Red Men in Red Square

Claude Clayton Smith, Author
Claude Clayton Smith, Author Pocahontas Press $16.95 (336p) ISBN 978-0-936015-46-0
Reviewed on: 07/01/2001
Release date: 07/01/2001
Hardcover - 336 pages - 978-0-936015-47-7
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Choppy prose and a self-conscious, subjective mixture of reportage and political analysis undermine a potentially intriguing examination of the Russian Indianist movement, a small group devoted to learning about, learning from and preserving Native American culture. In the summers of 1990 and 1991, against a background of Communist bureaucracy and economic and political turmoil, Smith traveled to the Soviet Union with Chief Big Eagle of Connecticut's Paugussett Indian Nation. Chief Big Eagle, the star of Smith's earlier Quarter-Acre of Heartache and supposedly the book's drawing card, is in fact a drawback. At worst, he comes across as impatient, demanding, infantile and paranoid, as when he arrives at the 11th annual all-Union powwow in 1991 saying `` `Where the hell are the teepees! . . . They're trying to kill me, just like last summer.' '' At best, he seems materially naive, relentless in his demands for a fur hat and coat or cigarettes. When not portraying the Chief, Smith records his interviews with Russians on their reasons for adopting the Native American philosophy and way of life as well as their opinions on their own state. Lacking either close personal contact or concrete scholarly research, Smith's record fails as either memoir or social document. (July)
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