"An Indian in a white man's camp": Johnny Cash's Indian Country music

Dustin Tahmahkera

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Through critical analysis of Johnny Cash's songs, performances, and writings, I attempt to tune in his understanding of indigeneity, Indian-Settler relations, and his own real and imagined Native relations. Situated within historical and contemporary cultural and sonic contexts, Cash's Indian Country soundscape is saturated with real and imagined sounds of Indian and Settler from the physical and musical geographies of Indian Country. Indian Country music, a fluid and collective identifier for Country songs penned and performed by Natives and non-Natives, includes representations of Native Peoples, indigenous homelands, and Native-Settler relations. As I argue, Cash embodies his soundscape's tensions by singing and sounding ambivalently about Indian-Settler relations in accordance with his Indian relations and claims. In conjunction with his corresponding claims and eventual denial as "Indian," I follow Cash's soundscape through a map of his songs' Indian-Settler dualisms, namely interconflictual duel-ities over contested landscapes in his early songs (1957-1965) and interdependent dualities in subsequent compositions (1968-1975).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)591-617
Number of pages27
JournalAmerican Quarterly
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2011
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History


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