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please note:

this is a mixture of my lazy academic reviews and personal moments as a mama going through academia, and it is all my own opinion, and has absolutely no affiliation with anybody else

writings & ramblings

The Imaginary Indian – Daniel Francis

from the publisher: “The Imaginary Indian has been, and continues to be―as Daniel Francis reveals in this book―just about anything the non-Native culture has wanted it to be; and the contradictory stories non-Natives tell about Imaginary Indians are really stories about themselves and the uncertainties that make up their cultural heritage. This is not a book about Native people; it is the story of the images projected upon Native people―and the desperate uses to which they are put.”


Yassssssss. The idea of the Indian and Indigenous being separate ideals, yassssss. The acknowledgement, in such bare bone terms, of the Indian being white construct – yasssssss. There were so many points in here that I could really connect with – where we idealize the Old Indian ideal, of wild ponies and war paint, but society refuses to acknowledge that Indigenous people have moved into being a surviving, thriving people. And how we have to take these ideals, confront them, and smash them by achieving or own stories, creating our own stories.

The cultural Appropriation is a great chapter – and if we apply that to literature, not just imagery, how do people tell stories about us in other cultures, and how do we claim copyright on our stories (should we/ do we?) and how does the stealing of our stories happen, and what happens when it does. Not really any answers, but relevant discussion to have. At what point does “art is for everyone” need to smacked down – art, yes, but not culture?


  • “There is no “correct” image of the Indian, or if there is I am not the person to be saying what it is” (6)
  • “Why do we believe what we believe about the past? That became the question that I tried to answer” (7)
  • “They were savage people, the Indians we learned about in the Social Studies class” (15)
  • “Native people live within a world of imagery that isn’t their own: in this book Dan Francis shows us where that world of imagery comes from, and how necessary it is that we struggle to sweep it away” (16)
  • “The Indian is the invention of the European” (20)
  • “I want to make it perfectly clear that while Indians are the subject of this book, Native people are not. This is a book about the images of Native people that White Canadians manufactured, believed in, feared, despised, admired, taught their children. It is a book about White – and not Native – cultural history” (21)
  • “The irony of seeking victory by invoking the totemic power of a socially pressed people was apparently not recognized. But a grasp of irony has never been the strong suit of White society when it wishes to appropriate elements of Native culture” (187)
  • “Advertising reinforced the belief that the best Indian was the historical Indian. It used the Indian as a symbol to appeal to modern consumers who admired values they associated with pre=industrial society” (188)
  • “Photographers, however, tended to pay more attention to the Indian. William Norman, Alexander Henderson, Oliver Buell, and scores of less well-known photographers aimed their primitive equipment at the Native villages beside the CPR mainline, capturing images of the Native people going about their daily activities” (190)
  • “Since the beginning of the country, non-Native Canadians have wanted iNdians to transform themselves into Whites, to assimilate into the mainstream. But there has also been a strong impulse among Whites, less consciously expressed perhaps, to transform themselves into Indians” (203)
  • “They are rejecting they role as fantasy figures in the Canadian imagination. The Imaginary Indian survives, but he/she is becoming increasingly unrecognizable as Canadians are being educated by their Aboriginal fellow citizens to a new understanding of white-Aboriginal relationships and therefore to a new understanding of the history of the country” (250)

buy the book: The Imaginary Indian 

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