Real Indians: Identity and the Survival of Native America

Real Indians: Identity and the Survival of Native America

Real Indians: Identity and the Survival of Native America

Real Indians: Identity and the Survival of Native America


"In discussing a wide array of legal, biological, and sociocultural definitions, Eva Garroutte documents how these have frequently been manipulated by the federal government, by tribal officials, and by Indian and non-Indian individuals to gain political, social, or economic advantage. Whether or not one agrees with her solutions, anyone seriously concerned with contemporary American Indian issues should read this book."--Garrick Bailey, editor of "The Osage and the Invisible World "

""Real Indians "is a remarkably candid, engaging, and compelling book. It tells the important and often controversial story of how 'Indian-ness' is negotiated in American culture by indigenous peoples, policy makers, and scholars."--Robert Wuthnow, author of "Creative Spirituality "

"Eva Marie Garroutte has done an exemplary job of combining scholarly sources, personal accounts, interview data, and self-reflection to catalog and examine the ways in which individual and collective identities are asserted, negotiated, and revitalized. She invites readers to imagine an intellectual space where scholarly and traditional ways of knowing and telling come face to face in an epistemological landscape where the 'traditions' of social science and 'radical indigenism' can confront one another in constructive dialogue."--Joane Nagel, author of "Race, Ethnicity, and Sexuality


This book examines some of the many ways that American Indians speak and think about their identity. In one sense, I am just the kind of person who might write this book. I am a light-skinned, mixed-race person. I have been a legal citizen of an American Indian tribe since childhood, one who found her way back, in adulthood, to the Cherokee Nation that her father was born in, grew up in, and left. And I am a sociologist who teaches Native American Studies courses. For these reasons, I know a great deal about scuffles over American Indian identity from both a personal and a scholarly perspective.

In another sense, I am an unlikely person to write this book. It is a book that presumes to suggest to non-Indian and Indian people some ways of thinking about Indianness. As such, perhaps it would more likely have been written by someone who had spent her whole life in a tribal community instead of only a part of it, by someone who spoke her tribal tongue as a Wrst language, not as a language only partially and imperfectly acquired in adulthood. Perhaps it would more likely have been written by someone whose racial ancestry was not divided between European and American Indian: by someone, in short, whose more indisputable racial authenticity seemed to confer upon her a greater authority to speak on such a dificult question as race and identity.

My decision that I would write this book was infiuenced by two considerations. One of these was that the question of racial “authenticity” has been gaining great currency in recent societal debates and needs to be explored, most particularly in the case of American Indians. The other . . .

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