In this sweeping work of memoir and commentary, leading cultural critic Paul Chaat Smith illustrates with dry wit and brutal honesty the contradictions of life in "the Indian business."
|"Paul Chaat Smith pulls no punches and delivers not a few body blows. Smith's clear and at times sardonic voice expresses everything Indians might have wanted to say but up to now didn't feel they could."|
— Lowery Stokes Sims, Curator, Museum of Arts and Design
"While making sometimes heartening and at other times unsettling critical observations on conditions surrounding American Indians in historical and modern contexts, [Smith] conveys his observations in a casual, frequently funny and smart conversational form. Reading the book is almost like listening to a well seasoned, somewhat cynical old friend talking about something for which he deeply cares."
— Win Awenen Nisototung
"With acerbic wit and unflinching honesty, social critic Smith offers a collection of essays that were written over approximately a 15-year period. It is an eclectic collection that chronicles the evolution of his views on the politics of being a Native American, beginning with his obvious naivete as a committed activist within the American Indian Movement to his present employment with the federal government. No target is safe from his pointed barbs, not even himself. The explanation of how quickly his views toward the creation of the National Museum of the American Indian changed when the practicality of needing employment entered the equation is alone worth the price of the book. In addition to being an entertaining read, this book gives one much to consider as Smith challenges many of the tropes that too many authors utilize when writing about native peoples."
— Library Journal
Raised in suburban Maryland and Oklahoma, Smith dove head first into the political radicalism of the 1970s, working with the American Indian Movement until it dissolved into
dysfunction and infighting. Afterward he lived in New York, the city of choice for political exiles, and eventually arrived in Washington, D.C., at the newly minted National Museum of
the American Indian ("a bad idea whose time has come") as a curator. In his journey from fighting activist to federal employee, Smith tells us he has discovered at least two things:
there is no one true representation of the American Indian experience, and even the best of intentions sometimes ends in catastrophe.
Everything You Know about Indians Is
Wrong is a highly entertaining and, at times, searing critique of the deeply disputed role of American Indians in the United States. In "A Place Called Irony," Smith whizzes through
his early life, showing us the ironic pop culture signposts that marked this Native American's coming of age in suburbia: "We would order Chinese food and slap a favorite video into the
machine--the Grammy Awards or a Reagan press conference--and argue about Cyndi Lauper or who should coach the Knicks." In "Lost in Translation," Smith explores why American Indians are
so often misunderstood and misrepresented in today's media: "We're lousy television." In "Every Picture Tells a Story," Smith remembers his Comanche grandfather as he muses on the
images of American Indians as "a half-remembered presence, both comforting and dangerous, lurking just below the surface."
Smith walks this tightrope between comforting and
dangerous, offering unrepentant skepticism and, ultimately, empathy. "This book is called Everything You Know about Indians Is Wrong, but it's a book title, folks, not to be taken
literally. Of course I don't mean everything, just most things. And 'you' really means we, as in all of us."
Paul Chaat Smith is associate curator at the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian. He is the coauthor, with Robert Warrior, of Like a Hurricane: The Indian Movement from Alcatraz to Wounded Knee. Learn More
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May 29th - June 1st, 2013
The conference theme, "Towards a New Social Contract?," will explore inequality in Latin America. In the first decade of the 21st century, income inequality has gone down in a substantial number of Latin American countries. This is the first time that inequality has declined on such a broad scale since we have had reasonably reliable data on income distribution. Beginning in the 1990s educational reforms have expanded the percentage of the population with secondary and tertiary education. The governments of the left that came to power after 2000 implemented a number of other reforms to improve life chances for the underprivileged, such as increases in the minimum wage, social assistance programs, and health care coverage. Are these trends likely to continue, or are they conjunctural and easily subject to reversal once economic growth rates decline? Learn More
June 13th - June 15th, 2013
The NAISA Council invites scholars working in Native American and
Indigenous Studies to submit proposals for: Individual papers, panel sessions, roundtables, or film screenings. All persons working in Native American and Indigenous Studies are invited and encouraged to apply. Proposals are welcome from faculty and students in colleges, universities, and tribal colleges; from community-based scholars and elders; and from professionals working in the field.Learn More
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