Walking a Tightrope
Aboriginal People and Their Representations
“The most we can hope for is that we are paraphrased correctly. ” In this statement, Lenore Keeshig-Tobias underscores one of the main issues in the representation of Aboriginal peoples by non-Aboriginals. Non-Aboriginal people often fail to understand the sheer diversity, multiplicity, and shifting identities of Aboriginal people. As a result, Aboriginal people are often taken out of their own contexts.
Walking a Tightrope plays an important role in the dynamic historical process of ongoing change in the representation of Aboriginal peoples. It locates and examines the multiplicity and distinctiveness of Aboriginal voices and their representations, both as they portray themselves and as others have characterized them. In addition to exploring perspectives and approaches to the representation of Aboriginal peoples, it also looks at Native notions of time (history), land, cultures, identities, and literacies. Until these are understood by non-Aboriginals, Aboriginal people will continue to be misrepresented—both as individuals and as groups.
By acknowledging the complex and unique legal and historical status of Aboriginal peoples, we can begin to understand the culture of Native peoples in North America. Until then, given the strength of stereotypes, Native people have come to expect no better representation than a paraphrase.
"Timely in its appearance, Walking a Tightrope brings together a diverse collection of material on representations of Aboriginal peoples; some produced by Aboriginal people and scholars, others by non-Aboriginal academics. ... [T]he remarkable breadth of the collection is unmistakable. "- R. Scott Sheffield, H-Net Reviews
"Walking a Tightrope constitutes a remarkably unified presentation for a book of readings. "- John W. Friesen, Canadian Ethnic Studies, Vol. 39, number 5, 1 and 2
"Much of the material cogently reinforces central themes, one of which is that stereotypes, either negative or positive, often say more about the propagators of the stereotype than about the Aboriginal peoples and societies that are respresented. Another central theme is the role that non-Aboriginal respresentation of Aboriginal peoples has had in shaping the identities of Aboriginal people. This is a work that can be recommended for a general readership as well as for students of history, anthropology, and Aboriginal studies. A variety of perspectives, topics, and cultures are discussed in a way that aids understanding of the centuries of mirepresentation, and lack of appreciation, of the complexity and diversity of the indigenous cultures of Canada. "- David Mardiros, Canadian Book Review Annual, 2006