life. But Smith demonstrates how these writers, for all their blindspots, prejudices, and shortcomings as cultural interpreters, created an image of Indians as human beings, something badly lacking from earlier portrayals. These writers exerted influence on federal Indian policy, paving the way for the more pluralistic view, especially in the years when John Collier was formulating radical changes in national Indian affairs."--Colin G. Calloway, Dartmouth College"Sherry Smith, a wonderfully versatile historian, now leads us into the lives and minds of nine men and women driven to understand, and sometimes to speak for, Indian peoples. Their visions--part insight and admiration, part fantasy and delusion--said as much about white as about Native America. It's a fascinating story told always with compassion and an exceptionally illuminating intelligence."--Elliott West, University of Arkansas"Something happened in America in the century between the Wounded Knee massacre and the premier of 'Dances with Wolves.' The American public finally learned that the old language of 'savagery' did not describe Native American cultures and popular attitudes towards Indians gradually shifted from hostility to admiration. Sherry Smith's fascinating portrait of these men and women who were captivated by Indian culture helps us understand this dramatic reversal of outlook. Often perceived as misfits in their day, these writers and activists pushed their fellow countrymen to cast aside prejudice and ignorance and move closer to their own emerging vision of a plural nation capable of learning from the Native American past. This is a great story."--Frederick E. Hoxie, University of Illinois, Urbana/Champaign"Sherry Smith brings to life a remarkable group of writers, travelers, and cultural explainers bent on fashioning a new, positive image of Native Americans. Rescuing what she calls 'middle-brow purveyors of Indianness' from obscurity, Smith provides a sympathetic yet critical reading of cultural interpreters as diverse as George Wharton James, Anna Ickes, and Frank Bird Linderman. Smith's book is a revelation, one that acknowledges the enduring influence of those Anglo image-makers while revealing the complexities and contradictions when one culture attempts to portray another. Reimaging Indians is one of those rare books sure to enjoy a wide audience both professional and popular."--James P. Ronda, University of Tulsashow more

About Sherry L. Smith

Sherry L. Smith is Associate Professor of History at Southern Methodist more

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