Approaching Whiteness

Acknowledging Native Americans as Scholars of Reversal in 19th Century Autobiographical Writings



Since the 19th century indigenous writers have been challenging their missing cultural, political and literary invisibility. Yet, stereotypical misconceptions of “the inferior Indian” continue to exist. This “study of reversal” unfolds an unseen perspective of Native Americans in which they emerge as ethnographers of whiteness and indigeneity.

Rereading the autobiographical accounts of Charles A. Eastman, Sarah Winnemucca and Zitkala-Ša results in a framework which allows us to reimagine native culture, while it simultaneously reverses and completes our understanding of white identity. This new approach investigates how these native writers create a counterimage of the “Indian’s White Man,” by creating their own study of “races.” By emerging as scholars of reversal ‘avant la lettre’, their works may additionally be read as testimonies of reconciliation.