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Reviewed by:
  • Red Matters: Native American Studies
  • M. A. Jaimes * Guerrero (bio)
Arnold Krupat . Red Matters: Native American Studies. Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 2002. 167 pp.

Under an appealing title, Red Matters, Arnold Krupat has put forth an interesting text in Native American studies. His writings are in response to his appropriate perception that, in his own words:

red has not much mattered as yet, not in the aura of the postcolonial, gender and race, borderlands, cultural or subaltern studies. Although there exists at present a bold body of criticism demonstrating the importance of Native American literature in its own right and in relation to ethnic, minority, or [End Page 92] difference literature of a variety of kinds, Native materials still continue to be badly neglected.


The first section contextualizes three perspectives on Native American literatures under his interpretive concepts of "Nationalism, Indigenism, and Cosmopolitanism," and in terms of U.S. colonialism and tribal sovereignty issues. In what he describes as a "cross-cultural practice" that formerly focused on "ethnocentrism," he puts forth these three sociocultural/political perspectives, again in his own words:

The nationalist grounds her criticism in the concept of the nation and uses tribal/national sovereignty, a legal and political category, to guide her examination of Native cultural production. The Indigenist foregrounds what is instantiated as a pan-Indian geocentric epistemology, a knowledge different from that of dispersed Europeans and other wanderer-settlers [. . .] The cosmopolitan [. . . is a]ware that casual eclecticism can lead to critical and political irresponsibility, [. . . therefore] would cobble her criticism out of a variety of perspectival possibilities. Thus the cosmopolitan takes very seriously nationalist and indigenist insights, although her own position is that it is unwise to be bound too rigorously by either the nation or traditional knowledge.


I do appreciate his sensitive generic term usage of "she" and "her," even though incongruent with the fact that discourse on Native American studies or American Indian studies has mostly been a male dominated one, and in what I have termed a "trickle down patriarchy" that also reflects an "academic apartheid" (Jaimes * Guerrero, 1998; 1996) on hierarchal issues of sexism as well as racism and classism in ethnic studies in our higher learning institutions as well as tribal nations. At the same time, I also take issue when he generalizes that all Native scholars and writers operate solely from one perspective or another, and especially considering that Native American studies has always been interdisciplinary, as well as community- and service-oriented, and that this has enabled a cadre of these Native scholars and writers, including the literary arena, to write from a multidimensional perspective instead [End Page 93] of a grounded and myopic cannon. I also take issue that "Indigenism" necessarily means "pan-Indianism," since there is biodiversity in the broader indigenous worldview, which respects the distinctiveness of indigenous peoples and their unique cultures, and as "ecocultural" bioregional homelands (of which more will be said).

Among others, he cites the prolific works of the senior Native/Lakota scholar and honorary Native Philosopher, ffine Deloria Jr, who has written on the "Nations Within" and "tribal sovereignty" (Deloria and Lytle, 1984; 1983) and "Red Power movements" (Deloria, 1970; 1969), among other Native American issues. I use Deloria as one who is exemplary in using all three of these perspectives, as a "Native nationalist" who writes from tribal or indigenous perspectives, as well as his more "cosmopolitive" satires on the hypocrisy and duplicitousness of federal Indian law and public policy. One of his more recent treatises is Red Earth, White Lies (1995), which Krupat notes, and in which this multidimensional perspective is evident in his scathing criticism of "the myth of scientific fact" put upon Native Americans to rationalize "white superiority."

Krupat's second section is "On the Translation of Native American Song and Story," as his theorized history of historical attempts in translations. He highlights the theme of "Native identity" in its traditional cultural contexts, and in urging more conscientious effort in genuine efforts at "cross-cultural" understanding of difference.

Section three of his text is headed "American Histories," in which he also urges the need for everyone to be speaking the same "historical language...


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