Ilanaaq is the latest North American example of “playing Indian” (Deloria 1998), a practice with vast historical precedent. With ilanaaq, Canada joins a host of nations who have turned to symbols of local indigeneity to assert their national distinctiveness. Such appropriation presents indigenous artists with a dilemma. The current flowering of indigenous letters, art and cinema in North America is generally taken as evidence that Canada and the United States, as thriving multiculturalist democracies, have broken with an earlier history of the expropriation and displacement of the Americas’ indigenous peoples. The art bears witness to a new historical period, in which respect for difference becomes the dominant logic of social and cultural relations. But this new historical period comes with a price of its own. Multiculturalism effectively demands that American Indians put their indigeneity on display. It prohibits Euroamericans from playing Indian—all such attempts are quickly denounced as cultural appropriation; ethnic frauds are regularly and ritually exposed these days. Instead, it requires that the Indians themselves play Indian to help legitimate the multiculturalist democracies they cannot help but inhabit.

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Copyright © 2006 Duke University Press.

The definitive version is available at: http://publicculture.org/articles/view/18/3/atanarjuat-and-the-ideological-work-of-contempor

Full Citation:

Siebert, Monika. "Atanarjuat and the Ideological Work of Contemporary Indigenous Film-Making." Public Culture 18, no. 3 (2006): 1-28.