Everything You Know About Indians Is Wrong

Feb 15th, 2010 | By | Category: 21-3: Tribal College Faculty, Spring 2010, Media Reviews

By Paul Chaat Smith
University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis (2009)

Review by Michael W. Simpson

EVERYTHING YOU KNOW ABOUT INDIANS IS WRONGGrowing up in Oklahoma City, I remember the furniture store that encouraged our patronage because they “loved folks.”

In his book, Everything You Know About Indians Is Wrong, Paul Chaat Smith reminds us how the dominant culture in all of its various manifestations— media, schooling, law, politics, and academics— fails or refuses to deal with Native peoples “as just plain folks.” The battle for realistic and positive treatment by mass media, notes Smith, has always been a necessary component of Native struggle.

By considering the question of how we alter the dominant perception of Native peoples by the mass society, this book is a very powerful statement of resistance to the predetermined roles established by the majority culture – and too often adopted by Native peoples.

In a time when many Native people perceive a friend in the United States government, Smith also cautions that some of the worst policies have come from enlightened and progressive friends. He notes that “our circumstances require more critical thinking and less passion, guilt, and victimization.”

This very readable book is useful for tribal libraries, as well as for many classes ranging from introduction to graduate levels in the fields of American Indian studies, history, education, and others.

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