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34th American Indian Workshop - Abstracts - Friday May 17th

Session 24

Alessandra Magrin
‘From Sublime to Subliminal’: Fascination and Instrumentalisation of Native Americans in Italian Popular Culture from the 19th to the 21st Century

Italian interest in Native Americans, despite being as old as European settlement in America, has become the topic of scholarly attention only relatively recently. The most celebrated episode of Italian popular fascination with American Indians was the face-to-face encounter with Lakota Indians, which was brought about by Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show at the end of the 19th century. This event catalyzed most of the current Italian attraction towards ‘American Indians and the life on the frontier’, and definitely marked a watershed in the way ‘Indianness’ was perceived, represented and misrepresented from then on in Italian culture.

This paper addresses the representations of Indians in Italy during and after Cody’s Wild West Shows, throughout the 1900s and up until the earlier part of the 2000s. By analyzing mostly visual depictions of American natives, as found in a series of Italian ‘popular culture artifacts’ (illustrated magazines, satirical cartoons, postcards, photographs, dime novels, western comics, Spaghetti Western films, and propaganda posters), I will revisit and revise the phases of modern Italian interest in American Indians, and engage with issues such as: the reinforcement and challenging of stereotypes, authenticity, masculinity, memory, inspiration, and contemporary concerns over cultural appropriations and political exploitations of Native history.

Alessandra Magrin is a doctoral student at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, where she also teaches American History as a teaching assistant. She graduated in Foreign Languages and Literatures from the University of Milan then pursued a MLitt in American Studies at the University of Glasgow. Her Ph.D. is funded by the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, WY, and her research focuses on Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show and its legacy in Italian popular culture.


Agathe Cabau
Native American Representations by French Migrants and American Artists at the Paris Salons and French Great Exhibitions (1800-1914)

My dissertation investigates images of Native Americans displayed at the Paris Salons and French Great exhibitions of 1855, 1867, 1878, 1889, and 1900. In analyzing the exhibition and reception of these artworks, I demonstrate how artistic depictions of Native Americans were informed by the nineteenth-century visual and literary culture, and artists’ itineraries. The annual Salon exhibitions and the five French Great exhibitions were the most important venues for artists to showcase their works to audiences worldwide. It is noteworthy then that a significant number of paintings shown in these exhibitions depicted Native Americans. The body of works I analyze documents the two well-studied campaigns of painting Indians consisting in the representations of “the Noble Indian” and representations of “the Savage Indian”. In my dissertation, I analyze why these archetypal representations persisted in nineteenth-century exhibitions. My ultimate claim is that images of the Native American “Others” work on a complex set of historical, literary, and anthropological references that result in artistic depictions of contradictory and deliberately ambiguous figures.

My presentation will focus exclusively on artworks by French migrant artists and American artists that exhibited Native Americans’ depictions in France. I will discuss the reasons why these depictions conveyed to audiences benefitted at that time from an “aura of scientific accuracy”. A close focus on artists’ itinerancies and their migration to the West help to understand how new routes and techniques of transport brought new opportunities for artists to meet Native Americans. Salons’ artworks, in this sense mapped artists’ progressions in American territories. Nevertheless, these artists also represented fabled land as never being witnessed before by white men and doomed Indians. The part played by commissioners in the creative process will also be explored. Besides, I will examine how the “Fine Art” genre of the Salons influenced Native Americans representations over time.

Agathe Cabau is Ph.D. Candidate in Art History at the Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne University. She is conducting her Ph.D. dissertation “Representations of Native Americans at the Paris Salons and French Great Exhibitions from 1800 to 1914”under Professor Eric Darragon’s supervision. Her presentation is a reflection of the research she conducted as a Terra Foundation Fellow in American Art at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington D.C. in 2012.


Iris Edenheiser
‘The Indian Museum’. Works of a Dresden-born Sculptor Ferdinand Pettrich in the Vatican

Today almost forgotten, the Dresden-born sculptor Ferdinand Pettrich (1798–1872) is one of the artists of the early 19th century who dealt with the subject of ‘Indians’. Within the medium of sculpture his depictions can even be considered among the earliest of their kind. Pettrich studied with his father, Franz Pettrich, at the Kunstakademie (Art academy) Dresden and with famous neo-classical sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen in Rome. He went to Washington in 1837 and portrayed representatives of Native American tribes who negotiated land treaties with the US government.

This artistic occupation resulted in four bas-reliefs, four life-sized statues and 16 busts of terracotta-colored plaster as well as nine bozzetti, which are currently in the possession of the Ethnological Museum of the Vatican Museums. Many of the portrayed individuals are explicitly named (e.g. Tecumseh, Keokuk and Black Hawk). Pettrich’s body of work will be exhibited in Dresden in autumn 2013 as a cooperation project between the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden (SKD) and the Vatican Museums. The paper introduces the artist Pettrich and his sculptures, discusses them from an interdisciplinary perspective, combining art-historical, historical and ethnographic approaches, and outlines the curatorial concept.

Iris Edenheiser is Curator for “The Americas” at the Staatliche Ethnographische Sammlungen Sachsen (GRASSI Museum für Völkerkunde zu Leipzig, Museum für Völkerkunde Dresden und Völkerkundemuseum Herrnhut) / Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden (SKD), Germany. She holds M.A. in Ethnology, Comparative Religion and Spanish at University of Leipzig, Germany and University of Granada, Spain. She did her Ph.D. about indigenous gender concepts in the context of ethnicity and nationality in the Oriente of Ecuador at the Graduate School under the title “Identity and Difference” (University of Trier, Germany).


Trisha Rose Jacobs
The Material and Immaterial in Early Modern Representations of Native Americans: A Case Study

Among the collection of objects housed at the Royal Museum for Art and History in Brussels, is a standing cup fashioned from a silver mounted coconut, made in Antwerp at the end of the sixteenth century. The carved panels on the sides represent Biblical scenes, while the cover is surmounted by a small figure depicting a Tupinambá Indian. Many examples of such coconut cups may be found dating from the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century; however, this particular specimen is unique in terms of both its subject matter and self-reference to its own materiality. It presents the viewer with a three-dimensional model of the early modern mental image of the New World, in comparison to the flat, semi-ethnographical depictions of John White and Theodor de Bry, with which we are so familiar. What can this object tell us with regards to how Europeans viewed and located Native Americans in their mental landscape? Does its iconographic program, when compared to the Humboldt Cup described by Virginie Spenlé for example, indicate a difference between Catholics and Protestants in this regard?

Trisha Rose Jacobs (Cherokee) is currently working on a doctorate concerning mercantile intelligence networks at the end of the sixteenth century. She is employed as an assistant in the History Department at the University of Ghent. Her field of interests include: early modern political and mentality history with particular reference to the Americas; early modern identity construction, representation and negotiation; the historiography of colonization.


Session 25

Markku Henriksson
Do They Fit? Categorizing Native American Paintings

European and Euro-American paintings of Native Americans and First Nations can relatively easily be classified in three different categories. The first, perhaps best represented by George Catlin and Paul Kane, tends to look at Indians from a neutral point of view, and is interested in their clothing, manners, and perhaps history. This category can be called “romantic curiosity”. Some call it “anthropological approach”. Paintings of the second category see Native Americans and First Nations as enemies to the advancing white civilization. Well-known artists include Charles Schreyvogel and many paintings by Charles Russell and Frederic Remington. This category can be called “Indians as enemies.” During the late 19th and early 20th century, Native Americans and First Nations were thought to be a doomed race. James Earle Fraser’s sculpture “The End of the Trail” from 1915 depicts this concept very well. Paintings in this category would include certainly Henry Farney’s well-known “The Song of the Talking Wire”. This category can be called “Indians as a vanishing race.”

Although we can argue about details, and perhaps some paintings could be classified into more than one category, practically all European and Euro-American paintings fit nicely into these three categories. But what about works by Native American and First Nation painters? What about works by artists such as David Johns, Harry Fonseca, or Fritz Scholder? Can their work be categorized with similar fashion (even if we change the name of the second category to “Whites as enemies”)? This presentation looks at the difficulty of categorizing Native American art work even when it is done by Indians who express their artistic skills similarly with the white man, and have been educated into the European art form on painting.

Markku Henriksson has been Professor and McDonnell-Douglas Chair for American Studies in Renvall Institute for Area and Cultural Studies at University of Helsinki since 1999. He has also been Docent (Adjunct Professor) for American and Canadian Studies in the Department of History at University of Tampere since 1994. He received his Ph.D. in Social Sciences from University of Helsinki in spring 1988 and Ph.D. from Lettres, h.c., York University, Toronto, Canada in fall 1995. He has been awarded with honorary lifetime membership from Western History Association (WHA) in 2005.


Markus Lindner
Oscar Howe and Andrew Standing Soldiers: Contemporary Artists – A Comparison

Oscar Howe (1915–1983) was one of the most important Native American artists of the 20th century. Even if he became very famous and opened new ways for art through his “manifesto of Indian modernism and artistic autonomy” in reaction to a refusal of his painting Umine Wacipi at the American Indian Art Exhibition of the Philbrooks Art Center in 1985, he stayed in is home area for his whole life. While he became a fine artist, his contemporary, the equally talented Andrew Standing Soldier (1917–1967), never became more than an illustrator using themes from his everyday life for his paintings. Even if their artworks are very different, both are known as Sioux artists. The paper wants to discuss why two contemporaries with a similar background went different ways and what this means for the evaluation of their art from an anthropological point of view.

Markus Lindner is a cultural anthropologist at the University Frankfurt am Main, Germany. His Master’s thesis was about the photographs of Sitting Bull, and he received his doctoral degree for a dissertation on Tribal Tourism. Recently, he is working on contemporary Lakota artists. Other topics of interest are museum studies, material culture and contemporary Native American life.  Markus Lindner is member of the AIW Organizing Committee.


Ukjese van Kampen
A Yukon Indians Plays with & Appropriates the Dominanite’s Culture

This presentation will explain the relation of my own art to the First Nations community as well as to dominate White culture. I will explain how I use what I want from western art to get my message across. One set of artworks that will be on display will be of my people’s stories but with western art references to make them more recognizable. Other works will be a series of statements about my people in relation to each other as well as to the dominate culture. One group of works will be from my “A Native American Bare-Wolf in Europe” photographic series that literally illustrates the loss of my people’s culture when compared to culturally rich Europe. Along with a series of paintings there will be at least one performance that is written by me making statements of the loss of my culture. Most of the art to be exhibited has been exhibited in public galleries in North America and the performance has also been performed in a Public gallery in the Yukon.

Ukjese van Kampen is an unemployed artist and scholar from Whitehorse, Yukon in Canada. He is from the Tutchone First Nation people, Wolf Clan. He has been creating art for 40 years and has exhibited in over 80 art exhibitions worldwide. Ukjese is a commercial failure but an academic success as his art has been presented at conferences, written about in media and taught in a couple universities. He holds a B.F.A., M.A. and Ph.D.


Session 26

Chad Hamill
American Indian Jazz: Mildred Bailey and the Origins of a Distinctly American Art Form

In March of 2012, the Coeur d’Alene tribe of Idaho introduced concurrent resolution no. 49 in the Idaho House of Representatives, seeking to right the historical record and bring home Mildred Bailey, one of jazz’s first female vocalists. For over eighty years, Bailey – an enrolled member of the Coeur d’Alene tribe – has been known primarily as a “white jazz singer.” This misnomer matters. As the nation’s first woman to front a big band in the 1930s, Bailey carried considerable influence, pioneering the vocal “swing” style that countless jazz and pop singers sought to emulate, including Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Bing Crosby, and Tony Bennett. Rather than crediting her black contemporaries, Bailey pointed to the Indian songs of her youth as essential to forming her unique sound and style. Bailey belonged to a family lineage of Coeur d’Alene singers stretching back centuries and it can be argued that singing was a part of her ancestral DNA. Through a comparative analysis of traditional songs of the Coeur d’Alene and Bailey’s recorded vocalizations, this paper will explore Bailey’s musical inheritance and the Native origins of her musicality, suggesting that the indigenous songs of her youth were not only an essential component of her musical development, they were critical to the development of jazz itself.

Chad Hamill, descendant of the Spokane tribe, recently completed a manuscript titled Songs of Power and Prayer in the Columbia Plateau: The Jesuit, the Medicine Man, and the Indian Hymn Singer (Oregon State University Press, 2012). The book examines the role of song – both Native and Catholic – in the perpetuation of indigenous identity. Hamill is currently Assistant Professor of Ethnomusicology at Northern Arizona University, where he serves as Co-Chair of the Commission for Native Americans and as Affiliate Faculty in the Department of Applied Indigenous Studies.


Naila Clerici
Understanding History through Art from a Native American Perspective

Many contemporary Native artists want to identify themselves culturally, and even if the stylistic trends have changed through the years, reference to historical events, collective memory and contemporary issues related to Indians are present in all forms of art, including music. The artists want to show their views and, at the same time, their heritage, and mainly to convey a message and inform/educate the general public. This paper will present and discuss some of these topics and the events depicted or cited (in musical lyrics) to give these messages.

Naila Clerici currently teaches History of Indigenous Peoples of the Americas from an ethnohistorical perspective at the University of Genoa, Italy. Her publications include Sfumature di rosso. In Territorio Indiano con i Primi Americani / Shadows of Red. In Indian Territory with the First Americans (2011). Since 1984 she has been the general editor of Tepee, the only publication in Italian, for scholars and general public, about history, culture, literature of the Natives of the Americas. She is also a well-known photographer and organizes exhibitions and other events for the cultural association SOCONAS INCOMINDIOS.


Susanne Berthier-Foglar
Robert Mirabal: From Native American Flute to Musical and Political Activism

The contemporary musician Robert Mirabal is well known for his Native American flute performances and the evocative titles of his records: Warrior Magician (1996), Taos Tales (1999), Music from a Painted Cave (2001) and so on. He represents himself as a traditional Taos Pueblo tribal member which he undeniable is. However, Mirabal the showman seems well at ease in any contemporary setting of world music. While, in his younger years, Mirabal could be seen as a marketing product of record companies eager to profit from the sympathy-capital Native Americans inspired, the musician has re-constructed himself to represent Taos activism by impersonating historical figures of his pueblo and furthering the traditional corn-based economy. This paper analyses the eclectic mix of sounds that are still called “Indian” – despite the addition of Western orchestra instruments – and the self-representation in musical and political matters creating Mirabal’s persona.

Susanne Berthier-Foglar is Professor of Native American Studies at the University of Grenoble, France. She has published a monograph on Pueblo history Les Indiens Pueblo du Nouveau-Mexique, Presses Universitaires de Bordeaux, 2010 and edited books La France en Amérique, Université de Savoie, 2009; Biomapping (with S.Whittick, S. Tolazzi) Rodopi, 2012; La montagne, pouvoirs et conflits, (with F. Bertrandy), Université de Savoie, 2011; Sites of Resistance (with B. Madhu and L. Richard), Manuscrit, 2006.


Session 27

Enrico Comba
Sharing and Maintaining the Universe: A Comparative View of Sun Dance Ceremonies

The Sun Dance is one of the best known and most spectacular religious ceremonies of North American Plains cultures, and has been the subject of detailed studies and descriptions. It was conducted by almost all the nomadic buffalo tribes of the Plains, each one with its own version. Many differences existed in purpose, ritual elements and paraphernalia, and mythical origins from group to group. However, a comparative analysis of the various forms shows the existence of several common elements: the construction of a Sacred Lodge, the Center Pole as an axis mundi, purification of dancers into the sweat lodge, preparation of the pledgers by an instructor, prolonged fasting and dancing by the participants before the Center Pole as a fulfillment of a vow.

The Sun Dance usually was held during the summer solstice period and lasted several days. First, a straight tall tree to be used as the Center Pole was selected by a medicine man, then the Sacred Lodge was built, the tree was cut down and brought with much ceremony to the place of the dance, where it was planted in the ground. Built for only a single ceremony, after the performance was accomplished the Lodge was traditionally left to return to nature. The Sacred Lodge was a reproduction of the cosmos and its construction a repetition of the world making. An analysis of the ceremonial features and of the accompanying mythological traditions among different Plains cultures can contribute to the reconstruction of the ancient worldview of the hunting peoples who lived in the area since prehistoric times, adapting to the environment, organizing their way of life according to the cycle of the seasons and living with non-human beings in a shared universe.

Enrico Comba is Assistant Professor of Cultural Anthropology and of Anthropology of Religions in the University of Turin. His scientific interests are devoted mainly on the study of the mythical and religious traditions of North American Native cultures, particularly in the areas of the Plains and of the North-East, and on the cross-cultural study of shamanic rituals and worldview.


Marianna Keisalo-Galvan
The Art of Clowning

Various clown figures are an important part of many Native American rituals. Like the trickster, clowns are linked to transgression, transformation, and mediation of different categories. The Chapayekas are masked clown figures that portray Judas in the Yaqui Easter ritual of the Yaquis, an indigenous group residing in Sonora, Mexico and Arizona, USA. In this paper I will discuss how the Chapayekas’ performance is constructed, how it works as a part of the dynamics of the entire ritual, and how my analysis can be applied to other comic figures.

The Chapayekas combine two kinds of performance, requiring different kinds of skill: they perform set, conventional actions, and improvise and invent new actions. This creates dialectics of invention and convention that allow the figure to mediate between the ritual and its context, and different kinds of beings within the Yaqui cosmology. The conventional side of their performance is a cycle of death and rebirth that provides a symmetrical cosmological counterpart to the cycle of Jesus. Through invention, they separate themselves from the other performers and make themselves powerful. Alternation between the two modes enhances that power and brings it into the conventions of the ritual; ultimately the Chapayekas revitalize the entire ritual. This makes them extremely important to the continuity of both ritual and culture. The combination of continuity and change, convention and invention, is what makes it possible to recreate certain conventions of Yaqui culture as powerful and compelling in changing contexts. The Chapayekas create and constitute boundaries between the self and other, microcosm and macrocosm, sacred and profane. I argue that all clown and trickster figures are characterized by constant switching between invention and convention; this is what connects them to the collective and moral aspect of culture and, at the same time, makes them unpredictable and powerful.

Marianna Keisalo-Galvan received her Ph.D. in Social and Cultural Anthropology from the University of Helsinki in 2011. Her doctoral dissertation is an ethnographic study of Chapayekas, masked clown figures in the Yaqui Easter Ritual in Sonora, Mexico. She is currently an Adjunct Lecturer at the University of Helsinki and planning a research project on Finnish Stand-up Comedy. Her research interests include symbols, performance, world view, and humor.


Elzbieta Wilczyńska
Cultural Traditions of the Southern New England Tribes in the 21st century

The purpose of this paper is to explore the subject of cultural and artistic traditions of southeastern New England Native American nations in the 21st century. Since the time of their first contact with European settlers in the early 17th the Native people were the subject of different social and cultural assimilation processes, eviction from their ancestral lands and stagnant life on state-managed reservations, as a result of which many cultural traditions of these indigenous peoples were either discontinued, lost or perpetuated in secrecy.  Land reclamation trials and successful federal recognition of many of the native nations in the late 20th century led to their cultural and political empowerment, among them The Mashantucket Pequot Nation, the Mashpee and the Mohegan nations. As a result of this empowerment, many cultural practices and traditions were revived, reinvented or reconstructed.

In this paper I would like to present some of such practices, artistic achievements and events typical of all the southeastern New England Native American nations. The main emphasis will be on analysis of such events as powwows, festivals, and workshops organized by those nations and the role the events play in asserting the Native American identities of those tribes, in emphasizing their continuity with the past in contradiction of public opinion, in encouraging development and creation of indigenous arts among their members and in endorsing the pan-Indians character of their culture. It will be also shown how these cultural events are carried out for public practice and consumption among the non-Native American population of New England in order to endorse the presence and Native American identity of those tribes.

Elzbieta Wilczyńska works at the Department of Polish-British Cultural Relations, Faculty of English in Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań Poland. She conducts lectures in British and American History, and British and American studies. She also gives M.A. and B.A. seminars devoted to American culture, including Native Americans. Her academic interests are focused on Native American culture and history, in particular, the history and representations of the Pequot Nation and other New England Native American Nations.