Walking a Tightrope: Aboriginal People and Their Representations


377 pages
Contains Photos, Illustrations, Bibliography
ISBN 0-88920-460-8
DDC 305.897'071




Edited by Ute Lischke and David T. McNab
Reviewed by David Mardiros

David Mardiros is a lawyer and anthropological consultant in Terrace,
British Columbia.


Despite the nearly 500-year relationship between North American
Aboriginal peoples and Europeans, much of what non-Aboriginal Canadians
know about the history and culture of Aboriginal North America is still
based on stereotypes that are frozen in time. As the various authors of
this edited volume demonstrate, little of the diversity and multiplicity
of Aboriginal cultures and societies that are present in this country is
represented in popular portrayals or understanding of “the Indian.”

The book is divided into three sections. The first, by Aboriginal
commentators writing about some of the consequences that the
appropriation of their voices and stories by others has had, is followed
by sections concerning historical representations and, finally, literary
and cinematic portrayals of Aboriginal peoples and culture. The subject
material ranges from an examination of 19th-century writings in Canada
to the representation of the Indian in East German films of the 1950s
and 1960s to an analysis of the work of the Royal Commission on
Aboriginal Peoples. Much of the material cogently reinforces central
themes, one of which is that stereotypes, either negative or positive,
often say more about the propagators of the stereotype than about the
Aboriginal peoples and societies that are represented. Another central
theme is the role that the non-Aboriginal representations of Aboriginal
peoples has had in shaping the identities of Aboriginal peoples.

This is a work that can be recommended for a general readership as well
as for students of history, anthropology, and Aboriginal studies. A
variety of perspectives, topics, and cultures are discussed in a way
that aids understanding of the centuries of misrepresentation, and lack
of appreciation, of the complexity and diversity of the indigenous
cultures of Canada.


“Walking a Tightrope: Aboriginal People and Their Representations,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 18, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/17099.