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34th American Indian Workshop - Abstracts - Thursday May 16th

Session 15

Mylene Hengen
Contemporary American Indian Art Engagement Internationally

This paper will examine the implications of North American Indian contemporary artists’ engagement in national, transnational and international networks. Gathered in various organizations, art or curatorial collectives, conceptual native artists engaging in media such as installation, painting, video art, etc., gather to exhibit, promote and produce native art  ‘across borders’ – whether they be tribal, regional or international. The push towards a deepened engagement with the global contemporary art world gives rise to new meanings for native art and for the ‘native artist’. Exhibiting in forums such as the Venice Biennale, the engagement with Other forms of aesthetic values – through the inscription of indigenous-produced media outside of the Indigenous market in North America and into new value and meaning producing frameworks – raises interesting questions on the status of contemporary Native art production. What new forms of resistance or self-assertion are contained in the collective push towards the recognition of native art on a global level? How is contemporary native arts production influenced by the ideas, forms and values ‘brought home’, circulated and utilized locally? Finally, on the notion of an artistic ‘indigeneity’, what is at stake in the movement away from a ‘Native art’ defined by certain codes, criteria and values established by the Indigenous art market in North America towards one that engages with contemporary artistic production internationally?

Mylene Hengen is a Ph.D. candidate in Social Anthropology at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales. She works on Contemporary Native American art and the Indigenous art market in the United States.


György Tóth
From Museums to Social Justice: The Role of Art in the Transatlantic Alliance for American Indian Sovereignty of the Late Cold War

In June 1973, just weeks after the siege of Wounded Knee, American Indian Movement leader Vernon Bellecourt informed the press in Geneva, Switzerland that “Wounded Knee provided a very important victory […] For the first time we have shown internationally that Indian people exist as a living society, that we are not only in cowboy and Indian movies, in literature, and in museums throughout the world where the bones of our ancestors are put on display.” Bellecourt’s statement drove home that he and his fellow Native American activists saw a link between cultural representations of Indians and the sovereignty struggle as a sociopolitical movement. In his formulation, Indians were breaking through the archival and discursive depictions of the ‘noble savage’ and ‘vanishing native,’ and they were reasserting their sovereignty rights through performances of social and political protest. However, dominant cultural representations and political rights are not in binary opposition.

My paper will investigate the role of art about and by American Indians in the late Cold War’s transatlantic alliance for Native sovereignty. Applying Diana Taylor’s Performance Studies terminology, I will argue that in addition to constituting a ‘cultural landscape’ for the movement, imagery of nineteenth-century European and Euro-American art about Indians now served to (re)activate certain “scenarios” for the performances of the sovereignty movement, its Central European allies, and for the responses of the U.S. government to the alliance. Even as they struggled against age-old American and transatlantic stereotypes, Indian sovereignty activists themselves manipulated dominant images of Indianness in art in their performances for political rights.

György Tóth, originally from Budapest, Hungary, is currently being awarded a Ph.D. in American Studies from The University of Iowa, and is serving as assistant professor at the Department of American Studies of Charles University, Prague. Using the approaches of Transnational American Studies and Performance Studies, he is specializing in U.S. culture and social movements overseas, especially in Cold War Central Europe.


Sam Hitchmough
Parade of Conquest: Columbus Day in Denver

Glenn Morris (Colorado American Indian Movement) stated in 2007 that the rejection of the racist philosophy behind Columbus Day “may be the most important issue facing Indian country today”. This paper discusses the annual Columbus Day parade through the lens of Denver, which has both the most active paraders and protesters. It is argued that the parade presents a national narrative that excludes indigenous groups and implicitly celebrates conquest. The parade is a means by which various groups, particularly Italian-Americans, can buy into an official narrative and identity, one that is constructed to sustain certain national myths and values. Examples will be given that suggest a racist undertone, including the 2006 parade that featured men on horseback dressed as the same US cavalry regiment that participated in the 1864 Sand Creek massacre in Colorado.

Indian opposition to the parades in Denver is discussed in terms of both physical and ideological resistance, e.g. the construction of tent villages, visual and symbolic acts such as red paint to signify blood, the construction of counter-narratives and an analysis of the arguments forwarded by key groups such as Colorado AIM, the Transform Columbus Day alliance and individuals involved in Denver protests such as Glenn Morris, Russell Means and, to a lesser extent, Ward Churchill.

The parades have much to do with the construction, remembrance and celebration of national stories that ‘showcase’ ethnicity and inclusion and yet embed a dialogue about whiteness and invasion. The protests surrounding Columbus Day shed light on contrasting and contested notions of patriotism, national values and identity. The paper discusses attempts to transform the meaning of the day in the face of conceptual and ideological obstacles. The paper concludes that the parades are annual representations of an identity deeply rooted in colonialism and conquest, and assesses the efforts of opposition groups to challenge the dominant narrative and forge a counter-memory.

Sam Hitchmough is the Programme Director of the American Studies degree programme at Canterbury Christ Church University in the U.K. His research revolves around notions of patriotism and identity, particularly contested patriotisms. This has included work on ideas of patriotism within the civil rights movement and also the question of patriotism, identity and national narratives revolving around American Indian issues. His paper is part of a larger work on national commemorations and parades that includes America, Australia and Canada.


Gabriele Schwab
Radioactive Colonization

My presentation will deal with what Ward Churchill calls the “radioactive colonization” of indigenous lands, predominately on reservations in the U.S. My emphasis is twofold: drawing on poetry by Jimmy Santiago Baca (Black Mesa Poems) and Simon Ortiz (Woven Stone) and fiction of Martin Cruz Smith and Leslie Silko, I explore the psychic conditions of survival in “nuclear borderlands” or “sacrifice zones” (Joseph Masco). Theoretically, I draw mainly on Joseph Masco’s anthropological and theoretical study of radioactive nation building in New Mexico in The Nuclear Borderlands and Ward Churchill’s The Political Economy of Radioactive Colonization (in A Little Matter of Genocide). I explore the intersections between political economy, the militarization of nuclear borderlands and the concomitant emergence of new knowledge regimes and specific epistemologies of deception. Finally, I will link the two foci with an argument about nuclear trauma, psychic toxicity and the nuclear uncanny (Masco’s term).

In this context, collective strategies “not wanting to know” as well as willful deception become entangled with individual strategies of survival under conditions of adversity. Churchill argues that the militarization of the extractive economy developed during the Cold War willfully sacrifices large zones with indigenous populations. In consequence, he includes radioactive colonization among the crimes against humanity. The literary texts under investigation will emphasize the human costs of this nuclear politics from the perspective of individual protagonists and their collective struggle for survival.

Gabriele Schwab is Chancellor’s Professor of English and Comparative Literature and Faculty Associate in the Department of Anthropology at the University of California, Irvine. She received her Ph.D. in Literary Studies in 1976 and her Ph.D. in Psychoanalysis in 2009. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim and a Heisenberg Fellowship and currently a research fellow at the University of Constance. Her monographs in English include Subjects without Selves, The Mirror and the Killer-Queen, Haunting Legacies and Imaginary Ethnographies. Currently she is collaborating with indigenous writer Simon J. Ortiz on Children of Fire, Children of Water.


Session 16

Sami Lakomäki
The Chief, the Girl, and the Man with a Poetical Name: Identifying the Shawnees Painted by George Catlin

Among the famed Indian paintings by George Catlin there are several portraits of Shawnee individuals. With the exception of the portrait of Tenskwatawa, the Shawnee Prophet, none of these are usually counted among Catlin’s best-known works. Indeed, there remains some confusion as to exactly when and where the Shawnee portraits were painted. Moreover, although Catlin in his published writings provides some information about the Shawnees he painted, there has been little interest in combining this information with that offered by other historical records to sketch a fuller picture of the individuals in question, their personal histories, and their reasons for posing for the American painter. This paper investigates what Catlin’s paintings can tell of Shawnee history and the interaction between the Shawnees and the artist.

Taking Catlin’s portraits and writings as a point of departure, I examine other documents, mainly treaties and Shawnee correspondence with U.S. Indian agents, to identify the several men and one woman painted by Catlin, to interrogate their motives for having their portraits painted, and to investigate why Catlin’s information about them is sometimes at odds with other documents. My goal is to demonstrate how both Catlin’s and the Shawnees’ interests shaped who was painted and how. In addition, I seek to assess how Catlin’s work can be used as documents in conjunction with other records to shed light on Shawnee politics and society during a traumatic period of Shawnee history.

Sami Lakomäki is Ph.D. and university lecturer of cultural anthropology at the University of Oulu, currently on leave and working as an Academy of Finland postdoctoral researcher. A specialist on the Native peoples of eastern North America, he is finishing a book on Shawnee history and politics from the pre-contact times through the reservation era. Lakomäki’s new research project investigates colonial state-building on Indigenous lands in eastern North America and northern Fennoscandia from a comparative perspective.


Anita Hemmilä
Intervisual and Intertextual Links of Historical Illustrations of Native North American Gender-crossing and -mixing Individuals

Within critical discourse analysis, the concept ‘intertextual link’ refers to a chronological series of texts where the later texts re-use some specific discursive elements from earlier texts. During this process, the elements may be modified to fit the new context. This paper stretches the concept of intertextuality to visuality and explores the re-cycling of artistic captions of historical Native North American gender-crossing and -mixing individuals. These people are nowadays referred to as two-spirits, but many other terms (e.g., berdache) have been used in the past. As an example, two historical illustrations are presented. These have been reproduced several times, mostly in academic or semi-scholarly treatments of the topic. The older one is a drawing by Theodore de Bry from the 1560s called ‘The Employments of Hermaphrodites’, which was later worked into an etching and subsequently published by Jacques Le Moyne de Morgues in 1591. The more recent one is a drawing (and a painting) called Dance to the Berdashe by George Catlin from the 1830s.

An examination of re-cycling these illustrations, as intervisual links, demonstrates a selective re-use and modifications of the textual descriptions that originally accompanied them (intertextual link). These discursive changes affect the interpretation of the illustrations. Re-contextualization was also created through new descriptions or explanations added by the academics who re-used these images. Differences were noted in the way scholars used these illustrations to exemplify the social status of gender-crossing individuals. Occasionally, these people were also re-named by the scholars to accord with the current terminology in use at the time of publication.

Anita Hemmilä’s multi-disciplinary research, centers on the Native North American gender-crossing phenomenon, nowadays known as ‘two-spirit’ (formerly as ‘berdache’). She is currently finishing her dissertation entitled “Representations of Native American Two-Spirited Males through Critical Linguistics” at the Department of Languages, University of Jyväskylä. Anita has presented on various aspects of her research in several international conferences, including American Indian Workshop. Before getting into research, Anita worked as English, French and visual art teacher.


Tammi Hanawalt
Warrior, Enemy, Celebrity:  A Study of Sensationalism through the Photographs of Quanah Parker, Sitting Bull, and Geronimo

Quanah Parker, Sitting Bull, and Geronimo became iconic figures of Native resistance during the American Indian Wars. Viewed as dangerous adversaries while struggling to maintain the independence of their tribes against Euro-American encroachment, these “warrior outlaws” quickly rose to the status of “celebrities” after their surrender. Widely distributed photographic images of these individuals helped promote and maintain this transition. In my paper, I will analyze some of the most ubiquitous photos of Quanah Parker, Sitting Bull, and Geronimo, and will discuss what roles the photographers and the men themselves played in the presentation of their likenesses. I will also explore how the contrived representations in photography reflected the way in which each man dealt with trauma and manipulated memory to create suspended historic moments that continue to sustain their legends.

Tammi Hanawalt is currently a Ph.D. student and Robert S. & Grace B. Kerr Fellow, studying Native American art history at the University of Oklahoma. She received her master’s degree in art history from Arizona State University and worked in professional and academic theatre, teaching in both design and production. Concerned with issues in contemporary Native North American art, her studies are focused on indigenous art of the Arctic, Sub-Arctic, Northwest Coast, Southwest; and also post-colonial, gender, and performative theories.


Roger L. Nichols
The Cartoon Indian

Today American Indians are the only ethnic/minority group in the country to appear in cartoons with any regularity. This form of public art incorporates at least three of the following themes: Indians and myths of the American West, stereotypes of Native peoples, and Indians in American popular culture. The paper’s central thesis is that Indians’ cartoon images have varied depending on their relationships to the rest of American Society. As U.S. settlement spread westward the government fought repeated wars against tribal groups, Native Americans appeared as dangerous enemies, or as savage and backward because they rejected the benefits of American-style civilization.

Since the middle of the twentieth century, the cartoonists’ popular stereotypes of Indians and poke fun at their perceived roles in American history. Examples of this include early meetings with Europeans, New England Thanksgiving practices, Western forts and Indians, treaty negotiations, George Armstrong Custer and the Battle of the Little Big Horn. In the past few decades many cartoonists use Indian images to present social or political topics such as illegal immigration or terrorism. Indian-related issues like casino gambling and disputes about using tribal names or symbols as mascots for sports teams also receive attention. Today American political cartoonists most often depict Indians with irony and sympathy to critique U.S. society.

Roger L. Nichols is a Professor of History & Affiliate Faculty of American Indian Studies at the University of Arizona. He received his Ph.D. in American History from the University of Wisconsin. His scholarship focuses on Western America and American Indian affairs.  His recent books include: Natives and Strangers (2010), The American Indian: Past and Present (2009), American Indians in US History (2003), and Indians in the United States and Canada: A Comparative History (1998).


Session 17

Anne Grob
‘The Art of Keeping Cultural Traditions Alive’ - A Cross Cultural Look at Culture and Art in Native American and Māori Higher Education

Established to address educational needs of indigenous peoples in a holistic way, and applying a unique system of knowledge and value transmission, tribally run colleges and universities both in the U.S. and New Zealand (Aotearoa) have become increasingly significant to indigenous students and tribal communities alike. One of the unique features distinguishing these institutions from conventional mainstream education models is their mission to specifically address students’ and communities’ cultural needs. This presentation will offer crucial perspectives on how indigenous colleges and universities in both countries act as important agents in the cultural revitalizing process by utilizing and promoting a wide range of art related activities and course offerings.

Specifically, this talk will give important insights into the work of Native American Studies, Mātauranga Māori, and Arts Departments at two particular indigenous institutions in the U.S. and Aotearoa focusing on a diverse range of indigenous students’ creative expressions including art forms such as paintings, drawings, dancing & performances (powwow, kapa haka), storytelling (korero), and singing (waiata).  These art forms will be introduced – and where possible accompanied and visualized by – photographic, audio and visual material. In so doing, this presentation will illustrate how art, both in specialized departments and as an intrinsic part of the greater education process, functions as a crucial medium through which culture is expressed, negotiated, reaffirmed and/or modified.

Anne Grob is a doctoral student at the University of Leipzig’s American Studies Department. With a background in minority studies and cultural anthropology, her academic interests include contemporary indigenous issues, with a particular emphasis on indigenous higher education in the U.S. and New Zealand. She did research in a U.S. tribal community for 8 months, and recently returned from a year-long fieldwork as a visiting Ph.D. scholar in residence at Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi, indigenous university, New Zealand.


Tom G. Svensson
Traditional Craft an Important Cornerstone in Developing Individual Artistic Expressions in the Native American Art World

For many years we have noticed a remarkable development in terms of diverse aesthetical manifestations among many Native Americans. Due to its apparent connection to more original craft traditions, underscoring explicit ethnic identification of art objects, in a symbolic sense this form of art may serve as readable texts. It has to do with valuable knowledge that makes a difference, at the same time it gives legitimacy to specific identity manifestations related not the least to on-going processes of claims aiming at strengthening cultural as well as legal and political rights. The entire post World War II era is to a large degree impressed by such processes of change, concretized also in reference to materialistic traditions and intangible heritage.

In the following I wish to explore the connection between art and craft related to context, i.e. shedding light on people active in art and craft production and their ordinary everyday life situations. Moreover I intend to bring up specific museum collections at the Ethnographic Museum, University of Oslo and see how they in some way relate to contemporary indigenous art. Case materials derive from the Hopi, the Nisga´a and the Netsilik.

Tom G. Svensson holds Ph.D. from Stockholm University. Since 1970, he has been employed at the Ethnographic Museum, University of Oslo and since 2004 Professor Emeritus at Museum of Cultural History, Department of Ethnography. His publications include “On artifacts and the management of traditional knowledge. A museum collection of Hopi pottery and its extension”, European Review of Native American Studies (21:2, 2010); “Knowledge and Artifacts: People and Objects”, Museum Anthropology (Vol. 31:2, 2008) and “Ethnic Art in the Northern Fourth World: the Netsilik”, Études Inuit Studies (Vol. 19:1, 1995).


Heidrun Moertl
Ojibwa Artwork Connecting Past and Present

The Great Lakes Ojibwa communities in the USA and Canada are known for their manifold artworks – rich stories, beautiful crafts and ornate drawings. This presentation focuses on selected artworks created by Ojibwa community members as a connecting element between spiritual interpretations of past cultural experiences and present day situations. I analyze how these artworks influence people’s perception of their own culture. Particular attention is paid to elderly community members and how the creation of artwork and indulging in art can influence their outlook on life.

Heidrun Moertl is a faculty member at the Center for Inter-American Studies at the University of Graz, Austria. She recently conducted one year of fieldwork in Minnesota, USA, for a dissertation focused on the intersection of time and aging of indigenous societies (with a focus on Anishinaabe). She is the co-editor of a special issue of Comparative American Studies: An International Journal titled “Hemispheric Approaches to Native American Studies” (with Barrenechea, Maney Publishing, 2013).


Nadine Zacharias
The Liberated Art of Rick Bartow - Bartow Selbst (Bartow Himself)

At first glance, it is astonishing that Rick Bartow was credited by the Smithsonian to exhibit two of his wooden carved large-sculptures on a prominent spot at the Museum of the American Indian in Washington D.C. in 2012, since Bartow’s path of life does not coincide those of other contemporary Native American artists. When aged five, his Wiyot father passed away, and Bartow was absorbed into the white world. He was cut off from the cultural performances of the Wiyot people since he did not grow up on the reservation, neither did he participate in the Wiyot culture. Contrary to many of his fellow Native artists, his art was not inspired by the oral tradition of the Wiyot elders or by the Native American art movement of the 20th century.  He was neither taking a part in the strong political American Indian movement of the 1970s nor in the Native American art scene that dealt with a split Native/non-Native identity.

Not only was Bartow lacking such experiences, but he also had to spend time and energy in a series of paintings, in order to overcome a significant personal crisis, i.e. he had to deal with the horrible aftermath of his military service in the Vietnam War. Consequently, it was with delay that Bartow’s Native heritage made its way into his artwork, taking shape by the repetitive motif of the interconnectedness of the human and animal world. Since the observer of Bartow’s today creativity becomes aware of his spontaneous way of working, an unconscious incorporation of “Nativeness” in his art can be assumed as a consequence of a preceding act of liberation. This presentation explores who laid ground for and what were the forces for Bartow’s creative art process. This ultimately leads to the broader examination of Bartow’s success as an “artist who happens to be Indian”.

Nadine Zacharias is Master of Arts in Visual Anthropology at the University of Kent, Canterbury, U.K. She has complete studies in Socio-Cultural Anthropology, Socio-Economic History and Classical Archaeology at Albert-Ludwigs Universität in Freiburg, Germany. She has also complete Graduate Studies in Native Voices Program at University of Washington, Seattle, U.S. and holds Director of Educative and Scientific Film Diploma from Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg, Ludwigsburg, Germany. Since 2012 she has been a curator at the Historical and Anthropological Museum in St. Gallen, Switzerland.


Session 18

Max Carocci
Powerful Signs: North American Indian Painted Robes Between Realism and Abstraction

Plains Indian painting styles have been usually divided into geometric and pictographic styles. Women are generally credited for having produced geometric abstract art, while pictographic art seems to be associated exclusively with men. Some of the earliest robes (e.g. British Museum; Quai Branly; Museo de America; and more in USA museums) however present us with some interesting mix of figurative and geometric design that have not yet been explained by official versions of Native American history of art. While a separation between men and women’s arts may be true for later periods of Native North American expressive culture, evidence of a more extensive fluidity in the usage and production of art between men and women in earlier periods is here brought to advance interesting interpretations about the very little understood function and purpose of ancient robes. Indeed, no extensive study to date has yet established the purpose of some of the most enigmatic painted robes.

In this paper an analysis of motifs and an examination of ethno-historical sources show revealing facts about these objects and their related paintings that may offer some clues toward novel interpretations of this ancient art. Adopting a new perspective that benefits from the most updated anthropological research on Native North American Indians’ signifying practices which include notation and mnemonic systems, tattooing, abstract decoration, rock and mural painting, the paper proposes a framework for understanding the continuity between abstract and pictographic design that can explain the apparent distinction between male and female arts of the Plains, Midwestern and Eastern North American Indians.

Max Carocci teaches Indigenous Arts of the Americas in the Programme World Arts and Artefacts at University of London’s Birkbeck College, which he directs jointly with the British Museum. He curated for the British Museum the exhibition Warriors of the Plains and Imagi/Nations: Native American Photographs from the RAI collections. Max Carocci’s publications include Warriors of the Plains: The Arts of Plains Indian Warfare, and Turquoise in the Americas: Science and Conservation, Culture and Collections


Imre Nagy
Concealing Identities: New Approach to a Group of Well-known Cheyenne Ledger Drawings

There is a prominent group of Cheyenne ledger drawings which are known for researchers at least for three decades. The so-called “Little Wolf Ledger” (in a U.S. private collection) is the most widely known piece, while the Pope Ledger, otherwise known as the “Crazy Dog Society Ledger” (in the United States Military Academy Library collection) might be named as the second best known set from the specific Cheyenne artist whose identity was obscured for long from the researchers.

Two, previously unknown set of drawings which surfaced in the last couple of years broaden the oeuvre of this very talented artist, while his identification becomes possible with the comparative data of a drawing set known from the 1930s. One of the new sets is a couple of loose drawings which were part of the Mark Lansburgh collection, now housed in the Hood Museum of Art (Darthmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire), while the other set – a complete ledger with about a hundred images – rest during the last half-a-century in the vault of the Museum of the Plains Indians (Browning, Montana). The identification of the artist of all these visual documents is possible with a dozen drawings collected by Thomas B. Marquis in the 1930s, and housed now in the Museum of the Little Big Horn Battlefield National Monument. The historical, ethnographical, stylistic and art historical conclusions make this artist one of the greatest visual historians of the Cheyenne nation.

Imre Nagy, art historian is the Director of the Tornyai Janos Museum and Cultural Center in Hódmezővásárhely, Hungary. He studied Cheyenne Indian visual documents (shields, painted robes and canvases, as well as ledger drawings) in numerous U.S. and European museums and private collections. He identified the oeuvre of several Cheyenne artist in his publications, like Lame Bull, Burnt All Over and Yellow Nose.


Arni Brownstone
European Influence in the Mandan and Hidatsa Paintings and Drawings Collected by Prince Maximilian

Visual imagery of warfare, as created by the Plains Indian tribes, comprises a significant genre of art. Of the many surviving examples, some once functioned as a means of defining social hierarchy within traditional Native communities while others, perhaps greater in number, served as commodities made for sale to non-Natives. Viewing the corpus as a whole, we find that commonalities in form and content across tribal boundaries are counterbalanced by trends toward ethnic differences. The former may be traced to extensive cross-cultural borrowing throughout the region, and the latter to vigorous localized invention.

The dynamics that shaped this multi-cultural art form from the late eighteenth to mid twentieth centuries are complex. Their understanding is impeded by the absence of several tribes from the surviving corpus of work, disproportionate representation of tribes in the extant works, and the highly uneven quality of collection documentation. To overcome these impediments we might ask a number of questions: How can we better use our eyes to learn more about the imagery? How can we connect specific visual conventions to their ethnic inventors and practitioners? What criteria determined how a given Plains tribe either incorporated or rejected new visual elements into its existing visual vocabulary? How did tribal units remold new visual forms, both invented and borrowed, to fit into their respective cultural patterns? To answer these questions it is not enough to consider only the tribal art histories in the region – we must also take into account the influence of European visual art traditions upon those of First Nations. In this light, my presentation focuses on European influence as reflected in the Indian paintings and drawings collected by Prince Maximilian in the Middle Missouri River area in 1833–34.

Arni Brownstone is an Assistant Curator in the Anthropology Department of the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, where he has been working since 1974. His background in painting led to an interest in visual arts in ethnographic collections. His first focus was in the repetition and meaning of abstract geometric motifs found in worldwide ethnography. Over twenty years ago he shifted his interest to Plains Indian pictographic painting – studying them through a combination of formalistic analysis and ethno-historical exploration.


Session 19

Erika Mosonyi
Art in Taskscapes/ Landscapes of Diné

While conducting fieldwork amongst the Navajo sheepherders in the summer of 2012, I encountered two dis/connected moments that shaped my experience. The first was the renewed public interest in changing the grazing regulations – which have not been substantially contested since the 1940s; the second occurrence was the presence of temporary art installations, by Navajo and non-Navajo artists in different locations on the reservation, including in the city of Santa Fe, New Mexico. How do these social/political/artistic phenomena relate to one another? What could their interconnectedness reveal about Navajo’s engagement with the land and their natural resources? How do these relations help us to consider the ever-evolving task/landscape of the Navajo?

I will discuss these connections through the anthropological concepts of landscape. My approach to understanding Navajo landscape is through their everyday practices, experiences, and imaginative thinking. Based on my ethnographic material and the concrete instance of the grazing regulations, for example, I will further discuss formative processes in culture and society that keeps Navajo landscape under perpetual construction. Furthermore, as representations are considered as momentary factors in the production of landscapes, I will discuss the works of Will Wilson (Navajo) and Matthew Chase-Daniel (non-Navajo) to problematize their physical presence, material qualities, and intended or unintended meanings that convey ideas and senses about the Navajos changing experiences of their land.

Erika Mosonyi is graduating from the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Vienna. Her M.A. thesis explores present land use and sheep-raising practices among the Navajo. She conducted fieldwork in Austria and recently in the American Southwest. In addition to her ethnographic research, she gained experience at the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture and at the Folk Art Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Her main research focus is contemporary indigenous art, visual culture and globalization studies.


Birgit Däwes
Marine Semiologies: The Narrative Art of Landscape in Eden Robinson’s Monkey Beach

In Kassel in 2012, the documenta 13 featured seven landscape paintings by British Columbia artist Emily Carr, many of which depict First Nations totem poles in picturesque forest sceneries. While these images of Native landscapes are experimental, powerful, and even subversive, they also uneasily ring with a tenacious cliché: that North America’s indigenous people live in harmony with nature, balancing out their biospheres to wisely conserve their resources. The popularity of this imagery is unbroken – only recently revived in James Cameron’s Avatar – but the signifier of the primitive but noble ‘Eco-Indian’ also harbors a devastating political message. “Time and again,” Shepard Krech writes in a seminal study, “the dominant image is of the Indian in nature who understands the systemic consequences of his actions, feels deep sympathy with all living forms, and takes steps to conserve so that the earth’s harmonies are never imbalanced and resources never in doubt” (1999, 21).

Contemporary Native North American literatures effectively undermine these stereotypes and develop an alternative cultural ecology, in which land and landscape are closely tied to cultural sovereignty and political agency. With the example of Eden Robinson’s Monkey Beach, this paper will trace the ways in which nature – and specifically the ocean – is recoded as a counterspace, or heterotopia, to conventional environmentalism through the art of what Gerald Vizenor calls “storying”. By analyzing how the specific landscape of the ocean is represented as a resource, a space of adventure or fear, and a site of communal and ancestral connection, my argument will not only illuminate alternative systems of knowledge in First Nations literature but also expand the theoretical and methodological frameworks of ecocriticism.

Birgit Däwes is Professor of American Studies (Juniorprofessorin) at the University of Mainz, Germany. Next to her award-winning monograph on Native North American Theater in a Global Age (2007), she also published a study of Ground Zero Fiction (2011) and edited, among others, a collection on Indigenous North American Drama: A Multivocal History (SUNY Press, 2013). She just received a job offer for Professor and Chair of American Studies from the University of Vienna.


Francisco Cabanzo & Lance Henson
Oklahoma-Nararachi: Intangible Landscapes of Identities in Transit

In 2007 Colombian mix-blooded visual artist Francisco Cabanzo and Cheyenne-Oglala-French native poet, Lance Henson made together an “on the road” trip, accompanied by Argentinean video maker Federico Lanchares. This trip should have connected two places related to each other through ‘peyote road’: Oklahoma and Nararachi. The intention was to help Henson to leave his testimony as a tribute to the plant that guided him through fear and struggle, holding and guiding his steps up to his elder years through peyote road.

As the results of documentary production research assistance and direction assistance activity developed by Cabanzo, afterwards paper shows project motivations, methodological and conceptual aspects: territory significance density maps through keywords analysis (Bruno 2002, Cabanzo 2010); trips as an artistic and scientific  strategy for knowledge and thought construction (Mancilla 2002, Buxò I Rey 2004), body behavior and identities in transit construction (Buxò i Rey, Gandert 1997); syncretism and mestissage in space archetypes and territory appropriation patterns (Alexander 1977, Tuan 1977, Muntañola 1978, La Cecla 1993); people’s identities in transit and cultural landscapes (Gedalof 2000, Buxò i Rey 2005). Transcendental art’s, six hands interdisciplinary work synthesis (poetry, visual arts, cinema),  in which ecstasies, virtual world imaginaries and trip impressions get composed by Cabanzo through a contemporary video art’s instalment in 2012 in Italy, is built as a syncretic expression of traditional native aesthetics show how Henson´s “on the road” poetic landscapes increase territory significance density.

Francisco Cabanzo is mix-blooded Colombian visual artist and Professor at Universidad Antonio Nariño, Bogotá. He holds Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Fine Arts from University of Barcelona, and M.Sc. in Urban Planning from Architecture Institute University of Venice. Fellowships: Dialeg Global; Bosch i Gimpera Foundation; Italian Foreign Affairs Ministry. Prices: selected at Foggia Film Festival, 2011;  Barcelona OVNI-Rizomas festival, 2009; 32nd  American Indian Film Festival, San Francisco, 2007; Fines IV International Sculpture Symposium – Fines, 2001, and finalist at ELISA International Sculpture Prize, Barcelona (2001).

Lance Henson is Cheyenne-Oglala-French mix-blooded Native American poet and Professor in Redwing Revolutionary Studies. He is Sundance ritual singer and dancer, and a member of Native American Church – NAC, Dogsoldiers Society Clan and American Indian Movement. He is also Vietnam Marine Corps soldier and he represented First Nations at UN Council, Genève (1988). He graduated from Oklahoma College of Liberal Arts, Chickasha, and holds a M.Sc. in Creative Literature from University of Tulsa. His publications include more than 34 books which are translated into 25 languages.


Session 20

Robert Keith Collins
American Indian Art as Trans-culturation: Evidence from a Smithsonian Exhibit

What impact did American Indians have on African Americans within the United States? To examine this question, this paper offers a preliminary exploration of the music and sculpture that resulted from contact between American Indians and individuals of African descent within their nations, as discernible from data collected during the creation of the Smithsonian’s traveling banner exhibit: “IndiVisible: African-Native American Lives in the Americas.” Using a person-centered ethnographic approach, this presentation expands on A. Irving Hallowell’s usage of trans-culturation to illuminate a “third side” to the process of colonization: what happened to African Americans as a result of contact with American Indians. This topic may seem controversial; however, it is consistent with twentieth century anthropological research, which revealed a profound impact on African Americans by American Indians: “new” musical practices and artistic and stylistic fusions that reflected shared cultural experiences. Understanding American Indian cultural changes as a precipitate of colonization is only the beginning; there remains the challenge of mapping the dynamics of these changes and the cultural diffusion that occurred.

Robert Keith Collins is Assistant Professor of American Indian Studies at San Francisco State University. He holds a B.A. in Anthropology and a B.A. in Native American Studies from the University of California at Berkeley, and a Ph.D. in Anthropology from UCLA. Using a person-centered ethnographic approach, his research explores American Indian cultural changes and African and Native American interactions in North, Central, and South America.


Juha Hiltunen
Elvis Presley as a Brand in Native American Culture

The famous singer and The King of Rock ’n Roll, Elvis Presley was partly a Native American by his ancestry, not only through maternal family line but also from his father’s side. Although these bloodlines were thin, several factors increased his Indian heritage, so that one can estimate almost 1/8 Indian in him. Elvis was quite aware of this, and proud about it. His meteoric first success occurred in 1950’s when racism in the United States made it very difficult for white celebrities or other public persons to emphasize any ancestral links with black people or Native Americans. That’s why Elvis’ manager advised him to be silent about this. Anyhow things started to change markedly during the 60’s. While this decade was largely a declining phase for his career, he made over 30 movies of which almost every third were related to country, western and ethnic themes. In three movies he acts as an Indian in lead role.

After his comeback in 1968 and until his premature death in 1977 Elvis’ international fame reached the highest point. His shows in Las Vegas became a brand and the famous jumpsuits appeared in glittering kingly decoration. Interestingly, Elvis presented himself in them more as a Native American than in any part of his life. Surprisingly many of them contain art and decoration from Native American cultures. Several other aspects in Elvis Presley’s life history and career indicate Native American influence as well. It has come to known for a wider public and even for his fans only quite recently, mostly via internet. There are several websites in which Elvis is presented as a Native American, including ranking lists where he is labeled one of the most famous “Indians” in history. All this seems to indicate that Elvis Presley has become a brand in Native American culture.

Juha Hiltunen is Adjunct Professor in Native American Studies in the University of Oulu, Finland. He is currently preparing a book in English about Elvis’ Indian heritage, with the title “Elvis Presley as an Indian? His Native American roots and heritage.


Session 21

Friedrich Pöhl
The Depiction of the American Indian as Cannibal

Many of the travelers to the New World had knowledge of classical authors and they went out with a preexistent and preconceived idea of what they would discover. Hartmann Schedel’s World Chronicle, published at Nürnberg in 1493, opens with a sequence of twenty-one woodcuts of monstrous races beginning with the anthropophagous dog-headed men. The accompanying commentary cites classical sources like Pliny as the authorities. Given this existing “scientific” world view it is no wonder that Columbus, when first hearing about men “with dog’s snouts who ate men”, used the word “cannibal” (a corruption of Cariba) as synonymous for the dog-headed people. The dog-headed cannibals became known through a wood-cut from Lorenz Fries, where the cannibals dressed in typical European aprons are butchering human flesh. Henceforth cannibalism would be the characteristic feature of the inhabitants of America. The allegorical depictions of the continents in the 16th and 17th century almost without exception show America as a beautiful naked female Cannibal.

This paper will show to what high degree classical thought influenced the perception of indigenous cultures and will investigate the discourse of ritual cannibalism in North-America within the context of the competition of the European empires for economic, spiritual, and imperial control of the New World. The paper will show to what great extent the Western history of ideas was shaped by an ideology of superiority already rooted in Greek and Roman thought and, also that the discourse of cannibalism in this context primarily was used as a means of its reasonable justification.

Friedrich Pöhl holds a Ph.D. from University of Innsbruck, Austria, where he is a lecturer. In 2006 he received Library Research Fellowship from the American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia, USA. He is the editor of a monograph entitled Franz Boas, Kultur, Sprache, Rasse. Wege einer antirassistischen Anthropologie (LIT Verlag, Wien/Berlin 2011). Currently he is working with Robert Rollinger, distinguished Professor at the Department of World Cultures, University of Helsinki, on an interdisciplinary research topic regarding the discourse on ritual cannibalism.


Michael C. Coleman
Teaching American Indian Histories and Cultures to European Undergraduate Students: From Stereotypes to Complexity

With only a lecture or two on a broader survey course available each academic year, or occasionally a single dedicated course, how can a European teacher of undergraduate students get beyond stereotypes of “The Indian”? This paper, a pedagogical “looking back,” suggests possible ways to communicate the diversity and complexity of Native American experiences. Apart from the odd student already “interested in Indians,” or who had visited, or even lived on a reservation, most undergraduates knew little, beyond a few stereotypical images. What themes or structuring ideas, therefore, are most important to begin serious study of Native Americans, or just to learn something significant?

In a 2-hour double-lecture (part of a 13-hour United States history survey course I gave for almost four decades until 2010) and in a 26-hour reading-discussion course entitled “American Indian Histories and Cultures”, I emphasized a number of major themes. These were: cultural diversity, past and present; similarities to and differences from so-called Western cultures; the complexity of Indian-white interactions (beyond “savage-civilized,” or “noble Indian-genocidal whites”); Indian survival and on-going Indian influences on historical developments. I drew heavily on Indian materials, including artistic expressions, and, for recent developments, on tribal/national Internet home pages and contemporary Indian newspapers. Even those whose only exposure to Indian studies was the 2-hour double-lecture, will hopefully develop a sense of Native American diversity, differences from/similarity to Western cultures, complexity, survival, and historical influences.

Michael C. Coleman is Emeritus Professor at Department of Languages (English) in University of Jyväskylä, Finland. In 2008 he was named University Teacher of the Year. His major publications include American Indians, the Irish, and Government Schooling: A Comparative Study (2007), partly researched in Ireland as a senior fellow of the Academy of Finland (1996-97); American Indian Children at School, 1850-1930 (1993), and Presbyterian Missionary Attitudes Toward American Indians, 1837-1893 (1985). He is a dual citizen of Ireland and Finland.


Session 22

Reetta Humalajoki
“On the Warpath Against Bogus Indian Art” – The New York Times and Native American Art and Commodities during the Termination Era

The United States policy of Termination (roughly 1953–1970) was grounded on the understanding that dividing tribal lands into individual allotments would encourage the assimilation of Native Americans into mainstream society and elevate them to the status of “full American citizens”. Yet it is questionable whether the American public subscribed to this ideology – particularly considering the continued interest in Native cultures exhibited in the press. Especially into the 1960s late Termination era, the New York Times published multiple articles on Indian art exhibits and Native inspired fashions, in addition to guides for consumers wishing to purchase American Indian products. This media research paper explores the nature of New York Times writing on Native American arts and crafts, to determine how such a seemingly incongruous subject was maintained against a background of assimilationist federal policy.

Addressing the broader question of the ownership of Native cultures and artefacts in U.S. history, the paper will show that an interest in adopting items or influences perceived as coming from an American Indian past was not necessarily incongruous with the drive to terminate the federal recognition of tribes. The New York Times’ treatment of Indian art rather shows that a fascination with Native commodities could play into the trend of assimilating the Indian into wider American society. Despite a few exceptional articles that exhibited a respect for Native artisanship, on the whole writing on Indian arts and crafts was as divorced from the reality of Indian experiences as any stereotypical writing on Native Americans in the press during the 1950s and 1960s.

Reetta Humalajoki is a Ph.D. candidate at Durham University in the U.K. Her research interests include the representation of Native Americans in the press and the reactions of tribal councils to Termination policy. Her thesis is provisionally titled “Debating Native American Termination in the Global, Domestic and Native Spheres, 1950–1970”.


Roslyn M. Frank & Marianna Ridderstad
Conflicts over Masks, Museums and Tourism

The presentation begins by comparing certain contemporary conflicts and debates that have arisen in both Europe and North America concerning the way that traditional masks worn by performers are carved and cared for, or, better stated, should be carved and cared for. The discussion will examine the impact of tourism and subsequent commercialization of the artifacts on the performances themselves and the way these pressures have impacted the production and sale of the masks, giving special attention to the ongoing debates over whether these masks should be commercialized at all and/or kept in a museum. The two study groups consist primarily, although not exclusively, of the masks and performances associated with the False Face Society of the Iroquois, on the one hand, and a kind of Alpine equivalent, the Tschäggättä performers of Switzerland, or stated more explicitly, the masked performers from the Löchtental of the Canton Valais in the Rhône Valley whose ritual activities are understood to bring good luck and health to those visited.  Interviews conducted with traditional carvers and performers will be discussed.

In the second part of the presentation other contemporary masking traditions in Europe and North America will be examined, specifically, the masks and costumes of ‘bear performers’, including variants such as the Finnish Nuutti/Kekripukki. The accoutrements of these European ‘bear maskers’ will be compared to those found in North America. At the same time, the comparative approach will serve to bring into focus the archaic pan-European belief that humans descended from bears since in many locations in Europe we still find a wide variety of bear-human performers, actors who dress as bears or bear-men and whose function is prophylactic, to confer good luck and health on those visited, masking traditions that have striking parallels among North American indigenous peoples.

Roslyn M. Frank, Professor Emeritus at the University of Iowa, has done extensive fieldwork in the Basque Country, studying the language and beliefs of the Basque people, including the folk belief that holds Basques descended from bears. This led to subsequent investigations into circumpolar bear ceremonialism and to documenting residual evidence of the same in European traditional performance art. Her publications are in the area of Basque studies, cultural cognitive linguistics, and anthropology.

Marianna Ridderstad has a Lic.Phil. in astrophysics and M.Sc. in theoretical physics, and is currently preparing her Ph.D. at the University of Helsinki on the archaeoastronomy of Neolithic stone monuments in Finland. Her research explores the archaeoastronomy of Finnish monuments from the Bronze Age to the Early Middle Ages, as well as ancient Finnish and Finno-Ugric folklore and traditions related to astronomical subjects, including the calendric and ritual significance of the Bear.


Session 23

Pauline Turner Strong
“The Border Crossed Us”: Activist Artists, Transnational Indigenous Peoples, and the U.S./Mexico Border

In common parlance “border work” usually refers literally to employment, whether it be agricultural, domestic, and factory labor, patrolling the border, or doing humanitarian or legal work in solidarity with undocumented immigrants.  But there are a few scholars who have used the term “border work” in an extended sense. Taking inspiration from Barrie Thorne’s Gender Play (1993), this presentation analyzes the border work of a new generation of politically engaged artists.  The presentation focuses in particular on “The Border Crossed Us,” a temporary installation at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst by the Institute for Infinitely Small Things.

This installation featured a life-size photographic replica of the border fence that divides the Tohono O’odham people in Arizona from their relatives in Mexico. Documented by a book and a web site, the installation attempted to simulate the experience of confronting the border fence and associated border surveillance. In addition to the simulated fence the installation included a soundscape alternating between a Tohono O’odham ceremonial song and the noise of surveillance helicopters and construction equipment, as well as signs posing a different question each day: “what are you hiding?, “are you a citizen?”, “may I touch you?”, “what color are you?”, “where did you come from?”, “where are you going?”.  Artistic border works such as “The Border Crossed Us” are effective ways of contesting the hardening of the U.S./Mexico border, which has serious consequences for transnational indigenous people such as the Tohono O’odham.

Pauline Turner Strong is Associate Professor of Anthropology and Gender studies at the University of Texas at Austin, where she also directs the Humanities Institute.  An award-winning teacher, she has published widely on representations of Native Americans in North American public culture.  Her latest book, American Indians and the American Imaginary, appeared in October 2012.  Her other books include Captive Selves, Captivating Others: The Politics and Poetics of Colonial American Captivity Narratives and (with Sergei Kan) New Perspectives on Native North America: Cultures, Histories, Representations.


Claudia Ulbrich
TimeTravellerTM: Presenting Indigenous Narratives in Cyberspace

With the advent of the World Wide Web, Native artists have experimented with technology and media to define, maintain, and expand Native territories in cyberspace. They are fully aware of the processes, in which traditional mass media has played a critical role in shaping Western, technologically driven perceptions of Native cultures. For them, cyberspace offers “an unprecedented opportunity to assert control over how we represent ourselves to each other and to non-Aboriginals” (Lewis and Fragnito, 2005). By learning and applying digital technologies and new media forms, Native artists and collectives such as Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace (AbTeC) create, explore, and use cyberspace as a medium for digital art and storytelling to generate and increase Native presence and agency online.

The paper traces the theoretical framework and the modes of production that are underlying the making of indigenous cyberspace by looking at one particular example – the cyber project “TimeTravellerTM” by Mohawk artist Skawennati Tricia Fragnito in collaboration with other AbTeC partners. “TimeTravellerTM” is a short machinima production shot on location in Second Life, an online virtual world. It is the story of Hunter, a young Mohawk man living in the 22nd century. Despite the fact that he possesses an impressive range of traditional skills, Hunter is unable to cope with life in an overcrowded, hyperinflated, technologized world. He embarks on a vision quest that takes him back in time to historical conflicts that have involved indigenous peoples. By analyzing the ways that “TimeTravellerTM” presents indigenous narratives, I want to explore how Hunter’s vision quest relates to and is informed by Native agency, forms of social critique and resistance, as well as questions of self-representation. This investigation also includes the wider context of art and its “constantly expanding forms of practice” (Simon Sheik, 2006) between knowledge production, research, education, and self-formation with regard to decolonization efforts of Native art and the creation of indigenous territories in cyberspace.

Claudia Ulbrich holds an M.A. in American, Slavic, and Communication Studies from Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, Germany. She has also studied at Montana State University Bozeman, USA, and Voronezh State University, Russia. An associate doctoral candidate with the Graduate School “Society and Culture in Motion” at Halle University, she’s currently completing her Ph.D. thesis with a focus on Indigenous-German relations in 18th century Pennsylvania.