Not the Indian You Had In Mind
The above link is to a video by Cherokee author Thomas King titled “I’m Not the Indian You Had in Mind” (2007). In keeping with Philip J. Deloria’s Indians in Unexpected Places (2004)–which traces Indigenous involvement in “unexpected places” such as early film, technology (cars in particular), and rock and opera music–King’s short clip builds on the theme of expectations and resistance to expectations for Native people in the modern world. As a fiction/nonfiction writer, photographer, radio broadcaster, and cultural critic in both the US and Canada, King often uses ironic, trickster-like humor to take on the serious issues of land exploitation, Federal policies of removal, relocation, and repatriation, as well as the cultural assumptions that limit expectations for Native people, leaving stereotypes to take their place: such as Hollywood Indians, noble savages, museum objects, etc. In this short clip, King brings together many of the themes of his written work (such as his novels Truth and Bright Water and Green Grass, Running Water), short stories (such as “Borders”), radio program (Dead Dog Cafe), and nonfiction works (The Truth about Stories and his most recent work The Inconvenient Indian (2013)).
For the purposes of our class, this video might help us to think about the role that colonialism plays in the production and promotion of such stereotypes and the institutions and archives of knowledge (such as museums, history books, universities, etc) that are often complicit in such cultural (mis)representations. We may also think about the relationship between political policy and cultural representations: how does representation participate in policy? How do issues of representation relate to lived realities such as disproportionate incarceration of Native people in both the US and Canada, economic deprivation and/or limited economic opportunity, limited sovereignty, land exploitation, etc?