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Now Blogging Afresh at Ad Orientem 西儒 - The Western Confucian

Monday, September 08, 2003

Playing Indian

For four years now, the first reading of my English 102 class has been "Native Americans" by Jamake Highwater from the Mosaic 2 Reading textbook. This article has increasingly annoyed me over the years, with its stereotypical depiction of American Indian beliefs and its routinely politically correct anti-Western stance. I remember his writing being very popular while I was at the university, especially among the Joseph Campbell crowd. Therefore, it was with much joy that I heard that Jamake Highwater was a complete fraud. The Biographical Note of the Guide to the Jamake Highwater Papers says this about Mr. Highwater:

The 1969 takeover of Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay by members of the American Indian Movement, and Highwater's visit in 1970 to a Pueblo Indian historic site caused him to begin to think seriously about issues pertaining to American Indians. Information he apparently received from an affidavit by his adoptive mother in 1974 led him to conclude that one or both of his biological parents had indeed had "Indian blood," as he had previously believed, and that his birth name had been Jamake Highwater.

Indian activist Hank Adams did much to expose the fraud of Jamake Highwater in his Open Letter To The Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post In the Form of a Last Chapter on Jamake Highwater, written as a Letter to the Contents of Box 34 in the Jamake Highwater Papers of the Manuscripts & Archives Division of the New York Public Library. Another interesting reaction is presented on the At Wanderer's Well ~ A Magazine of Literature and Opinions website in an essay entitled Jack Marks is Dead, Oh Well.

Jamake Highwater was exposed in the early nineties, yet his writing appears in my textbook, which was published in 2002. Why was this fraud allowed to persist? The answer is because what he writes is completly in line with the politically correct updated ideal of the Indian as Rousseau's "Noble Savage." Highwater also repeats all of the tired anti-Western arguments that have been so popular in the Western world since the so-called Enlightenment.

Highwater's case reminds me of a few other literary frauds invloviong Indians:

*The Education of Little Tree by White Supremecist Forrest Carter.

*All of the works of Carlos Castaneda.

*Black Elk Speaks: Being the Life Story of a Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux by John Gneisenau Neihardt. This is not a complete fraud, but fails to tell the whole story of Black Elk and how he became a Catholic catechist for his people. From a site called Native Sprituality - Black Elk we read:

While Black Elk fully accepted the Catholic faith, he believed that many of the old ways had come from God. He often compared his people to the Israelites who waited for Christ. He said, "God prepared us before the missionary came. Our ancestors used the pipe to know God. That's a foundation! But from the old country came Christ from heaven -- a wonderful thing -- the Son of God. And the Indian cares about this."

This is pure Catholic doctrine, alluding to the fact that the Holy Spirit speaks to all peoples and that God gives all men the necessary grace for Salvation, even those who have never heard the name of Christ.