Chapter Two: The Identity Tightrope

Louve Brochu

The first idea that this chapter expresses is the irony in how Aboriginal people don't have control over their identity. The text begins with the author explaining the process that he went through in order to have his work published; not only McNab had to obtain a whole set of permissions from diverse companies to use their logos with Aboriginal images in them, but the text also had to be revised and censored several times by more than one person before its publication, which did not let the chance to the reader to have access to the original copy. The difficulty encountered by the author, who is Aboriginal himself, made him realize that they (referring to Aboriginal people) don't have control on their own identity. He wants to write about what happened to his culture and his land, but is constantly reminded that even he has not the right to do that. It is so ironic that McNab had to ask permission to publish logos using his own Aboriginal culture, and was refused this right for some of them. Aboriginal people should be the ones asked permission by companies using "Indian" images in their logos, not the opposite.

The loss of control of Aboriginal identity brings up another topic: the identity crisis that Aboriginal people are going through because their culture has been used to other purposes than the original one. In fact, in this text, the reader will quickly realize that the image of the "wild Indian" has been used all over the place by sport teams and companies such as the Redskins, Braves Land O' Lakes, Igloo brand antifreeze, Eskimo Pie, Walters Axe Company, Tecumseh Products, Ronson Lighter Company, and much more. The stereotype that are used over and over again, and probably the image that comes to your mind when you hear the word "Indian" or "Native", is "the full-headdress, horse-riding, buffalo-killing, Custer-killing, teepee-dwelling "Indian"."(McNab,31). To represent the man we often encounter the image of the full headdress warrior. And for the woman we often see her as a "romantic object", as presented in the Land O' Lakes logo. The dominant culture is confronted to these images everyday and perceives it as a sign of remembrance and honor of what this land used to be. But these tribes were there before us, and have not disappeared. Nothing is being honored by diminishing a whole culture to simple logos on products at the grocery store, which are part of the corporate world that Aboriginal people have been forced into. Not only these logos suggest that Aboriginal culture is vanished and now an ancient thing, but they are also associated to the Indians with feathers on their heads dancing around a fire. The society that we live in killed the Native culture and now uses what is left, which are racist and degrading stereotypes, as publicity for the dominant culture. No wonder why Aboriginal people are suffering from identity issues. They have lost their culture through a cultural genocide and are now stuck between the image of themselves projected by popular culture and who they truly are. As the title of the book suggests, Aboriginal people are walking on a tightrope between these two identities.

Another point the author explained in his work is why the dominant culture is so obsessed with the Indian stereotypes in their logos. The author explains that in the book Playing Indian by Philip Deloria, there is great fascination of Indian references by North Americans. In fact, not only we see the fascination towards Indians in the logos, but we also witness it in the Boys Scout organization, the "hippies" from the 60's, as well as in the patriots who like to dress as Indians. We like to adopt their image because "in the popular mind, Indians are America" (McNab, 32). In fact, when the first immigrants came to America, it was really hard for them to adapt to the hostile climate and environment. Most of them had to rely on Native's knowledge of the land in order to survive. Because of the authenticity that the "wild Indian" image has, it is very common for companies to use it because of the pride that it procures to its customers.

Finally, I have to say that I really enjoyed my reading. It is very relevant for the reader and helps understand the reality that Aboriginal people were forced into. The author is Aboriginal himself, which gives even more credibility to his work. This text can help a student like me to understand on another level the concept of appropriation and miss-appropriation explained in class. Moreover, the author's point of view is backed up by great examples and researches.


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