Cover image for Playing Indian
Playing Indian
Deloria, Philip Joseph.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New Haven : Yale University Press, [1998]

Physical Description:
249 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm.
General Note:
Originally presented as the author's thesis (Ph. D.)--Yale University, 1994.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E98.P99 D45 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



The Boston Tea Party, the Order of Red Men, Camp Fire Girls, Boy Scouts, and Grateful Dead concerts are just a few examples of the American tendency to appropriate Indian dress and act out Indian roles. This provocative book explores how white Americans have used their ideas about Indians to shape national identity in different eras--and how Indian people have reacted to these imitations of their native dress, language, and ritual. 25 illustrations.

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

Americans need Indians in order to define themselves as Americans, asserts Deloria (history, Univ. of Colorado). Beginning before the Boston Tea Party, and continuing into the present, Americans have adopted Indian attire, images, and traditions for both political and individual needs. These acts separated us from our European forebears while creating a unique American identity with which we are only partially comfortable, declares the author. As the country evolves, the ways in which Americans identify with Indians also change. Deloria, who is the son of Vine Deloria (Red Earth, White Lies, LJ 9/15/95), follows a strong family tradition of critically examining Indian-white relations. He demonstrates how "Indian play" has always taken on new shape and focus to engage the most pressing issues of a particular historical moment, and he notes that American views of Indians tell us much more about Americans than they do about Indians. While readers may wish the author had dealt more with Indian reactions to these phenomena, this important book belongs in all American history collections.‘Mary B. Davis, Huntington Free Lib., Bronx, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

By tracing the variety of ways Euramericans have historically conceptualized and imitated Indian peoples, Deloria (Univ. of Colorado, Boulder) analyzes how Native Americans and their cultures have become essential to an ambivalent and often contradictory self-identity that the US has never quite succeeded in securing for itself. Building on Rayna Green's foundational article "The Tribe Called Wannabee: Playing Indian in America and Europe," Deloria's unique work brings further nuance and insight to the often-noted phenomenon of basing a self-image on perceptions, real and imagined, of the "other." The author succeeds admirably in tracing this complex process from the donning of Indian regalia at the Boston Tea Party to the contemporary adopting of Indian identities by New Age "Reincarnated Again Shamans" (Ustabeens, in Green's terminology). More important, he shows Indians to be active and creative agents in this process, and though often exploited, marginalized, or supplanted, still able to use their central iconic position as a means to secure and transform their own identities. Written in a meticulous, lively, and, at times, humorous style, this multidisciplinary work is ideal for courses in American studies, history, ethics, anthropology, and literature. Upper-division undergraduates and above. R. A. Bucko; Le Moyne College