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Books Offer New Perspectives on American Indian Identity

November is a time of year when popular culture often revisits stereotypes about American Indians via mythologized depictions of the first thanksgiving in the New World. However, the historical facts don’t always match the picture painted in elementary school celebrations.

Scholars at The University of Texas at Austin whose research overturns these stereotypes include Steven Hoelscher, chair of the Department of American Studies, and Erika Bsumek, assistant professor of history.

Both of these faculty members have new books out this fall that examine issues of Native American identity and culture.

Hoelscher’s “Picturing Indians: Photographic Encounters and Tourist Fantasies in H.H. Bennett’s Wisconsin Dells” (University of Wisconsin Press, 2008) traces the many-layered relationship between white photographer H.H. Bennett and the Ho-Chunk Nation. Learn more about the Ho-Chunk people.

While Bsumek’s “Indian-Made: Navajo Culture in the Marketplace, 1868-1940” (University Press of Kansas, 2008) explores the complex links between Indian identity, the emergence of tourism in the Southwest, and the meanings behind the brand “Indian-made.”

Hoelscher and Bsumerk will discuss their work and sign copies of their books at Follett’s Intellectual Property this Thursday, Nov. 20 at 5:30 p.m.

Still want to learn more current American Indian cultural issues? Delve into other recent faculty books on this topic, such as:

• “Muting White Noise: Native American and European Novel Traditions” (University of Oklahoma Press, 2006) by James Cox, assistant professor of English;
• “New Perspectives on Native North America: Cultures, Histories, and Representations” (University of Nebraska Press, 2006) by Pauline Turner Strong, associate professor of anthropology; and
• “Captive Selves, Captivating Others: The Politics and Poetics of Colonial American Captivity Narratives” (Westview Press, 2000) also by Turner Strong.

For more background on Thanksgiving myths, check out “The Top 10 Myths About Thanksgiving” published by the History News Network at George Mason University.