All Indians Do Not Live in Teepees (or Casinos) by Catherine C. Robbins

A book review by Larry P. Madden All Indians Do Not Live in Teepees (or Casinos)

Robbins’ story starts at the 1999 reparation of the ancestral remains of the Pueblo people of the southwest. The Pecos and Jemenz people had more than 2,000 of their ancestors unearthed and hauled to museums and colleges in the east between 1915 and 1929. With comparable blind enthusiasm to that which fueled Manifest Destiny, the archaeological societies attacked ancient sites. With early science blindly bonded to Judeo-Christian values, civilizations couldn’t possibly exist unless linked.

This 1999 event spurred pride and an awakening for not only the Jemenz and Pecos people, but for all of Indian country. Indian artifacts no longer were just curious, but funerary items and proofs of science, art, and culture. This event also galvanized the California Indian communities as to pride of existence.

Robbins’ journey continues through the southwest. Navajo, Hopi, lifestyles, commonality, and distinct differences explored, as well as cities such as Santa Fe and Albuquerque all fall under the pen of author. Her search for answers takes her on a multiple year search across landscapes. She follows ceremonial protocols in the southwest, to giant social events such as the Gathering of the Nations in Albuquerque, N.M. She listened and found voices from the destitute to the richest, to uncover the ties that bind. Robbins surmises that in the Red World, “Things are more holistic . . . The sounds, dances, music, food, ceremonies are interconnected.”

Finding the poverty-stricken to the rich urban Native, Robbins pursued her story over the years, finding villages that have voted to not have running water and electricity to the urban ghettos of Indians. The economic questions that exist between Indian Country and the majority culture is a confusing and sometimes frustrating quandary. From misconceptions of free health care and rich casino Indians to natural resource treaties, the communication between cultures seems to be as confused as in earlier historic times. One particular venue is in the arts: for years Indian wares of pottery, bead work, and silversmithing were considered crafts rather than art. Even in the early times of the American Indian Arts Institute (IAIA) the works were not held in high esteem. As the days of the roadside arbor sales have faded and Santa Fe’s reputation grown to world class art venue, all of Indian Country has benefited. One area that has lagged behind is the acceptance of Modern Art, known as the Buckskin Ceiling. With a preconceived notion of Indian, the modern artist fought both Indian and mainstream critics to tear through the Buckskin Ceiling and work outside the traditional art box.

To be honest, while informative, this was a book that I had to work hard to finish. The author was working outside her culture and was surprised to see the limits on sovereignty, art and all the discussions concerning what’s “proper Indian.” But in a world where Indigenous people of Turtle Island only gained religious freedom in 1978, it doesn’t surprise me to find standing — real or imagined — barriers to this day.

Larry P. Madden (Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Wisconsin) was born and raised in the Sturgeon Bay area. A recent graduate of CMN, he enjoys the Powwow trail and strives to maintain balance on the red road.