"All the real Indians died off" And 20 other myths about Native Americans

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, 1938-

Book - 2016

Dunbar-Ortiz deftly shows how myths about Native Americans are rooted in the fears and prejudice of European settlers and in the larger political agendas of a settler state aimed at acquiring Indigenous land and are tied to narratives of erasure and disappearance. Accessibly written and revelatory, All the Real Indians Died Off challenges readers to rethink what they have been taught about Native Americans and history.

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Boston : Beacon Press [2016]
Main Author
Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, 1938- (author)
Other Authors
Dina Gilio-Whitaker (author)
Physical Description
xi, 208 pages ; 22 cm
Includes bibliographical references (pages 181-208).
  • "All the real Indians died off"
  • "Indians were the first immigrants to the Western hemisphere"
  • "Columbus discovered America"
  • "Thanksgiving proves the Indians welcomed the Pilgrims"
  • "Indians were savage and warlike"
  • "Indians should move on and forget the past"
  • "Europeans brought civilization to the backward Indians"
  • "The United States did not have a policy of genocide"
  • "US Presidents were benevolent or at least fair-minded toward Indians"
  • "The only real Indians are full-bloods, and they are dying off"
  • "The United States gave Indians their reservations"
  • "Indians are wards of the state"
  • "Sports mascots honor Native Americans"
  • "Native American culture belongs to all Americans"
  • "Most Indians are on government welfare"
  • "Indian casinos make them all rich"
  • "Indians are anti-science"
  • "Indians are naturally predisposed to alcoholism"
  • "What's the problem with thinking of Indian women as princesses or squaws?"
  • "Native Americans can't agree on what to be called"
  • "Indians are victims and deserve our sympathy."
Review by Choice Review

A persistent activity of American Indian studies scholars is the need to fight unfounded assumptions, stereotypes, and prejudice resulting from American, Canadian, and European cultural blindness. These ubiquitous stereotypes can be seen in films, TV, fashion catalogues, and advertisements, or heard in words uttered in schools, courts of law, fights against pipeline demonstrators, and political rhetoric. They simply do not go away and affect Native American individuals, communities, cultures, and nations. As a result, every few years a dedicated scholar writes a new book designed to educate the public and dispel stereotypes' foundational misinformation. The most recent is this pithy and engaging book, which tackles 20 persistent and all-too-familiar myths that have skewed Euroamerican conceptions (casinos have made all Indians rich; government policies were designed to help Native peoples; the Thanksgiving holiday in the US is evidence that Indians welcomed the British). The authors demonstrate that such myths are based in settlers' societal needs to justify the past and present treatment of Native peoples, including the taking of their lands. Everyone can learn from this excellent, accessible text. Summing Up: Essential. All public and academic levels/libraries. --Nancy J. Parezo, University of Arizona

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Dunbar-Ortiz and Gilio-Whitaker admirably aim to explode popular, damaging, and inherently limiting myths about Native Americans, continuing the work begun in Dunbar-Ortiz's well-received An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States. Refutations of 21 common assumptions are bolstered by views from academic experts and members of Native American nations, and the book's overarching theme encourages modern readers to abandon the monolithic portrayals so common in popular culture. This earnest work would itself benefit from clearer delineations among the multitude of nations and widely varying traditions. In its most successful chapter, the prevalent myth of Native Americans as victims shatters as well-chosen examples show how members of modern nations actively work on behalf of environmental causes and on improving federal Native American policy. Several surprising statements could use additional historical or background context, particularly the claim for King Philip's War as the "most violent conflict ever fought on American soil." This book contains factual information that will benefit students and can spur productive dialogue, but those facts would be better served with companion portrayals of the horrific devastation that colonizers wrought upon Native Americans and continuing public and institutional efforts to properly respect and fairly treat the nations' members today. (Oct.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Review by Library Journal Review

This book will be a wake-up call to those who are confident that they understand the Native American experience. Dunbar-Ortiz (An Indigenous People's History of the United States) and journalist Gilio-Whitaker (Indian Country Today Media Network) present a no-holds barred, confrontational discussion of historical misrepresentations, cultural misunderstandings, and racial myths faced by today's Native Americans. Among the presumptions addressed and dissected are that modern tribal peoples are wards of the state, all of whom take advantage of government welfare or are rich from casinos; that sports mascots honor them; that the U.S. government gave them reservations and did not have a policy of genocide; and that native peoples were killed or died a long time ago. This work in many ways updates Devon Mihesuah's American Indians: Stereotypes & Realities, which, though less strident, argues against several of the same illusions. The authors forcefully present their views and maintain that it is time for indigenous narratives to be recognized and heard. VERDICT Highly recommended and essential reading for better understanding native voices in contemporary America.-Nathan Bender, Albany Cty. P.L., Laramie, WY © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.