Synopses & Reviews
Don Smith or Lelooska (1933-1996) was well known in the Pacific Northwest as a Native American artist and storyteller. Of "mixed blood" Cherokee heritage, he was adopted as an adult by the prestigious Kwakiutl Sewid clan and had relationships with elders from a wide range of tribal backgrounds. Initially producing curio items for sale to tourists and regalia for Oregon Indians, he emerged in the late 1950s as one of a handful of artists who proved critical in the renaissance of Northwest Coast Indian art. He also developed into a supreme performer and educator, staging shows of dances, songs, and storytelling. During his peak years from the 1970s to the early 1990s, his shows attracted as many as 30,000 people annually. In this book, historian and family friend Chris Friday shares and annotates interviews that he conducted with Lelooska between 1993 and 1996. In the process, he develops a portrait that is large enough to embrace the contradictory elements of Lelooska's life. What, he asks, is Native identity? What is "authenticity" in art? How are we to understand the concept of pan-Indianism? What are the politics of Indian tribal adoption? By engaging these questions and the contradictions that produce them, Friday honors Lelooska's complexity and constructs Lelooska's life as a prism for viewing the shifting and historically indeterminate nature of twentieth-century Indian identities.
Includes bibliographical references (p. 237-274) and index.