Unpacks the twenty-one most common myths and misconceptions about Native Americans
In this enlightening book, scholars and activists Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz and Dina Gilio-Whitaker tackle a wide range of myths about Native American culture and history that have misinformed generations. Tracing how these ideas evolved, and drawing from history, the authors disrupt long-held and enduring myths such as:
“Columbus Discovered America”
“Thanksgiving Proves the Indians Welcomed Pilgrims”
“Indians Were Savage and Warlike”
“Europeans Brought Civilization to Backward Indians”
“The United States Did Not Have a Policy of Genocide”
“Sports Mascots Honor Native Americans”
“Most Indians Are on Government Welfare”
“Indian Casinos Make Them All Rich”
“Indians Are Naturally Predisposed to Alcohol”
Each chapter deftly shows how these myths are rooted in the fears and prejudice of European settlers and in the larger political agendas of a settler state aimed at acquiring Indigenous land and tied to narratives of erasure and disappearance. Accessibly written and revelatory, “All the Real Indians Died Off” challenges readers to rethink what they have been taught about Native Americans and history.
Dunbar-Ortiz and Gilio-Whitaker admirably aim to explode popular, damaging, and inherently limiting myths about Native Americans, continuing the work begun in Dunbar-Ortiz's well-received An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States. Refutations of 21 common assumptions are bolstered by views from academic experts and members of Native American nations, and the book's overarching theme encourages modern readers to abandon the monolithic portrayals so common in popular culture. This earnest work would itself benefit from clearer delineations among the multitude of nations and widely varying traditions. In its most successful chapter, the prevalent myth of Native Americans as victims shatters as well-chosen examples show how members of modern nations actively work on behalf of environmental causes and on improving federal Native American policy. Several surprising statements could use additional historical or background context, particularly the claim for King Philip's War as the "most violent conflict ever fought on American soil." This book contains factual information that will benefit students and can spur productive dialogue, but those facts would be better served with companion portrayals of the horrific devastation that colonizers wrought upon Native Americans and continuing public and institutional efforts to properly respect and fairly treat the nations' members today.