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Scholar to discuss Native American’s effect on pop culture

Photo courtesy of the University of Michigan.

Photo courtesy of the University of Michigan.


In most areas of America, Native American Indian tribes were the first settlers, and to this day, Natives remain central to the American identity.

Scholar Philip Deloria is scheduled to visit the Alma College campus to discuss, “American Indians in the American Popular Imagination. He is a professor with the American Studies department at the University of Michigan.

Kristin Olbertson, an Associate Professor of History at Alma College, said Deloria will be able to trigger his audience in a way that others cannot.

“He’s going to take the familiar and make it unfamiliar to us,” she said. “I think that’s really the mark of a great speaker and a great scholar who can make what we think we know and think what we understand, and show us that there is more to understand and more to think about.”

One of Deloria’s books, Playing Indian, uses several modern examples of how Indian culture influences American culture today. Those include the Boy Scouts and Camp Fire Girls.

“White people, white Americans or people who identify themselves as white would dress as indians,” Olbertson said. “That’s what he means by ‘Playing Indian,’ sort of adopting elements of Indian appearance, culture or character for really specific and political purposes. Not all of which, even the people adopting these disguises, totally understand.”

Olbertson said that Deloria uses those instances to question why society attempts to replicate Native American culture.

The presentation is scheduled for Thu., Jan. 30 at 7:30 p.m. in the Swanson Academic Center on the Alma College campus.

Admission is free and open to the public.