THE WHITE MAN'S INDIAN: The History of an Idea from Columbus to the Present by Robert F. Berkhofer

THE WHITE MAN'S INDIAN: The History of an Idea from Columbus to the Present

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Folk images and academic descriptions are sometimes merely different versions of the same underlying ideology, in the present case, Berkhofer (History, Michigan) convincingly argues that so long as the diversity of Native American culture is submerged in the totalizing concept of The American Indian, we shall continue to see nothing more than a reflection of history as we want it to be. The author describes how the Indian was invented and perpetuated in American culture. He examines several faces of the anthropological projection ranging from scientific racism to the idea of progress and the role of Indian culture in the evolution of society. The place of Indians in our imagination and ideology emerges in an analysis of literary and philosophical texts as well as artistic images. A set of coherent, if false, themes coalesce, all of which can be linked to white social policy, in our eyes the Indian has become a Janus figure, good and bad, noble and degenerate. Over the course of time, these two poles have been manipulated to the benefit of the dominant culture. Berkhofer makes it quite clear that the history of Native Americans is sad not only in the material sense, but also in the sense that it has sustained a false myth of the American past. ""What began as reality for the Europeans ended as image and stereotype for Whites, and what began as an image alien to Native Americans became a reality for them."" A solid, broadly-based work whose lessons apply equally to our relations with the so-called Third World.

Pub Date: March 2nd, 1978
Publisher: Knopf