A Heart Made of Knotty Pine: The Cigar Store Indian in American Cultural Imagery

By Eddie Glenn.

Published by The International Journal of the Image

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Body metaphors have served throughout the ages as tropic representations of the human condition – be it social, governmental, spiritual or otherwise. From the biblical “body of Christ” to the “long arm of the law,” metaphors of the body have provided, and continue to provide, rhetorical imagery to discourse.
For centuries, the figure commonly known as the cigar store Indian has stood as a commonly accepted trope in American cultural imagery, a mute metaphorical representation of American Indian nations and their relationship to the dominant Euro-American culture. The image of the cigar store Indian accurately represents the dress and appearance of only a limited number of Indigenous American nations, and only as members of those nations appeared in past historical eras. However, it now stands, quite literally, as a stereotypical representation of all of the varied American Indian nations.
In this essay, I will discuss the cigar store Indian, as that image is presented through both Euro-American and American Indian discourse. I will argue that the cigar store Indian serves, not only as a metaphorical representation of the silencing of indigenous voices in the creation of imagery representing American Indian nations, but also as a site of empowerment discourse for contemporary American Indians.

Keywords: Indian, Indigenous, Cigar, Native, Native, Sovereignty, Imagery

The International Journal of the Image, Volume 1, Issue 3, pp.53-62. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 802.189KB).

Dr. Eddie Glenn

Doctoral Student, Communication Studies, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas, USA

Eddie Glenn is a doctoral student in the Communication Studies Department at the University of Kansas. His primary areas of interest are political communication, public sphere and democracy studies, and rhetoric education.