"I Lied All the Time": Trickster Discourse and Ethnographic Authority in "CrashingThunder"

Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 1998


University of Nebraska Press


Crashing Thunder: The Autobiography of an American Indian is based on a life story written by the Winnebago Indian Sam Blowsnake that was solicited, translated, and edited by the anthropologist Paul Radin. Like so many Indian autobiographies that are produced out of such cross-cultural exchanges and collaborations, Crashing Thunder includes a preface and introduction written by the anthropologist-editor in which he works to establish of the narrative's authenticity.' Radin insists in the preface, for example, that Blowsnake's manuscript has been "translated literally" and that "no changes of any kind have been introduced." After acknowledging that he did "enlarge" the narrative by incorporating more elaborate ver- sions of events merely alluded to in Blowsnake's original account, Radin goes on to again assert, in a sentence whose very repetitiousness makes it suspect, that the Indian narrator is the sole source for the narrative's con- tents: "It is needless for me to insist that I in no way influenced him either directly or indirectly in any way."2 Through such statements as these, Paul Radin not only declares that the book is authentic, but establishes, through that authenticity, its conformity to the demands of both autobiography and ethnograp