Public Native America: Tribal Self-Representations in Casinos, Museums, and Powwows

Public Native America: Tribal Self-Representations in Casinos, Museums, and Powwows

Public Native America: Tribal Self-Representations in Casinos, Museums, and Powwows

Public Native America: Tribal Self-Representations in Casinos, Museums, and Powwows

Synopsis

Mary Lawlor is associate professor of English and director of American studies at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

Excerpt

Over the course of the past thirty years, roughly since the 1973 standoff at Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, attention to American Indian tribes in the U.S. media has been noticeably on the rise. the increase marks a significant shift from the relative disinterest in Native affairs that characterized much of U.S. public culture during the first half of the twentieth century. At Wounded Knee, Oglala Lakota elders, political activists of the American Indian Movement (AIM), and three hundred residents of Pine Ridge along with their supporters took control of the community in a gesture of protest against a long list of offenses by the federal government. the list included generations of disregard for the legally binding terms of the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty and neglect of responsibility for the prosecution of major crimes against Indians on and off the reservation. Faced by a cadre of fbi agents, U.S. marshals, tribal police, and other paramilitaries enlisted by the pro-Washington tribal council president, the occupiers of Wounded Knee made their demands, held their ground, and captured the attention of the nation.

National newspapers, which had focused on aim during the previous year when the group had taken control of the Bureau of Indian Affairs headquarters in Washington, joined with the local South Dakota press in reporting on events at Wounded Knee regularly from February 28 through April 30, 1973. Much of the reporting dragged out exoticizing iconographies of the nineteenth century, including portraits of Indians as unassimilated losers in the progressive and competitive social environment of modern North America and as romantic resistance heroes. the coverage at first concentrated on the hostility of officials and offreservation neighbors toward the occupiers, but shortly into the seventyone-day affair, journalists began emphasizing a growing sympathy for the . . .

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