Reservation Reelism: Redfacing, Visual Sovereignty, and Representations of Native Americans in Film

By Michelle H. Raheja | Go to book overview

4
Prophesizing on the Virtual Reservation
Imprint and It Starts with a Whisper

The Keep America Beautiful Inc. public service announcement featuring Iron Eyes Cody and other visual artifacts circulate the image of the ghostly Indian as a figment of an American imagination invested in Native Americans as spectral entities of a tragic and mostly elided past within a broader field of historical amnesia. Drawing from Donald Pease’s assertion that scholars of American studies, including postcolonial critics, “have fallen into the ideological trap of American exceptionalism by concluding ‘that colonialism had little or nothing to do with the formation of the U.S. national identity,’” Ali Behdad argues that European American “anamnestic disavowal” of U.S. national origins and history of genocide against Indigenous peoples is both intentional and is “a crucial component of its national culture.”1 Native Americans become apparitional excesses in the dominant culture’s repressed imagination, which seems perpetually unable to confront the violence of its founding. “The ghost makes itself known to us through haunting and pulls us affectively into the structure of feeling of

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