Since first contact, Natives and newcomers have been involved in an increasingly complex struggle over power and identity. Modern “Indian wars” are fought over land and treaty rights, artistic appropriation, and academic analysis, while Native communities struggle among themselves over membership, money, and cultural meaning. In cultural and political arenas across North America, Natives enact and newcomers protest issues of traditionalism, sovereignty, and self-determination. In these struggles over domination and resistance, over different ideologies and Indian identities, neither Natives nor other North Americans recognize the significance of being rooted together in history and culture, or how representations of “Indianness” set them in opposition to each other.
In Indian Country: Essays on Contemporary Native Culture, Gail Guthrie Valaskakis uses a cultural studies approach to offer a unique perspective on Native political struggle and cultural conflict in both Canada and the United States. She reflects on treaty rights and traditionalism, media warriors, Indian princesses, powwow, museums, art, and nationhood. According to Valaskakis, Native and non-Native people construct both who they are and their relations with each other in narratives that circulate through art, anthropological method, cultural appropriation, and Native reappropriation. For Native peoples and Others, untangling the past—personal, political, and cultural—can help to make sense of current struggles over power and identity that define the Native experience today.
Grounded in theory and threaded with Native voices and evocative descriptions of “Indian” experience (including the author’s), the essays interweave historical and political process, personal narrative, and cultural critique. This book is an important contribution to Native studies that will appeal to anyone interested in First Nations’ experience and popular culture.
"There are books you wait for, patiently, because you know that when they finally arrive, your patience will be rewarded. I have been waiting patiently for Gail Guthrie Valaskakis's Indian Country: Essays on Contemporary Native Culture and my patience has been rewarded! These essays are a joy to read, filled with insights not only on Native culture, experience, and politics but also on the value and practice of cultural studies. Indian Country is one of those books you will share with your colleagues, assign to your students, and recommend to your friends. It is, quite simply, one of the best books on questions of culture, identity, and belonging that I have read in a long time. "- Lawrence Grossberg, Morris Davis Distinguished Professor of Cultural Studies, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
"Indian Country is a perceptive analysis of the interrelated histories and family encounters of Natives in Canada and the United States. Gail Guthrie Valaskakis weaves the distinct narratives of personal experiences, political practices, treaties, and social science observations into a mature, memorable collection of critical essays. "- Gerald Vizenor, Professor Emeritus, University of California, Berkeley
"Creates an intriguing and insightful account of `interrelated realities: individual and collective, past and present, Indian and Other. '... Having read Valaskakis's book, researchers in 'Indian Country' will never again consider Native people and their articulations `transparent' but will extend their research into composite methods of `interpreting practice, decoding silence, and reconstructing absence' -- only to arrive at `truths' [that] are . .. changeable and ambiguous. "- Renate Eigenbrod, University of Toronto Quarterly, Letters in Canada 2006, Volume 77, Number 1, Winter 2008
"Illustrated with fascinating images and photographs, Valaskakis' accounts are dense, intensely researched, theoretically sophisticated, and highly personal. The result is impossible to summarize, but tremendously enlightening and interesting to read. "- Margery Fee, Canadian Literature, 191, Winter 2006
"One of the volume's strong points is its elimination of the artificial border we call the 49th parallel dividing Turtle Island into Canada and the United States. Another is that throughout the volume Valaskakis continually gives examples of the relationships between Indian people and non-Indian people . .. in a well-balanced manner. ... I recommend this volume highly to anyone who wishes to learn . .. about the worldview of Indian people. "- William Asikinack
"Indian Country is an excellent example of the emerging paradigm of indigenous scholarship in its blend of the personal with indigenous and mainstream academic theory. It is firmly grounded in the personal lived experiences of the author, which ground and inform the theoretical analysis and reflection. "- David Newhouse, Trent University, Peterborough