Celebrity Indians and Plastic Shamans
From: The Imaginary Indian
Non-native Canadians have always formed their impressions of the Indian without much reference to actual Native people, and especially without hearing what Native people might have to say about their own situation. There have been exceptions, however. Every once in a while a Native voice emerges from the background—or, as it were, the margins—and gains a wide audience among non-Natives, who then project onto it the voice of the “typical Indian” in the non-Native imagination. Whites have never been very good at distinguishing “real” Indians from non-Natives who appropriate an Indian persona and claim to have special insight into the Indian way of life. These “plastic shamans” speak with great authority and achieve wide recognition. They are accepted so easily because they conform to the image of the Indian held by the White world. They are the Indian that Whites wish the Indian to be: the Imaginary Indian come to life.
Daniel Francis is an historian and the author/editor of more than twenty books, including five for Arsenal Pulp Press: The Imaginary Indian: The Image of the Indian in Canadian Culture , National Dreams: Myth, Memory and Canadian History, LD: Mayor Louis Taylor and the Rise of Vancouver (winner of the City of Vancouver Book Award), Seeing Reds: The Red Scare of 1918-1919, Canada's First War on Terror and Imagining Ourselves: Classics of Canadian Non-Fiction. His other books include A Road for Canada, Red Light Neon: A History of Vancouver's Sex Trade, Copying People: Photographing British Columbia First Nations 1860-1940, The Great Chase: A History of World Whaling, New Beginnings: A Social History of Canada, and the popular Encyclopedia of British Columbia. He is also a regular columnist in Geist magazine, and was shortlisted for Canada's History Pierre Berton Award in 2010. Daniel lives in North Vancouver, BC.