Everything you wanted to know about Indians but were afraid to ask

Anton Treuer

Book - 2012

What have you always wanted to know about Indians? Do you think you should already know the answers -- or suspect that your questions may be offensive? In matter-of-fact responses to over 120 questions, both thoughtful and outrageous, modern and historical, Ojibwe scholar and cultural preservationist Anton Treuer gives a frank, funny, and sometimes personal tour of what's up with Indians, anyway.

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Saint Paul, MN : Borealis Books ©2012.
Main Author
Anton Treuer (-)
Physical Description
190 pages : illustrations, portraits ; 22 cm
Includes bibliographical references and index.
  • Introduction: Ambassador
  • Terminology
  • What terms are most appropriate for talking about North America's first people?
  • What terms are not appropriate for talking about North America's first people?
  • What terms are most appropriate for talking about each tribe?
  • How do I know how to spell all these complicated terms?
  • What term is most appropriate-nation, band, tribe, or reservation?
  • What does the word powwow mean?
  • How can I find out the meaning of the place names around me that come from indigenous languages?
  • History
  • How many Indians were in North and South America before contact?
  • When did Indians really get to North America?
  • Why does it matter when Indians got here?
  • What do Indians say about their origins?
  • Who else made it here before Columbus?
  • Did Native Americans scalp?
  • Did Indians practice polygamy? Do they now?
  • What are native views about homosexuality?
  • How was gender configured in native communities?
  • Do indigenous people in Canada get treated more fairly by their government than those in the United States?
  • What is the real story of Columbus?
  • Why does getting the Columbus story right matter?
  • What is the real story of Thanksgiving?
  • What is the real story of Pocahontas?
  • When did the U.S. government stop making treaties with Indians and why?
  • Why do some people use the word genocide in discussing the treatment of Indians?
  • Religion, Culture & Identity
  • Why do Indians have long hair?
  • Do Indians live in teepees?
  • What is fasting and why do Indians do it?
  • What are clans and do all Indians have them?
  • Where are the real Indians?
  • What does traditional mean?
  • Aren't all Indians traditional?
  • Why is it called a "traditional Indian fry bread taco"?
  • What is Indian time?
  • What are Indian cars?
  • I thought that Indians have a strong sense of ecological stewardship, so why do I also see a lot of trash in some yards?
  • Do Indians have a stronger sense of community than non-Indians?
  • What is Indian religion?
  • Why do Indians use tobacco for ceremonies?
  • It seems like Indians have a deeper spiritual connection than in many religious traditions. Is that true?
  • What are some of the customs around pregnancy and childbirth?
  • What are naming ceremonies?
  • Can a normative person get an Indian name?
  • What are coming-of-age ceremonies?
  • How come everyone's laughing at a traditional Indian funeral?
  • Do they charge for participation in native ceremonies?
  • What is a sweat lodge?
  • Do Indians still get persecuted for their religious beliefs?
  • Powwow
  • What is a powwow?
  • What do the different styles of dance mean?
  • Why are "49" songs sung in English?
  • How come they have a prize purse at powwows?
  • Can white people dance at powwows?
  • Do women sing at powwows?
  • What is the protocol for gifts at powwows?
  • Tribal Languages
  • How many tribal languages are spoken in North America?
  • Which ones have a chance to be here a hundred years from now?
  • Why are fluency rates higher in Canada?
  • It seems like tribal languages won't give native people a leg up in the modern world. Why are tribal languages important to Indians?
  • Why should tribal languages be important to everyone else?
  • What are the challenges to successfully revitalizing tribal languages?
  • When were tribal languages first written down?
  • Many tribal languages were never written. Why do they write them now?
  • Why is it funnier in Indian?
  • How do tribal languages encapsulate a different world view?
  • Politics
  • What is sovereignty?
  • Why do Indians have reservations?
  • Why isn't being American enough? Why do Indians need reservations today?
  • Why do Indians have treaty rights? What other rights do they have that differ from most people?
  • What is allotment?
  • Why does my land have clouded title?
  • Is something being done about clouded title?
  • If tribes had hereditary chiefs, how come there is a democratic process in place for selecting tribal leaders in most places today?
  • What's the Indian Reorganization Act?
  • What are the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe and the Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council?
  • Why do so many Indians live in urban areas today? What is relocation?
  • What is termination?
  • Why do Indians have their own police and courts in some places?
  • Why does the FBI investigate murders on some reservations?
  • Why do state law enforcement agencies investigate murders on some other reservations? What is Public Law 280?
  • Don't tribes ever investigate murders on Indian land themselves?
  • Do Indians face racial profiling from law enforcement?
  • Should Leonard Peltier be freed?
  • Is AIM good or bad?
  • What is the Indian Child Welfare Act?
  • What is blood quantum, what is tribal enrollment, and how are they related?
  • How has tribal enrollment affected you personally?
  • How come some tribes ban the use and sale of alcohol?
  • Is there a solution to substance abuse in Indian country?
  • Do all Indians have drinking problems?
  • Why is there so much concern about mascots?
  • Why don't tribes do more to support language and culture?
  • Why are Indian politics often such a viper's pit?
  • Are tribes getting better?
  • Why do Indians have so many kids?
  • I heard that a lot of Indians serve in the U.S. military. How do they reconcile their service with the fact that the U.S. Army killed so many of their people?
  • How do Indians feel about the use of Geronimo as the code name for Osama Bin Laden?
  • Economics
  • Do Indians get a break on taxes, and if so, why?
  • Do Indians get a break on license plates?
  • Why should Indians be eligible for welfare if they are not taxed the same way as everyone else?
  • Are all Indians living in extreme poverty?
  • Are all Indians rich from casinos?
  • How has casino gambling affected Indian communities?
  • How have per capita payments affected Indian communities?
  • What is the future of Indian gaming?
  • What should tribes be doing to improve the economic condition of their citizens?
  • Education
  • What were federal residential boarding schools?
  • How come 50 percent of-Indians are flunking their state-mandated tests in English and math?
  • Is there anything that works in the effort to bridge the achievement gap?
  • How does No Child Left Behind affect Indian country?
  • Do all Indians have a free ride to college?
  • Perspectives: Coming to Terms and Future Directions
  • Why are Indians so often imagined rather than understood?
  • As a white person, I don't feel privileged. So what do Indians mean by that term?
  • Why don't tribes solve their own problems?
  • All these problems are not my fault. Why should I be asked to atone for the sins of my ancestors?
  • Is there anything wrong with saying that some of my best friends are Indians?
  • Is there something wrong with saying that my great-grandmother was a Cherokee princess?
  • I might have some Indian ancestry. How do I find out?
  • Why is that picture End of the Trail so popular in Indian country?
  • Regarding casinos and treaty rights, I'm not racist, but it doesn't seem fair to me. What's wrong with that line of thinking?
  • I'm not racist, but it all happened in the past. Why can't Indians just move on?
  • Why do Indian people often seem angry?
  • Do Indians ever work together?
  • What are some good books to read about Indians?
  • Are there any good Indian movies?
  • Have you ever been the object of direct racial discrimination?
  • You're a testament to your race. How did you turn out so good?
  • How can I learn more?
  • Conclusion: Finding Ways to Make a Difference
  • How can I help?
  • Acknowledgments
  • Recommended Reading
  • Notes
  • Index
  • Illustration Credits
Review by Choice Review

Award-winning author and historian Treuer here courageously addresses over 100 questions about Native peoples of North America with honest, sensitive responses. Growing up on and near Leech Lake Reservation in Minnesota, and currently professor of Ojibwe studies (Bemidji State), Treuer, in navigating the borderlands, has long recognized the need for balanced, accurate information about Indians. Questions cover the spectrum of issues relating to Native people--sovereignty, stereotypes, gaming, substance abuse, blood quantum, and homosexuality. Among the tough questions that the book addresses are whether the American Indian Movement is good or bad, what "traditional" means, and whether anything is wrong with saying that one's grandmother was a Cherokee princess. Treuer emphasizes the diversity of perspective, culture, and religion in Indian country and stresses that he does not speak for all Indians. His responses are mostly framed from his knowledge of Ojibwe history, culture, and issues, with some specific examples from other nations. Questions are organized topically in chapters on terminology, history, powwow, language, politics/religion, culture, and identity. Endnotes, organized by chapter, add authority. Suggested readings and a comprehensive index round out the volume. Nothing quite like this book has been available previously. Summing Up: Essential. Lower-level undergraduates and above; general readers. M. Cedar Face Southern Oregon University

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Library Journal Review

Positioning himself as an ambassador of the Ojibwe people, Treuer (Ojibwe, Bemidji State Univ., MN; The Assassination of Hole in the Day) endeavors to address misconceptions held by non-natives about the American Indian experience in the United States. He accomplishes his task by posing and answering approximately 125 questions divided into ten categories: "Terminology," "History," "Religion, Culture & Identity," "Powwow," "Tribal Languages," "Politics," "Economics," "Education," "Perspectives: Coming to Terms and Future Directions," and "Finding Ways to Make a Difference." Some of the questions, such as "Do Indians live in teepees?" and "What is the real story of Columbus?" are generic for this type of work, but other questions delve into politically sensitive areas such as the relationship between blood quantum and tribal enrollment. The author also thoughtfully provides examples of how cultural misunderstandings often have unintended consequences. For instance, he discusses how tribal license plates intended to show native pride became a tool for racial profiling by law enforcement. VERDICT This book, both entertaining and informative, is recommended for general readers.-John Burch, Campbellsville Univ. Lib., KY (c) Copyright 2012. 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.
Review by School Library Journal Review

Gr 9 Up-This collection of approximately 120 questions and answers, mainly gathered during the author's many public lectures on Native culture, can be used on many levels. Divided into chapters such as "Terminology"; "History"; "Religion, Culture, Identity"; "Powwow"; "Tribal Languages"; "Politics"; "Economics"; "Education"; and "Perspectives," questions range from general (What is a powwow? What were federal residential boarding schools?) to specific (How do tribal languages encapsulate a different world view?). Treuer, a Princeton scholar and member of the Ojibwe tribe, often uses personal examples in clear concise language, stating upfront that the views he expresses are his own. Black-and-white photographs and illustrations, both historical and modern, accompany the text where appropriate. Overall, this is a thoughtful and thought-provoking overview that serves to alleviate misconceptions and bridge knowledge gaps among cultures. A useful tool for students, an excellent resource for teachers, or simply an informative read for those interested in the topic, this book is for general purchase.-Madeline J. Bryant, Los Angeles Public Library (c) Copyright 2012. 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.