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A “R e a l In d i a n ” t o t h e B o y S c o u t s : C h a r l e s E a s t m a n a s a R e s i s t a n c e W r i t e r P e n e l o p e M y r t l e K e l s e y No Indian who attempts to capture tribal ideas in the English language is free from misinterpretation. Many white-educated American Indians who write about tribal precepts have been written off as totally separated from “real” Indians and therefore unreliable sources of information about tribal values. . .. In truth, however, the presumed chasm in ideology between tribal traditionalists and educated Indian writers has been very slim. —Tom Holm, “American Indian Intellectuals” (1981) Recent revisionist efforts in American Indian literary criticism have sought to reframe our understanding of such early Native Ameri­ can authors as Alice Callahan (1868-1894) and George Copway (1818-1863) as ambivalent spokespersons for their tribes. A s partici­ pants in turbulent eras, these authors have often been faulted for the PART OF CLASS OF 1887. DARTMOUTH COLLEGE, AFTER A “RUSH." Eastman is in center, front. Black-and-white photograph. Courtesy of the Uni­ versity of Nebraska Press. P e n e l o p e M y r t l e K e l s e y equivocation that they practiced: they advocated for indigenous rights while sometimes apologizing for the demands they made and/or for their ethnic and racial difference. Scholars are now beginning to recon­ sider previous readings of these authors’ works and reinvestigate the subversive potential of their projects in light of the following questions: Was an engagement with the dominant discourse around racial iden­ tity a necessity for publication in their era? Does the use of this rhetoric equal a belief in its racial hierarchy? Was these writers’ ability to pub­ lish dependent upon their use of this discourse of identity? Does an engagement with the dominant rhetoric and aesthetic necessarily undo their attempts at “talking back” to Euro-American civilization and resisting its hegemony? Critics increasingly are finding that early Am er­ ican Indian authors who sometimes advocated assimilation invariably also had tribally centered agendas that contradicted these arguments for acculturation. American Indian literary critics are now beginning an archealogical effort in excavating the subversive potential of these writings and reformulating our paradigm for understanding them. A prime example of such a dismissed and sometimes maligned author is Charles Eastman (1858-1939), a Santee Dakota, and in this essay, I examine Eastman’s engagement with tribal thought and his strategies of resistance.1 Critics of American Indian literature historically have understood Eastman as an assimilated Native American who acquiesced to EuroAmerican claims of cultural superiority, a designation embodied by his role as the Boy Scouts’ Indian. These arguments are based on his deployment of nineteenth-century racialist discourse, yet they overlook the complexity of Eastman’s rhetorical strategies.2 The dominant dis­ course he utilized was produced by an understanding of race as a hier­ archical progression from savagery to civilization with the European race placed at its pinnacle, but while Eastman engages a racialist dis­ course, he does not use it to narrate the disappearance of Native Am er­ ican peoples but to resist it. Although Eastman fails to promote the mil­ itant sensibility that his contemporary Zitkala-Sa favors, scholars should avoid the monumental misstep of reading his life and work as the prod­ ucts of a stereotypical tragic mixedblood caught between two cultures that he can never reconcile. David Brumble’s arguments regarding East­ man’s use of racialist rhetoric, which I will explore later in this essay, embody this sentiment most fully. A number of other critics, including Dexter Fisher, Bo Scholer, and Arnold Krupat, have built the argument that Eastman typifies an assimilated Progressive Indian, but these claims overlook the subversive potential of his publications and life. WAL 3 8 .1 S p r in g 2 0 0 3 Rather than viewing Eastman’s publications as the products of...


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