Indigenous “Authenticity” in Thomas King’s Truth and Bright Water

When Monroe Swimmer returns to the reservation in Thomas King’s 1999 novel Truth and Bright Water, he ironically insists that his reputation as an indigenous creative is recognised. Upon meeting the text’s protagonist, Tecumseh, he stresses that “You’re supposed to say ‘famous Indian artist’ after you say ‘Monroe Swimmer’” (King 45). The anecdotes that detail Monroe’s early artistic endeavours are of questionable validity, either sourced from the “probably made up” tales of local real estate agent Miles Deardorf or news stories from the aptly named paper “the Truth Free Press” (25-26). Yet, regardless of how truthful they may be, these stories create an air of irresistible mystique around Monroe. The repeated declaration of the “famous Indian artist” title, by which “everybody” refers to him, intertwines his racial heritage with his profession (46). This association is reinforced through his creative endeavours, which are always in service of a “restoration” (in one way or another) of indigenous culture. His career has taken him “everywhere” – “Paris, Berlin, New York, London, Moscow, Madrid, Rome” – and he has developed an international reputation as an “authentic” figure of American Indian artistry (129). This reputation frames Monroe as the “organic intellectual,” Antonio Gramsci’s ideal of the individual who “articulates the understandings of a community or a nation,” a concept that King cites in his description of real-life Cherokee performer Will Rogers (Truth About Stories 41). However, “authenticity” is never so simple, especially in the context of indigeneity. Sylvia Escárcega explores these complexities in her article on shifting understandings of what defines indigeneity, in which she argues that for the indigenous intellectual, “authenticity” is not a straightforward search for “the genuine, pure, and unchanged” but rather it is “an appropriated political claim and self-conscious representation” in which the concept itself is “always negotiated” (21-22). Over the course of the novel, Monroe repeatedly engages in acts of self-conscious representation, utilising his awarded title of “famous Indian artist” to trouble, redefine, and negotiate notions of “authenticity.”

While the world outside of the reservation may regard Monroe as such, neither Thomas King nor Truth and Bright Water make any claims to be “authentic.” In fact, the novel actively subverts, parodies, and deconstructs ideas of a potential and infallible “authentic” indigeneity. In this article, I will argue that King offers commentary upon issues of authenticity, firstly through the characters of Lucy and Monroe, and then with regard to the Indian Days festival. I will consider how King presents American Indian tradition in the postcolonial context, especially its commodification and role in tourism and its appropriation by art, science, and history.[1] Finally, I will argue that, while recognising the difficulty of negotiating indigenous identity within contemporary North American society, King ultimately valorises the fluidity of identity. Through parody and mimetic art and performance, the novel destabilises and devalues “authenticity” while searching for a less problematic way to adapt indigenous cultural heritage.

Truth and Bright Water examines the destination of American Indian culture and tradition in the postcolonial context. As King notes, “Authenticity only became a problem for Native people in the twentieth century” (Truth About Stories 54-55). In the nineteenth century American Indians generally lived on reserves, “out of sight” of European settlers, and possessed “strong ties to a particular community’” (Truth About Stories 55). Through the twentieth century, increasing numbers of American Indians moved to cities, due partially to legislation such as the 1956 Indian Relocation Act. With much of the population geographically displaced, these once strong national or tribal ties have become “tenuous” (Truth About Stories 55). As King notes, the loss of Native languages as a result of imperialism has contributed to the estrangement of American Indians from their cultural history and destabilised concrete concepts of indigenous identity. As a consequence, “the question of identity has become as much a personal matter as a matter of blood” (Truth About Stories 54-55). King argues that whether an individual can be regarded as “authentically” American Indian is now determined in reference to “touchstones” such as their knowledge of Native language, involvement in traditional ceremony, and place of birth. These components form the basis of a compulsory “authenticity test” or “racial-reality game that contemporary Native people are forced to play” to prove their legitimacy as American Indians in an era where it seems “authenticity” is harder to access than ever before (Truth About Stories 54-55).

Indeed, these problems only emerged after the arrival of the white settler specifically because the conceit of “authenticity” is an imported one. This “notion of aboriginality” or “cultural authenticity” was introduced by imperial discourses such as anthropology in their “project of naming and thus knowing indigenous groups” and have since entered into these communities as essentialist narratives (Ashcroft et al. 163). While essentialist ideas can appear to protect and promote indigenous cultural heritage, they can consequently arbitrarily freeze a single “aspect” of that identity at the expense of all others by “elevating particular historical practices as core to the community” (Eisenberg 121). This is evidently the case with regard to American Indians. Although they possess “vibrant” and “changing” cultures, the perception is that the culture of indigenous groups froze at the moment of contact – as King writes, “the idea of ‘the Indian’ was already fixed in time and space. […] [T]hat image had been set” (Truth About Stories 37).

Tracing the genesis of these issues of indigenous “authenticity” to imperialism reveals the paradox at its centre. Notions of “authenticity” have been built on a foundation of deceit. King states that “there is no reason for the Indian to be real. The Indian simply has to exist in our imaginations” (Truth About Stories 54). The American Indian is reduced to a concept or idea. For the indigenous person, as King notes, this “disjunction between reality and imagination is akin to life and death.” This painful severance of identity demands that an individual must strive to be “authentic” before they can be “seen as ‘real’” or imagined as an American Indian (Truth About Stories 54). The indigenous person must therefore perform a concept of “authenticity” that is, at its very core, inauthentic.

King’s text resists this performance of “authenticity” and rejects taking part in the racial-reality game. Rather than favour one of the traditional or “authentic” methods of Native storytelling such as oral performance, King opts for the narrative to take the form of a novel. In their preoccupation with misreadings and misunderstandings (such as Tecumseh and Lum’s misidentification of Monroe), King’s stories themselves meditate upon the potential incompatibility of the confusion of contemporary life with this traditional form, which carries with it “messages and meanings that must not be misconstrued” (Cornell 176). Yet in taking on the static, written form of a novel, King risks an alignment of his narrative with the “official” (yet often forged or distorted) written histories and sciences that are deeply problematised within the text. He avoids this by marrying the two forms, inviting the open-ended ambiguity and unending nature of the oral into the novel and “invoking an infinite regress of meaning where there can never be one original, authentic story” (Schorcht 199). Although the text is reminiscent of classic Western/European narratives in its deployment of the Bildungsroman genre, King rejects a “standard Eurocentric plot-line that includes climax and catharsis” in favour of a “circular narrative formulation” (Davidson et al. 4). Narrative threads, such as the significance of Mia (a name from Auntie Cassie’s past) are left unresolved, and the novel closes with the introduction of an additional mystery when Tecumseh’s mother receives flowers from an admirer whose identity is withheld from both the protagonist and the reader (266). In this combination of forms, King recognises the often “obscured” history of contemporary Native literature, which has been influenced by both “white culture” and a tradition of “Native oral literature” (King, “Introduction” 13). He embraces the dual influences upon the genre, positioning his writing as “the bridge between the written and the oral.” This allows him to break down the “borders” between written and oral storytelling in the “creation of a hybrid narrative structure” (Davidson et al. 4).

The formal in-between space that King’s text inhabits defies the enforced structures of the “authentic.” As Sissions notes, “official binaries” of the “authentic”/“inauthentic” and the consequential “excluded middles” that are produced “within settler and post-settler states” represent the “legacies of colonial invasion” and reveal the “deep roots” that “the very question of indigenous authenticity” has within “colonial racism” (Sissions 43). To attempt to be “authentic,” for the artist, is not only an act of folly but also one that carries “real dangers.” King recognises that to make claim to an “authentic” indigenous voice overwrites “the actual complexity of difference” and may silence voices “as effectively as earlier oppressive discourses of reportage” (Griffiths 165).  In resisting and subverting “authenticity,” Truth and Bright Water unveils the constructed nature and problematic origins of the concept.

However, several of the novel’s characters do chase the ideal of “authenticity.” As previously discussed, individuals are forced to take part in racial-reality games that they are ultimately doomed to fail due to the impossibility of achieving this culturally constructed, essentialist ideal. Nonetheless there is, as King identifies, an “almost irresistible pull” to fulfil the Native archetype: to be “an Indian who has to dress up like an Indian in order to be recognised as an Indian.” This desire to comply and become a “cultural ritualist” or a “‘pretend’ Indian” embodies the deeply ambivalent relationship with the concept of “authenticity” that King depicts (Truth About Stories 45).

This irresistible, or even obsessive, pursuit of “authenticity” is exhibited in the novel through the character of Lucy Rabbit, who repeatedly bleaches her hair blonde in an attempt to look like Marilyn Monroe. Through the character of Lucy, King offers a parodic version of Homi Bhabha’s concept of mimicry. Bhabha describes mimicry as an “ironic compromise,” a strategy that addresses the tension between the “demand for identity”/“stasis” and the “counter-pressure” of “‘change”/“difference” in its appropriation of the image of the Other (122). Mimicry is not a perfect, indistinguishable imitation but is defined by “ambivalence” and its “difference” or “slippage” from its model (Bhabha 122). In Lucy’s case, this slippage is her inability to replicate Marilyn’s hair colour, as her hair is naturally so dark that bleach only colours it “flaming orange” (19). Lum perceives the bleaching of her hair as an attempt to erase her racial identity, asserting that “being blond” is equivalent to “being white” (22). Yet although the act can be interpreted as a form of white-washing, this is complicated by Lucy’s justification of the changes to her appearance with the theory that Marilyn was actually Native American (“probably Cree […] maybe Ojibwa”) but concealed her true identity (19). Lucy conducts what she perceives to be a restoration of the apparently stolen Native actress to American Indian culture through a deceptive self-transformation or forgery. Lucy’s desire to shed her American Indian identity in favour of appropriating and replicating Marilyn Monroe is apparently revealed in her explanation that “Marilyn was ashamed of being Indian, […] That’s why she bleached her hair.” In contrast, Lucy claims that her motivation is to prove to Marilyn that “bleaching your hair doesn’t change a thing” (201). Archibald-Barber reads Lucy’s failure to dye her hair, and therefore her failure to erase her “Indian-ness,” as a statement that rejects the possibility that one can ever truly alter or erase their identity (244). However, this act is even more complex and subversive than it first appears. Lucy’s theory of Marilyn’s origins may be dubious, yet she significantly recognises that history and culture have been manipulated and falsified, and therefore acknowledges the artifice of “authenticity.” The reshaping of her appearance can thus be interpreted, not as an act that proves the essence or unchangeability of identity, but on the contrary reveals that identity is not fixed and exists in a constant state of play. By engaging in the very pursuit of “authenticity” encouraged by legacies of colonialism, Lucy unconsciously destabilises the concept.

The orange of Lucy’s hair suggests a compromise between her naturally black hair and Marilyn’s “yellow-white,” rejecting the categorisation of her identity as simply “Indian” or “white” (19). As well as transforming her own appearance, Lucy rewrites Marilyn’s identity by insisting upon her American Indian heritage. This is most explicit when Lucy takes a marker pen and colours in Marilyn’s hair in a photograph, changing her iconic image in an act that recalls Monroe Swimmer’s campaign of artistic “restoration” (201). Another American icon, Elvis Presley, is subject to this rewriting as Lucy claims he too is Indian. This is further complicated by Elvis’s role as an American Indian in the western film Flaming Star, and later the character Elvin’s performance as Presley (210). Invoking mimicry, performance, and the slippage of identity to interrogate two of the most recognisable symbols of US pop culture, King goes beyond destabilising notions of essential or “authentic” indigenous identity to dissolve clear racial and cultural boundaries and reveal the constructed, inauthentic nature of all concepts of fixed identity.

One of the most disturbing examples of the preoccupation with “authenticity” in the novel is the Vampire Project. The project exemplifies the ways in which “racist” concepts of “authenticity” that have existed since colonialism continue to be “obsessed with indigenous blood” (Sissions 43). The colonial settler developed a “whole mathematics of blood quantum” based upon the idea of racial purity (synonymous in this case with “authenticity”). This served as “a pseudo-scientific foundation for indigenous exclusion” and worked to rationalise “a host of oppressive measures,” including “Aboriginal child abduction in Australia” and “massive land alienation in the United States” (Sissions 43). As its gothic nickname suggests, the Vampire Project involves the collection of blood from American Indians across the US and Canada by a University of Toronto research team. Recalling the Human Genome Diversity Project, the aim of the research is vaguely described in the newspaper as “something to do with genes and DNA” (166). The project signals the insidious return of colonial thought and the continued haunting of indigenous people in post-settler countries by the “legacy of bloody classification” (Sissions 43). Upon hearing about the project, Miles theorises that the goal of the researchers is to “find out where Indians came from” (166-67). For the researchers, this ironic question that demands an answer is the corporeal and vampiric realisation of the ongoing obsession with “authenticity.” The efforts to find the origins of the American Indian hopes to prove that they have come from elsewhere, working as an ultimate denial of their indigeneity.

Whilst discussing the Vampire Project, Miles warns Tecumseh to “watch out if those research boys show up here” and deems them “real blood-thirsty savages” (167). Referring to the researchers as “savages,” he enacts a reversal of the racist discourse that has historically aligned the “Native” with the uncivilized or the savage. This reversal not only rejects racist logic but also challenges the association between science and academia and the development of civilization. King challenges the same institutions later in the text, with the revelation that the remains of American Indian children have been stolen from reservations and stored in museums. As Monroe describes, “Anthropologists and archaeologists dig the kids up, clean them off, and stick them in drawers.” They are then re-exhumed every “ten years or so” when “some bright graduate student” uses them to write an academic paper (250-51). This act represents the ultimate theft from and violation of indigenous culture in the desecration of the dead.

Monroe describes his retrieval of the remains as a “rescue,” taking them from the museums and “returning” them to Bright Water, which he calls “the centre of the universe” (251). With no apparent knowledge of the origins of the corpses, his repatriation does not follow the “customs of their specific communities” but is rather a “highly generalized ceremony” (Archibald-Barber 246-47). Archibald-Barber is highly critical of this act, describing how Monroe “appropriates and subverts past Aboriginal figures and traditions for his own critical and artistic purposes.” He argues that the ceremony depicts the ethical “danger” of representing various cultures in a “single pan-Native framework of archetypes and assumptions” (Archibald-Barber 246-47). Indeed, the ceremony is not so much a respectful burial as it is performance art. Yet it is precisely through this performance that Monroe avoids falling into the trap of subscribing to the idea of a singular, universal ceremony that could properly represent and honour the deceased of an unknown number of distinct communities. With the knowledge of the true origin of the remains lost, there is no alternative “authentic” ceremony that can be performed that would be appropriate for the majority of the dead. Monroe finds a solution to this problem by inventing his own amalgamative, abridged parody of some far-removed tradition. As Tecumseh recognises when he states “I’ve never heard of a ceremony for putting bones into a river,” there is no “authentic” precedent for this unusual situation (251). With Monroe wearing a wig, dancing to his car stereo, and tossing bones into the river, the ceremony is undoubtedly ridiculous – but it is self-aware of its ridiculous nature. It is so parodic and so decidedly inauthentic that it avoids making claims of “authenticity” and does not overwrite the individual lost cultures and beliefs of the deceased.

This deliberate engagement with the inauthentic is a recurring strategy in Monroe’s art. As an indigenous creative and activist, he has “learned when it is strategic to use standards of authenticity” and when “to be flexible” (Escárcega 9). He tells Tecumseh that his artistic strength is “restoration,” and he was employed in several cities “fixing” paintings (129-30). While working on nineteenth-century landscapes that depict idyllic, empty American nature scenes, he supposedly discovered images of Indians lurking within the art. He later admits that he did not, in the traditional sense, “fix” these paintings, but in fact “painted the village and Indians back into the painting” (133, my emphasis). There is, however, still a “restoration” taking place. In resorting to artifice, Monroe reveals that the paintings of uninhabited, “primeval paradises” were always inauthentic (129). History, and the art that portrays it, has already been designed to sell the myth that before the arrival of the European settler the landscapes of North America were vast, empty, and ready to be taken. The histories of American Indians have been painted over by the apparatus of imperialism, yet they still exist deeply buried beneath the surface. Monroe’s restorative acts allow the hidden indigenous people to “bleed through” and slowly re-emerge through “layers of paint” (130).

Monroe achieves this restoration by appropriating the same tools deceptively utilised in the processes of imperialism. He not only adapts the landscapes of the paintings, but also enacts a literal rewriting of the real landscape surrounding Truth and Bright Water. For example, the church is painted out of the landscape and essentially made invisible, but still has a physical presence. With the town and reservation hidden behind the now invisible church, Monroe’s art has reproduced the false nineteenth-century representations of the empty land (Archibald-Barber 250). Just as art was utilised by white settlers to remove the presence of indigenous peoples and structures, Monroe erases the imperial symbol of the church. However, Monroe acknowledges that this false image is only “As far as the eye can see” (134-35). His artistic technique of choice, the trompe-l’œil, may relish the confusion it produces but, unlike the realist landscape paintings, it also celebrates illusion and thus makes explicit its inauthenticity. While the historic acts of imperialism remained covert, Monroe’s art does not conceal but rather parades its counterfeit nature.

This is also the case with the iron buffalo that Monroe installs in the landscape. When he informs Tecumseh that the buffalo “aren’t really real,” the boy responds with uncertainty, saying “I don’t know, […] They sort of look real.” The reaction this elicits from Monroe is an explosion of “smiles and tears” as he replies “Yes, that’s exactly right” (135). Here, Tecumseh unintentionally gives the exact response that Monroe desires and uncovers the artist’s philosophy. His work does not ultimately represent the “authentic” or the “inauthentic,” but celebrates the playful confusion that exists in the liminal space between.

In the humble early days of Monroe’s career, he would paint animals on “brown butcher paper” and try to “sell them for a few dollars.” He faced failure as “there was already an Indian artist in Toronto who had made a name for himself,” the implication being that there was no great desire for two indigenous artists (26-27). He only finds commercial success when his art becomes more provocative and overtly political, fulfilling the stereotype of the indigenous creative at a time when “Indian was becoming chic” (27). Monroe himself may later denounce this period as “reactionary” and “predictable,” but playing up to the expectations of the “authentic” Indian artist is certainly lucrative (129). It is only by doing so that he is dubbed “famous Indian artist,” a title which assumes that only one creative can somehow be the “authentic” voice of an entire, diverse people.

The “authentic” indigenous creative has historically been difficult to define. In 1990, the United States introduced the Indian Arts and Crafts Act, which sought to “protect Native Americans engaged in the arts and crafts market” from “non-Indians who might seek to market items that falsely suggest authentic Indian origins” (Sissions 48-49). To function, however, the Act demanded a deployment of the same racial-reality game that King recognises. To continue to work, artists must “prove their authenticity.” Those that failed to “meet the varying blood quantum and descent requirements of tribes” were subsequently “excluded” from producing “authentic Indian” art (Sissions 48-49).

In the novel, the commercial demand for “authenticity” in art is explored through the character of Tecumseh’s father, Elvin, and his wooden coyote carvings. He is open about the fact that he considers these carvings to be purely a matter of “business” (34). He is not driven by a creative urge, but rather the wish to capitalise on everybody “going crazy over traditional Indian stuff” (32-33). Elvin attempts to set his work apart from the fakes from Japan and Taiwan that are flooding the market by signing the bottom of each coyote. He claims that this is a necessity, so that the buyer knows they are “authentic” (32). However, this act actually achieves the opposite. The signature, insisting upon the “authenticity” of the wooden coyotes as “legitimate” indigenous artefacts, reveals their true nature as a commercial product. The carvings are simulacra with only a vague relationship to traditional indigenous culture, modelled instead after “the shit that they advertise in sports magazines” (32-33). The coyotes, abandoned by Elvin and swept “into the garbage,” suggest that in contemporary society “authentic” indigeneity is simultaneously valued as a marketable product yet, ultimately, disposable (37).

The coyote carvings represent the reification of indigenous culture into a marketable product. According to Carrigan, contemporary tourism is “a late capitalist product of previous western colonial projects” that is “bound up discursively” with fetishization (17). Tourism, and especially the aspects of fetishism within it, is dependent upon concepts of “authenticity,” which functions as “the currency at play in the marketplace of cultural difference” (Root 78).  Therefore, it often demands that indigenous people perform “authenticity.” King engages with these ideas in his portrayal of the Indian Days festival. Tecumseh exhibits his ambivalence towards the event (and tourism more generally) in his description of visitors “from Germany and France and Japan” wandering around and “asking the kinds of questions that make you feel embarrassed and important all at the same time” (101). Rather than a celebration of their own culture, the characters essentially become products and put themselves on show for the eager tourists.

This is evident through the character of Edna, who does not sell a physical artefact to tourists but instead allows them to purchase her knowledge – the “secret of authentic frybread” (211).  The tourists’ desire to obtain a “genuine” piece of culture reveals their belief that they can buy into “authentic” indigeneity. However, Edna claims that she maintains her “pride,” not by withholding the information from the buyers but by “holding out” until they make a greater offer for her recipe (211). She possesses agency and, unbeknownst to the buyers, holds the power within these transactions. Her sales technique is an elaborate, tactical performance that involves her wearing her “Indian face” and acting out a Native stereotype by waving her arms at the sky and banging a drum (211). The success of this method suggests that the item for sale is not the recipe itself, and what the tourists truly desire is to be sold a convincing performance that reinstates clear racial boundaries and binaries between the “authentic”/“inauthentic.”

The examples of Elvin and Edna reveal that the Indian Days festival offers an inversion of “the dynamics of cultural commodification,” allowing indigenous characters to profit from the “stereotyped exotic images that have been projected onto them” (Dvorak 19). As Lucy states, “Indian Days are the only time [they] make any money without having to fill in a form” (22). With no alternate means of earning money, the characters utilise the influx of tourism tactically. The use of tactics is glimpsed when Elvin is able to cross the US-Canada border while carrying cannabis by mimicking “the Indians you see in westerns on television,” a performance of the “dumb Indian routine” that non-Indians “love” (86). The festival involves a performance on a grander scale. The methods deployed by King’s characters to survive within the postcolonial context recall Michel de Certeau’s discussion of “making do” and the “ways of operating” utilised by individuals who have “no choice” but to live in a place which “lays down its law” (29-30). The American Indians are able to employ this “art of being in between” to create a space for themselves in which they “can find ways of using the constraining order of the place” to establish within it a “degree of plurality and creativity” (Certeau 29-30). Through the Indian Days festival, the inhabitants of Bright Water acknowledge and capitalise upon the power of tourism and the thirst for “authenticity.” Rather than be exploited, they exploit the situation through a strategic essentialism.

Indian Days may therefore be the realisation of the “white man’s wet dream,” but it is so knowingly (151). While the event allows tourists a chance to repeat, through simulation, the crimes of the settler (such as the near-eradication of the buffalo, parodied by replacing real firearms with paintball guns), the scenarios are so ridiculous that they are positioned as the butt of the joke. The tourists are also able to indulge in the fantasy of becoming “Indian,” dressing up in supposedly “authentic” traditional indigenous clothing. Monroe parodies this on two occasions. He firstly performs as a stereotypical German, playing a tuba and wearing a “pair of short pants [made] out of elk hide with elk hide suspenders” (25). In doing so, he reverses the flow of cultural appropriation and “calls attention to the marketability of all ethnic quaintness, even within the dominant European paradigm” (Dvorak 20). He therefore establishes “a vertical dynamic of substitution in which the biter is bit,” and “generates equivalence” by interrogating “cultural stereotypes” (Dvorak 20). In dressing himself in traditional German clothes, Monroe reverses the gaze of the tourists and once again challenges essentialist ideas of cultural identity.

This reversal of cultural appropriation is also the case in the second instance, in which he costumes himself as a white North American tourist. He is dressed in dual symbols of colonial legacy, a “white cowboy hat” that refers to classic Hollywood representations of the Indian in the western genre and a “red Hawaiian shirt,” another simulacrum of an indigenous culture that has been appropriated on a large scale by tourists (217). On both occasions, Monroe playfully engages in an act of mimicry that produces its own slippage,” a “double articulation” that poses an “immanent threat” to colonial power and discourse (Bhabha 122-23). When he hopefully asks Tecumseh if the disguise managed to “fool” him, he once again exhibits a belief in the fluidity of identity and a fondness for the confusion over what is “authentic.” He also displays this when he states “Guess who I just saw […] Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley” (217). Playfully accepting Lucy and Elvin as the real celebrities, Monroe valorises their respective acts of mimicry, embraces forgery, and awards the same significance to the inauthentic as the supposedly “authentic.”

In their self-aware rejection of the “authentic” and deployment of parody, King’s characters, especially Monroe, inhabit a liminal space between established binaries, destabilising essentialist ideas and promoting concepts of mimicry and hybridity. While the novel depicts the commercialisation and commodification of Native culture and heritage in contemporary society, the American Indian characters invert traditional power structures, often by playing up to stereotypical understandings of and demands for indigenous “authenticity.” Rather than subscribe to a static, exclusionary definition, King denies the existence of a singular and unquestionable “authentic” indigeneity and instead presents a fluid cultural identity with the ability to adapt and embrace change.


Works Cited

Archibald-Barber, Jesse R. “Trick of the Aesthetic Apocalypse: Ethics of Loss and  Restoration in Thomas King’s Truth and Bright Water”. The Canadian Journal of Native Studies, vol 29, no. 1&2. 2009, pp. 237-55.

Ashcroft, Bill et al. (editors). “Indigeneity”. The Post-Colonial Studies Reader. Routledge, 2007, pp. 163-64.

Bhabha, Homi K. “Of mimicry and man: The ambivalence of colonial discourse”. The Location of Culture. Routledge, 2004, pp. 121-31.

Carrigan, Anthony, Postcolonial Tourism: Literature, Culture and Environment. Routledge, 2011.

Certeau, Michel de. “‘Making Do’: Uses and Tactics”. The Practice of Everyday Life. Translated by Steven Rendall. University of California Press, 1984, pp. 29-42.

Cornell, George L. “The Imposition of Western Definitions of Literature on Indian Oral Traditions”. The Native in Literature, edited by Thomas King, Cheryl Calver, and Helen Hoy, ECW Press, 1987, pp. 174-86.

Davidson, Arnold E. et al (editors). “Introduction: Whose Borders?” Border Crossings:   Thomas King’s Cultural Inversions. University of Toronto Press, 2003, pp. 3-29.

Dvorak, Marta. “Thomas King’s Abo-Modernist Novels”. Thomas King: Works and Impact, edited by Eva Gruber, Camden House, 2012, pp. 11-34.

Einsenberg, Avigail. Reasons of Identity: A Normative Guide to the Political and Legal Assessment of Identity Claims. Oxford University Press, 2009.

Escárcega, Sylvia. “Authenticating Strategic Essentialisms: The Politics of Indigenousness at the United Nations”. Cultural Dynamics, vol 22, no 1, 2010, pp. 3-28.

Griffiths, Gareth. “The Myth of Authenticity”. The Post-Colonial Studies Reader, edited by Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin, Routledge, 2007, pp. 165-68.

King, Thomas. “Introduction”. The Native in Literature, edited by Thomas King, Cheryl Calver, and Helen Hoy, ECW Press, 1987, pp. 7-14.

–––. The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative. University of Minnesota Press, 2005.

–––. Truth and Bright Water. HarperCollins, 1999.

Root, Deborah. Cannibal Culture: Art, Appropriation, & the Commodification of Cultural Difference. West View Press, 1996.

Schorcht, Blanca. “‘One Good Story’: Storytelling and Orality in Thomas King’s Work”. Thomas King: Works and Impact, edited by Eva Gruber, Camden House, 2012, pp. 199-209.

Sissions, Jeffrey. “Oppressive Authenticity”. First Peoples: Indigenous Cultures and Their   Futures. Reaktion Books, 2005, pp. 37-60.

[1] There is no unanimously accepted name for the indigenous peoples of North America, and each alternative term (such as “Native American,” “First Nations,” and “Aboriginal”) carries potential issues. This assignment will therefore follow Thomas King’s lead in using the term “Indian.”