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4 3 2 WAL 3 5 .4 WINTER 2 0 01 narrative, Black Hawk’s “autobiography,” and guidebooks and artwork in the U.S. Capitol. In her strongest chapters, Scheckel reveals not only the inter­ play of popular and official rhetoric about Indians, but the interplay of gender and race in the construction of national identity. For example, she offers a mas­ terful reading ofhow guidebooks, produced for the U.S. Capitol visitor between the 18.30s and 1860s, enlisted citizens in a larger drama of U.S. history through its representation of Capitol commemorative artworks of American Indians which “made the political exclusion of Indians seem natural and necessary” (129). In this nuanced analysis, Scheckel links (although does not fully tease out) the “gendered construction of citizenry” enacted in this artwork with the construction of maternal and sexualized roles for Euro-American and Native American women in the other national origin stories covered in the book (139). When the West was East, U.S. legal and cultural texts staged efforts to pin down shifting and unstable boundaries of national identity. Though focused on the early nation, The Insistence of the Indian directs us toward the continued persistence of the “Indian” in U.S. popular culture and policy debates, thus underscoring how American Indians still “frame the meaning of the nation” (151). As such, Scheckel’s sharp reading of U.S. culture’s foundational ambiva­ lence toward American Indians holds lamentably and equally true for today: “Americans were anxious to embrace them as relics of the national history they longed for—and the present—where they could be located neither entirely within nor outside of American society” (95). O n the Rez• By Ian Frazier. N ew York: Farrar, Strau s and G iroux, 2000. 311 pages, $25.00. Reviewed by N ath an iel Lew is St. M ich ael’s College, C olchester, Verm ont Ian Frazier’s new book, On the Rez, is in many ways a response to his 1989 masterpiece, Great Plains. Great Plains celebrated the West as a place to be imagined; like Fitzgerald’s Nick Carraway “brooding on the old unknown world,” Frazier played the past against the present, lamenting lost opportuni­ ties but celebrating, through surprising literary reaches, the breathtaking joy of American mythology. It remains a cheerfully extravagant book (“Away to the Great Plains . . . now mostly plowed under!” [3]), brilliantly delivered; but it is also, in Frazier’s own reflection, “pretty romantic.” He later “realized that there was a very different way of looking at this part of the world. The idea of the pristine continent is a complete fantasy, and yet we keep playing it over and over again.” On the Rez is his attempt to look at the West “from another direc­ tion,” and it is indeed a much darker, quieter book, filled with doubt and uneasiness (from Atlantic Monthly [Dec. 1999]: 6). On the Rez opens with Frazier’s distinctively direct, calm voice: “This book is about Indians, particularly the Oglala Sioux who live on the Pine Ridge BOOK REVIEWS Reservation in southwestern South Dakota, in the plains and badlands in the middle of the United States” (3). For Frazier, Indian history and culture are cen­ tral in every way to understanding America itself; the fact that he is an outsider to the land and community at Pine Ridge saddens him but also gives him the opportunity to reconsider his own sense of self and country. He greatly admires what he finds in his reading about Lakota culture and in his visits to the reser­ vation: an egalitarian, independent community living with a “self-possessed sense of freedom” that can produce genuine heroes (5). And although he has no interest in playing Indian, he admits to being a “wannabe” (4). (He candidly asks, “[W]hat’s wrong with wanting to be something, anyway?” [4].) Countering such idealized (indeed, romantic) descriptions is the predictably depressing depiction of reservation alcoholism, violence, poverty, loss, and despair. Frazier acknowledges that there is often a disparity between the idea and the fact of Pine Ridge. “I know that the hopeful, big-sky feeling with which we often invest Western landscapes is at odds...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 432-433
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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