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The Cheyenne at the Centre of the World: Revisiting 1960s and Thomas Berger’s Little Big Man

Artur Jaupaj


The 1960s are typified with “counter-culture revolution” when preconceived, cultural and artistic values were contested and uprooted to be replaced by more liberal and experimental paradigms pertaining to almost all aspects of life and society. Furthermore, the general mistrust towards preconceived and media generated images led to the rise of a new kind of Western labeled the New Western or Post-Western, which undertook to represent the western experience anew and provide more truthful depictions of how the west was won or lost. In fact, the whole era is best remembered for its aftermath rather than for what was accomplished during those tumultuous years. Likewise, Thomas Berger’s Little Big Man (1964), as a predecessor of the era, remains an exemplary novel worth revisiting. To begin with, it depicts for the first time the Plains Indians, The Cheyenne in particular, not simply as “noble savages” but as human beings with a well-structured and resourceful cosmology. As such, the novel sets the pace for other literary cross-cultural representations and establishes an anthropological approach of evaluating both cultures, that is, the Indian and the white. In addition, the novel highlights the power of “the circle”3 as compared to the power of “the square”, which makes the Indian culture more tolerant and compatible with present day social and cultural tensions at both individual and community level.

Keywords: 1960s, Plains Indians, The Cheyenne, Thomas Berger, Little Big Man.

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