Cover image for Going native : Indians in the American cultural imagination
Going native : Indians in the American cultural imagination
Huhndorf, Shari M. (Shari Michelle), 1965-
Publication Information:
Ithaca : Cornell University Press, [2001]

Physical Description:
xiv, 220 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Introduction: "If only I were an Indian" -- Imagining America : race, nation, and imperialism at the turn of the century -- Nanook and his contemporaries : traveling with the Eskimos, 1897-1941 -- The making of an Indian : "Forrest" Carter's literary inventions -- Rites of conquest : Indian captivities in the new age -- Conclusion: Rituals of citizenship : going native and contemporary American identity.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E98.P99 H85 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Since the 1800's, many European Americans have relied on Native Americans as models for their own national, racial, and gender identities. Displays of this impulse include world's fairs, fraternal organizations, and films such as Dances with Wolves. Shari M. Huhndorf uses cultural artifacts such as these to examine the phenomenon of "going native," showing its complex relations to social crises in the broader American society-including those posed by the rise of industrial capitalism, the completion of the military conquest of Native America, and feminist and civil rights activism. Huhndorf looks at several modern cultural manifestations of the desire of European Americans to emulate Native Americans. Some are quite pervasive, as is clear from the continuing, if controversial, existence of fraternal organizations for young and old which rely upon "Indian" costumes and rituals. Another fascinating example is the process by which Arctic travelers "went Eskimo," as Huhndorf describes in her readings of Robert Flaherty's travel narrative My Eskimo Friends and his documentary film Nanook of the North. Huhndorf asserts that European Americans' appropriation of Native identities is not a thing of the past, and she takes a skeptical look at the "tribes" beloved of New Age devotees. Going Native shows how even seemingly harmless images of Native Americans can articulate and reinforce a range of power relations including slavery, patriarchy, and the continued oppression of Native Americans. Huhndorf reconsiders the cultural importance and political implications of the history of the impersonation of Indian identity in light of continuing debates over race, gender, and colonialism in American culture.

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

Huhndorf (English and ethnic studies, Univ. of Oregon) here provides a scholarly yet accessible examination of pervasive European American attempts to project their cultural imagination onto their perceptions of Native American identity and to develop both personal and collective identification with these fantasies. Each chapter focuses on a particular historical time period, moving forward from the post-Civil War years to the present. The author draws many examples from literature and film (from Nanook of the North to Dances with Wolves) to explore European American expressions of "nativeness." She skillfully addresses issues of race and ethnicity and analyzes the European American romanticization and distortion of Native American culture and customs. This provocative study is recommended for anthropology and ethnic studies collections in academic libraries. Elizabeth Salt, Otterbein Coll. Lib., Westerville, OH (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

The author defines "going native" as the appropriation of American Indian culture by non-Native Americans in order to assuage the guilt of America's violent imperialistic history. A Ford Foundation Fellow, Huhndorf makes the contradictory claim that the appropriation phenomenon has been neglected in scholarship while footnoting the significant contributions of Philip Deloria, Vine Deloria, and Rayna Green. The book is flawed by a redundant writing style; its four chapters are uneven in quality and in depth. Noting examples of "going native" in a variety of contexts, the chapters include protracted descriptions of 19th-century world's fairs and expositions, an essay on cinematic and literary treatments of early-20th-century Arctic explorations and inhabitants, a subjective and exhaustive explication of Forrest Carter's books and subsequent screenplay adaptations (The Education of Little Tree and The Outlaw Josey Wales), and an amusing study of New Age shamanistic literature as the return of the captivity narrative. Citing the advent of the National Museum of the American Indian as merely a guilt-assuaging articulation of American denial of conquest is an example of the harsh and superficial judgments found throughout the book. V. Giglio Florida Atlantic University