Paul Chaat Smith and His Pal Irony Offer a Dose of Indian Reality

By Carol Berry
Indian Country Today Media Network.com

Smith_Everything coverTraveling cross-country and through time with his old friend Irony, author Paul Chaat Smith lets you know that everything you thought you knew about Indians is wrong … or right, depending on the roles Indian people choose to accept or discard, and for what reasons.

Those who enter here may not escape unchanged. That’s the covert power of the delightful Everything You Know About Indians Is Wrong (University of Minnesota Press, 2009). Overall it is a good-natured, if pointed, analysis of Native America and mainstream society past and present, but written—and here you’ll wish to pause for a moment’s thought—by a man who says his animal guide is a rock band.

Although Smith at times worries about the blandness of contemporary cultural analysis, his mentor Irony may still be around: “Dead? I don’t think so. Wherever Germans build tipis, government officials announce BIA reorganizations, Indians star in westerns and tribal chairmen argue that high-stakes casinos are a traditional affirmation of sovereignty, Irony lives.”

Issues of individual and collective identity weave together the book’s essays, written over a 16-year period, as Smith describes himself in part as a suburbanite with Comanche heritage who wants the real “Comancheness” he finds in the rural Oklahoma of his ancestors.

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