Critical Issues in American Art: A Book of Readings

By Mary Ann Calo | Go to book overview

turning point in federal policy and attitudes. Besides the encouragement of tribal governments and cultures, the act rejected "the erroneous, yet tragic, assumption that the Indians were a dying race--to be liquidated." The document furthermore acknowledged, "We took away their best lands; broke treaties, promises; tossed them the most nearly worthless scraps of a continent that had once been wholly theirs." 53 Nearly twenty years later, in 1953, the government granted full citizenship to the Indians, and terminated federal supervision and control of tribal affairs.

Thus the demands for the Discovery's and the Rescue's removal, beginning in 1939 and continuing until 1958, coincided with these two hall- mark legislative acts of the twentieth century. Although no evidence suggests that people recognized the connections between the statues, nineteenth-century westward expansion, and the dispossession of Indians from their ancestral lands, nonetheless a number of twentieth- century Americans regarded the imagery as inappropriate to contemporary developments. Nevertheless, because the works are kept in storage, many Americans today are unaware of the historical significance and stereotypical imagery of the works. Despite the difficulty in acknowledging this aspect of our historical past, the Discovery and the Rescue remind us that "civilization" has "triumphed" at the expense of native Americans.


NOTES

Revised by the author from The American Art Journal, vol. 19, no. 2. Reprinted by permission of the author.

1.
United States Congress, House, 76th Congress, 1st session, April 26, 1939, House Joint Resolution 276.
2.
United States Congress, House, 77th Congress, 1st session, April 14, 1941, House Resolution 176, p. 2.
3.
Leta Myers Smart, an Omaha Indian from Nebraska, to David Lynn, Architect of the Capitol, October 6, 1952, Art and Reference Files, Office of the Curator of the Architect of the Capitol.
4.
Leta Myers Smart to David Lynn, November 1, 1953; petition drafted for the California Indian Day in Los Angeles (no date, Smart enclosed this in her November 1 letter); Smart to Lynn, December 19, 1953; Smart to J. George Stewart, Architect of the Capitol, January 24, 1955; Smart to William Langer, Senator from North Carolina, January 24, 1955; Smart to Senator Theodore Francis Green, Chairman of the Joint Committee on the Library, August 15, 1958; Smart to Stewart, November 5, 1958 (Office of the Curator of the Architect of the Capitol).
5.
Leta Myers Smart, "The Last Rescue:" Harper's, vol. 219, no. 1313 ( October, 1959), p. 92.
6.
United States Congress, Senate, 24th Congress, 1st session, Register of Debates, April 28, 1836, pp. 1314-1318, and 24th Congress, 1st session, Congressional Globe, pp. 406-407.
7.
Register of Debates, April 28, 1836, p. 1314.
8.
United States Congress, Senate, 24th Congress, 1st session, Senate Resolution 17, May 17, 1836, p. 1.
9.
United States Congress, House, 24th Congress, 2nd session, House Resolution 933, February 14, 1837.
10.
Luigi Persico to John Forsyth, December 14, 1838, and May 13 and 14, 1840, Office of the Curator of the Architect of the Capitol.
11.
Greenough to Robert Balmanno, October 29, 1850, Nathalia Wright, ed., Letters of Horatio Greenough; American Sculptor ( Madison, Wisconsin, 1972), p. 381.
12.
Congressional Globe, April 28, 1836, p. 1316.
13.
William H. Truettner, "The Art of History: American Exploration and Discovery Scenes, 1840-1860," American Art Journal, vol. XIV, no. 1 (Winter, 1982), pp. 4-31.
14.
See Dawn Glanz, How the West Was Drawn: American Art and the Settling of the Frontier ( Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1982), pp. 58-59; and Arthur A. Ekirch Jr. , The Idea of Progress in America, 1815-1860 ( New York, 1951; reprint ed., 1969).
15.
Literature on manifest destiny and westward expansion is extensive. Most helpful are Albert Katz Weinberg , Manifest Destiny: A Study of Nationalist Expansionism in American History ( Chicago, 1963); and Frederick Merk, Manifest Destiny and Mission in American History ( New York, 1966). See also HenryNash Smith

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