What is Geronimo doing sitting in a Cadillac? Why is an Indian woman in beaded buckskin sitting under a salon hairdryer? Such images startle and challenge our outdated visions of Native America. Philip Deloria's revealing accounts of Indians doing unexpected things - singing opera, driving cars, acting in Hollywood - explores this cultural discordance in ways that suggest new directions for American Indian history. Deloria chronicles how Indians came to represent themselves in Wild West shows, Hollywood films, sports, music, and even Indian people's use of the automobile - an ironic counterpoint to today's highways teeming with Dakota pickups and Cherokee sport utility vehicles. He also examines longstanding stereotypes of Indians as invariably violent, suggesting that, even as such views continued in American popular culture, they were also transformed by the violence at Wounded Knee. Throughout, Deloria reveals previously hidden narratives that force us to rethink familiar expectations. These ""secret histories,"" Deloria suggests, compel us to reconsider our own current expectations about what Indian people should be, how they should act, and even what they should look like. More important, he shows how such seemingly harmless (even if unconscious) expectations contribute to the racism and injustice that still haunt the experience of many Native American people today.
Philip J. Deloria, of Dakota Sioux heritage, is professor of history and director of the Program in American Culture at the University of Michigan. He is author of Playing Indian and coeditor of the Blackwell Companion to Native American History.