Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask

Feb 25th, 2013 | By | Category: 24-3: The Science of Place, Media Reviews

Borealis Books (2012)

Review by Mary Annette Pember

In this refreshing book, Anton Treuer addresses the limited and often misguided notions that Americans have about Native peoples. Rightly so, he describes Indians (his chosen term to describe Native Americans) as “so often imagined but so infrequently well understood.”

In this straightforward, 120-question Q-and-A, Treuer simply and patiently answers questions such as, “Do Indians pay taxes? Do all Indians have drinking problems? Do all Indians live in tipis?”

That such outlandish, dated misconceptions about Native peoples still exist in the United States underscores the need for this easy-to-read, light-hearted, and well-researched book. The book also provides useful, easy-to-access suggestions and links for additional information. American Indians who often find themselves facing some of the more stereotypical, misguided questions addressed in this book may be tempted to keep a case of Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask in the trunks of their cars.

In 2012, Treuer received the St. Paul Foundation’s Ambassador Award as part of the organization’s “Facing Race: We’re All in this Together” initiative. The Foundation’s website describes him as a bridge-builder for his work with race relations groups in the community and for his efforts in the classroom. Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask is a keen example of Treuer’s efforts to forward racial understanding.

An accomplished scholar, Treuer is a professor of the Ojibwe language at Bemidji State University and author of several books about Ojibwe language and history including The Assassination of Hole in the Day, a well-known Ojibwe chief during the 1860s.

Mary Annette Pember (Red Cliff Ojibwe) is an independent journalist whose work focuses on Native issues, policy, and culture.

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