KILLING THE WHITE MAN'S INDIAN by Fergus M. Bordewich

KILLING THE WHITE MAN'S INDIAN

Reinventing Native Americans at the End of the Twentieth Century

KIRKUS REVIEW

 An incisive look at troubles simmering in the Indian nations that lie uncomfortably within our own. Journalist Bordewich (Cathay, 1991) has long had an interest in Native American issues; his mother was executive director of the Association on American Indian Affairs, and as he grew up, he frequently traveled to tribal centers. This book combines broad learning with solid journalism to form a reasoned indictment of both the federal treatment of Indians and society's relegation of them to a sometimes romantic but nonetheless dark corner of national life, where they keep on serving as ``reminders of a history that we would prefer not to remember and confusing our fantasies with real-life demands.'' Bordewich travels to Indian reservations across the country to examine endemic problems like gambling, alcoholism, suicide, poverty, and the federal government's inability to determine how Indian nations fit within the US framework. It is clear all along where his sympathies lie, but Bordewich is no celebrant of all things Indian. He demolishes a few pieties, among them the notion that genocide was ever federal policy, a common charge of groups like AIM. (Indeed, he writes, ``the new republic initially worried less about ridding itself of Indians than about how to protect them from the depredations of its own citizens.'') Neither does he find the present generation of Indians faultless, and he writes that among the many good qualities and aspirations, he ``also found ethnic chauvinism, a crippling instinct to confuse isolation with independence, and a chronic habit of interpreting present-day reality through the warping lens of the past.'' Yet Bordewich sees much hope for a revitalized Native America that will someday determine its own destiny. Bordewich has done his homework, and his writing is full of insights and telling anecdotes. The result is a more evenhanded if less powerful book than Peter Matthiessen's Indian Country, alongside which this worthy volume should be shelved.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-385-42035-8
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Doubleday
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 1995




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