Playing Indian: Performance of Indianness in Truth and Bright Water

  • Alan David Orr University of Victoria


In this essay I examine “Indian-ness” as a performed simulation of cultural identity in Thomas King’s Truth and Bright Water.  Characters in the novel, I contend, perform popular notions of “Indian-ness” as a substitute for any cultural heritage not appropriated, or damaged irreparably, by the history of colonialism.  I view these performances through a critical lens that draws on King’s and Leroy Little Bear’s individual work on Native American values and culture, Baudrillard’s theory of simulation, and Kathryn Shanley’s work on cultural appropriation and double consciousness in American culture.  King’s novel incorporates these ideas to poignant and tragic effect.