The Corner

Fake Indians, Real Insults

Jonah: It took me a while to convince myself that Bernie Quigley is a real person and not a product of your imagination. Alas, he exists.

Beyond the self-parodying nature of his prose, reconsider this bit: “So Warren’s claim to be ‘part Indian’ is correct in mythical terms. Every old-school white Oklahoman is in this regard even if this in [sic] nominally not true. But it is not a lie to want to be Indian and to imagine your ancestors were. It is to be free of Europeanism. Emerson saw the laggard Europeanism within the Yankee mind as a curse of the unformed American, living half in shadow. It would bring temptation unnatural to us raised free in the forest; fascism, as in Italy, Spain and German [sic], and the perennial virus of French nihilism. . . . In the heartland it is almost universal for those who have been there for a few generations to claim Indian blood.”

“Almost universal”? Upon what authority does he write that? Is there any evidence for this claim? None that he cites, to be sure. It is news to this heartland native. (No, not “Native.”) Having grown up within smelling distance of Oklahoma, I’ve known my share of Sooners. I can’t think of one who dishonestly claimed minority status in educational and professional situations, much less an “almost universal” habit of doing so.

I can understand why some Indians object to being made into mascots for lousy sports teams. But I don’t think I’d much like to be made into a mascot for this kind of risible, content-free, soy-latte mysticism, either. (Though when it comes to that, the Indians don’t have it as bad as the Buddhists, the most aggressively trivialized religious tradition  I know of. Christianity may take a beating in the public square, but at least it hasn’t been reduced to a style of interior decorating.)


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