Native American Representations: First Encounters, Distorted Images, and Literary Appropriations

Native American Representations: First Encounters, Distorted Images, and Literary Appropriations

Native American Representations: First Encounters, Distorted Images, and Literary Appropriations

Native American Representations: First Encounters, Distorted Images, and Literary Appropriations

Synopsis

From Columbus's journal jottings about "Indios" to the image of Sacagawea on the dollar coin, from the marauding Indians portrayed in the traditional western to the appearance of Native Americans in Dances with Wolves, from cigar box caricatures to the Crazy Horse monument rising near Mt. Rushmore, Native Americans have been represented-and misrepresented-over the past five centuries. What such depictions mean-what they say, and what they do, historically, culturally, and ideologically-is the subject of this book. In Native American Representations, leading national and international critics of Native literature and culture examine images in a wide range of media from a variety of perspectives to show how depictions and distortions have reflected and shaped cross-cultural exchanges from the arrival of Europeans to today. Focusing on issues of translation, European and American perceptions of land and landscape, teaching approaches, and transatlantic encounters, the authors explore problems of appropriation and advocacy, of cultural sovereignty and respect for the "authentic" text. Most significantly, they ask the reader to consider the question: "Who controls the representation?" Illuminating and timely, the animated debates and insightful analyses in this book not only showcase some of the most provocative work being done in the field of Native Studies today, but they also set an agenda for its development in the twenty-first century.

Excerpt

Columbus arrived in the New World in 1492, but America has yet to be dis
covered.

Jack McIver Weatherford, in Indian Givers: How the Indians of the Americas
Transformed the World

On August 6, 1996, the Wall Street Journal (Aeppel A1, A6) had a front-page article about “tribes of foreigners” visiting Indian reservations, remarking that Germans are particularly taken with Native Americans. A Zurich tour company offers $3,200 package tours to Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, and a Munich agency has a tour called Lakota Tipi and Travel. The Journal article describes a Japanese tourist being indoctrinated into the dress code of the sweat lodge before beginning his two-day fast on a hilltop for the “vision quest” part of his tour.

These stories are not isolated, nor is international interest in Native Americans unusual. Over 85,000 Germans belong to clubs devoted to learning about Indian tribes and cultures, this generation's version of the world created in the writings of nineteenth-century novelist Karl May, who wrote a series of novels about Old Shatterhead and his sidekick Winnetou, a fictional Apache chief. American interest in Native Americans is manifested in different ways and frequently in waves reflecting current politics, student unrest and protests, and, for literary scholars, various critical theories. The misrepresentation, commodification, and distortion of indigenous identities have existed from the moment of first contact.

The Norse in Newfoundland in 1004 are generally ignored in the history of European and Native relations because they simply killed those people who were in their way. They called the Native Americans Skraelings, a term that has been described as an untranslatable expletive. As a result, October 12, 1492, re-

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