In his 2004 book, Indians in Unexpected Places, Philip Deloria (2004) explored how imagery and stereotypes about Native Americans from a non-Native perspective is complicated by the persistence of Native people to exist and function in modernity.  The title alludes to the fact that even today, non-Natives in the United States have specific expectations for how Native Americans should act, work and behave and that when Natives show up in unexpected places, like singing, driving or acting, this creates a discordance in the national narrative created about them.  Throughout the essays comprised in this book, Deloria (2004) draws upon the framework of the non-Native’s history of expectation placed upon the Native Americans.  Examining issues surrounding violence, masculinity, representation and technological modernity, to name a few, Deloria (2004) challenges the long held beliefs and stereotypes that have and still do subjugate and haunt Native Americans. 

            One aspect that I found particularly salient at this point in time was Deloria’s (2004) engagement with the technological.  Specifically, he talked about the appropriation of Native names and terms for different car brands and models.  This spoke to me on two levels: the first being that I am preparing a guest lecture for our Communication and Globalization undergraduate class tomorrow where I will be talking about Appadurai’s (1996) notion of the technoscape.  Why this is relevant is that I am specifically going to be talking about not only the information technologies that have influenced global flows, but also the mechanical technologies.  A question that we ask our undergraduates to get them thinking about technoscapes outside of the realm of the Internet and communication technologies is where their cars were made, with the follow up of: where was each part of your car made?  This is when Deloria’s (2004) examination of technology and expectations hit me on a second level: When I was preparing tomorrow’s lecture, I thought about the car that I had when I was most of my students’ ages, and it was a Jeep Cherokee.  That was my first car and while it was completely run-down, it was mostly reliable and perfect for growing up in Lake Tahoe.  After reading Deloria (2004) however, I realized that I had never really given thought to the fact that I was driving a Cherokee (Native term) in Tahoe (Native land) and I think that the partial reason why is because of what Deloria (2004) meant when he said: “…there is a palpable disconnection between the high-tech automotive world and the primitivism that so often clings to the figure of the Indian” (p. 138).   This more than anything else in his book framed one of his central theses best; which is that non-Natives often subconsciously place expectations upon Native people for how they should act, think and look-like.  Looking back at my time with that 1987 Jeep Cherokee, I realize that we often take what we think are the “best parts” of a dominated culture—the name of a Nation for a car model, for example—and completely devalue the rest.

Questions for the Week:

1.     Is this appropriation and expectation put upon Native Americans by non-Native similar to the kinds of appropriations and expectations we put on other dominated, minority groups (e.g., African Americans, queer individuals, etc.)?

2.     How has this proliferation of specific expectations placed upon Native Americans by non-Natives influenced how other countries treat their indigenous populations? 


Appadurai, A. (1996). Modernity at large: Cultural dimensions of globalization. Minneapolis, MN: University of 
          Minnesota Press.

Deloria, P. J. (2004). Indians in unexpected places. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas.

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