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34th American Indian Workshop - Abstracts - Tuesday May 14th

Session 1

Candace S. Greene
Two Worlds or One?  Buffalo and Cattle in Kiowa Art

Pictorial art was an active social agent in 19th century Plains culture, deployed both to invoke spiritual relationships and to manage social alliances.  This paper re-examines an iconic Plains Indian drawing widely known as “Wohaw Between Two Worlds,” which was produced in the 1870s by a Kiowa man held prisoner at Fort Marion in Florida.  Showing a man standing between a buffalo and a cow, the picture commonly has been interpreted as illustrating the economic alternatives of buffalo hunting and farming that were impacting the region at the time. I offer a different interpretation based on visual analysis and Kiowa ways of knowing, which suggests instead that the image illustrates a traditional transfer of spiritual power. The recent discovery of related imagery reveals the presence of a medicine complex combining power from both buffalo and longhorn cattle. The production of drawings with this theme at Fort Marion invites exploration of the ways that the men imprisoned there referenced spiritual power for social ends.

Candace S. Greene is an ethnologist with the Smithsonian Institution Department of Anthropology, where she manages projects in the National Anthropological Archives and directs the Summer Institute in Museum Anthropology. Her research focuses on Southern Plains material and social culture. She is the author of One Hundred Summers: A Kiowa Calendar (2009) and Silver Horn: Master Illustrator of the Kiowa (2001) and edited The Year the Stars Fell: Lakota Winter Counts at the Smithsonian (2007).


Molly Lee
Origin of the Yup’ik Eskimo Coiled Grass Basket

Yup’ik Eskimo women of southwestern Alaska have made colorful grass (elymus mollis) baskets (mingqaaq-t) for the market for about a century.  Hitherto unstudied, I have been carrying out research with a Yup’ik collaborator on the history, stylistics and anthropology of this basket “tradition”. Unlike the simple twined carrying and storage baskets (issran) that the women have made for centuries, the mingqaaq is of relatively recent origin. The basket makers themselves were unable to tell me more than that it originated around the Kuskokwim Bay, in the southeastern part of the Yup’ik area. More, they did not know. In this paper, I discuss my hunt for the origin of this art form.  The mingqaaq seemed to appear about the same time that Moravian missionaries settled in the Yup’ik area in the 1890’s. But what was the link? I had long noticed the similarity between the Yup’ik mingqaaq and baskets made by the Labrador Inuit, but it wasn’t until I looked into the personal histories of the Moravian missionaries in the Yup’ik area that I was able to establish a connection.

Molly Lee holds a Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley. Until her retirement in 2008, she was Curator of Ethnology at the University of Alaska Museum of the North, and Professor of Anthropology in the Anthropology Department at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.


Sascha Scott
Concealing Knowledge: Modern Pueblo Indian Painting and Aesthetic Strategies of Survivance

What is often referred to as “modern” Pueblo Indian painting developed during the first decades of the twentieth century as the result of Anglo-American contact. Narratives about this genre have long privileged the role Anglo patrons played in the creation, display, and consumption of Pueblo paintings. As a result, the perspectives of the painters themselves are often suppressed, the paintings’ political subtexts have gone underexplored, and Pueblo attitudes towards knowledge have been elided. This paper argues that the first generation of modern Pueblo painters formulated an art of subtle resistance that confronted ongoing colonization and imperialism. Moreover, I argue that Pueblo aesthetics strategies of “survivance” (a term used by Anishinaabe cultural theorist Gerald Vizenor to refer to indigenous acts of “survival and resistance”) were, and still are, inextricably tied to Pueblo epistemologies, or Pueblo ways of knowing and attitudes towards the production and distribution of knowledge.

Focusing on paintings by San Ildefonso Pueblo artist Awa Tsireh (Alfonso Roybal), I will explore Pueblo art making and American Indian political activism in the 1920s, a time when Pueblo culture was being persecuted by the Indian Bureau and was under siege by tourists and anthropologists. Awa Tsireh’s visual language is representative of the various tactics Pueblo artists used to represent aspects of their culture while simultaneously controlling the flow of information. By deploying evasive visual strategies—including silence, misdirection, coding, and masking—Awa Tsireh celebrated his culture at a time when it was under attack, helped to develop a market that benefited himself and his community, and did so while attempting to protect Pueblo knowledge. Although my paper will focus on modern Pueblo painting, the central issues presented—in particular, the nature and importance of culturally specific epistemological practices—are relevant to a broad range of indigenous objects produced in colonial contexts.

Sascha Scott is Assistant Professor of Art History at Syracuse University. She recently completed a book manuscript that explores paintings of Pueblo Indians by Anglo-American and Pueblo artists, which responded to the tumultuous political climate of 1920s. Her research has been has been published in American Art and has been supported by fellowships from Smithsonian American Art Museum, Luce/ACLS, Huntington Library, School for Advanced Research, and Southern Methodist University’s Clements Center for Southwest Studies.


Mark Shackleton
The Moving Trickster Shifts; and, Having Shifted, Moves On

Tricksters or shape shifters are key figures in contemporary Native North American poetry, drama, fiction and the visual arts. In The Trickster Shift: Humour and Irony in Contemporary Native Art (1999) Allan J. Ryan argued that recent Native North American art represented a radical shift in viewer perspective and political positioning by imagining and imaging alternative viewpoints. In the work of artists like Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun (Coast Salish), Gerald McMaster (Siksika), Jim Logan (Métis) and Harry Fonseca (Nisenan Maidu) a power shift had taken place that Ryan called “the trickster shift”, a subversion of the symbols of power and control. But from an early 21st century perspective is the moving trickster still shifting? Has the sheer bulk of critical attention to the Trickster figure (primarily from Non-Native scholars) merely replicated existing power structures rather than subverted them? Using Deanna Reder’s and Linda M. Morra’s Troubling Trickster: Revisioning Critical Conversations (2010), a book clearly influenced by Indigenous national critics, I shall argue that the Trickster figure is still a significant force among Native North American artists, dramatists, poets and writers and that there is still a role for (even non-Native) critics to play.

Mark Shackleton is currently Acting Professor at the Department of Modern Languages (English Philology), University of Helsinki, Finland. He is the author of Moving Outward. The Development of Charles Olson’s Use of Myth (1994) and has edited a number of volumes on North American studies including Migration, Preservation and Change (1999), Roots and Renewal (2001), and First and Other Nations (2005). He haspublished widely on NativeNorth American writing, including articles on Tomson Highway, Thomas King, Monique Mojica, Gerald Vizenor, Louise Erdrich, and Simon J. Ortiz. Recent publications include Diasporic Literature and Theory: Where Now? (ed. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2008) and Canada: Images of a Post/National Society (edited with Gunilla Florby & Katri Suhonen, Peter Lang, 2009).


Sabine N. Meyer
The Life and Fates of Pokahuntas: Pocahontas Representations in 18th-Century German Literature

Since its creation in the works of John Smith, the Pocahontas myth has inspired the works of numerous painters, writers, and filmmakers in a multitude of countries. As early as 1781, more than a decade before the first literary adaptation of the Pocahontas story appeared on the Anglo-American market, Pocahontas became the protagonist of both a novel and a play in the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation. While Johann Wilhelm Rose’s play Pocahontas was rediscovered, edited and annotated in 2008, the Pomeranian pastor Carl Friedrich Scheibler’s 1781 work Leben und Schicksale der Pokahuntas, einer edelmuthigen Americanischen Prinzessin; eine wahre und lehrreiche Geschichte (The Life and Fates of Pokahuntas, a Noble-Minded American Princess; a True and Instructive Story) has so far only received passing scholarly attention (cf. Christian Feest; Stephan Kraft). With a length of 200 pages, Scheibler’s novel would remain the longest and most extensive German-language literary representation of the Pocahontas story until the late 1950s.

In my talk, I will offer an in-depth analysis of Scheibler’s novel. Among other things, I will explore the representation of Pocahontas in this German version of the American myth. Secondly, I will attempt to investigate its reception and interpret this text in relation to the growing German “Indianthusiasm” (Hartmut Lutz). I will finally place the novel within the context of the debate about an emerging German national identity.

Sabine N. Meyer is an Assistant Professor of American Studies at the Institute of English and American Studies (IfAA) at the University of Osnabrück, Germany. She is currently working on her second book project, The Indian Removal in Law and Native American Literature, which explores the interfaces between removal legislation and literary representations of removal in Native American texts from the 19th to the 21st centuries.


Session 2

Christian F. Feest
John Francis Rigaud and the Joseph Brant Miniature

The many portraits made of Joseph Brant (Thayendanegea), the loyalist Mohawk leader at the time of the American Revolution, have earned him the reputation as “The Most Painted Indian.” This paper discusses a hitherto overlooked miniature enamel painting of Brant made during or after his second visit to London in 1786 probably after a lost painting by John Francis Rigaud and its relationship to a painting purchased by the State of New York in 1958 as well as to the other depictions of Brant.

Christian Feest was Curator of the North and Middle American collections of the Museum für Völkerkunde in Vienna, 1963–1993, and director of the museum, 2004–2010. He has taught at the University of Vienna since 1975, and was Professor of Anthropology at the University of Frankfurt, 1993–2004. His research interests focus on visual arts and material culture, the history of anthropology, the ethnohistory and historical ethnography of eastern North America, central Mexico and central Brazil, and the anthropology of visual representation.


Stephanie Pratt
George Catlin’s Visual and Other Legacies: Facing Up to the ‘Indian Gallery’

This paper extends from the work undertaken for the National Portrait Gallery, London ‘American Indian Portraits by George Catlin,’ a travelling exhibition which opened in March 2013. The exhibition is largely historical in nature and examines a selection of over 600 paintings of American Indian subjects, mainly portraits, Catlin made based on his travels in the American West in the 1830s as well as touching on his collecting activities. It looks also at how he promoted these in an ‘Indian Gallery’ to paying audiences, first in North America (from 1833 – 39) and then, when he took his Indian Gallery abroad, in Britain and on the continent in the 1840s and 50s.

Catlin’s later impact and what might be termed his ‘legacy’ is perhaps a less well understood phenomenon. This research paper will probe the ways that Catlin’s visual and other legacies have been taken on by others; both by later historical artists and promoters (e.g. Edward Curtis), and by contemporary Native American artists themselves over the last 20 years or so. For instance, in the recent work of Kent Monkman or Robert Houle, it is significant that such artists have engaged directly with Catlin’s work undertaking further rehearsals of the Indian gallery spaces but on their own terms by creating a re-imagined American Indian identity in the face of Catlin’s seductive and convincing imagery. As a counterweight to this ideological battle over the American Indian image, reference will be made to the ways that Catlin’s imagery has also been used to reclaim valuable and missing information for contemporary indigenous historians of this period in their revisions of their own peoples’ histories.

Stephanie Pratt descends from the Sisseton-Wahpeton band of Eastern Dakota by her paternal Grandmother, Rosa Daisy Fleury. She trained as an art historian at Plymouth University in the late 1980s and was awarded her doctoral degree in 1990. Her first book, American Indians in British Art, 1700 – 1840, was published in 2005 by Oklahoma University Press. She co-curated the National Portrait Gallery, London’s Between Worlds exhibition in 2007 and is now co-curating a major international travelling exhibition American Indian Portraits by George Catlin, for the NPG which opened in March 2013.


Bartosz Hlebowicz
Not Quite Silent: Native Americans in the First Decades of American Cinema

Native Americans have been stereotyped in American movies since the very beginning of the American film industry, and even in those movies of recent times that are more liberal or sympathetic to Indians, stereotypical images continue. However, among the many early movies with “savage” Indians there were also a few less-known pictures in which Native Americans not only were not the wild beasts of the forest, but they – and not the whites – were the ones who established the rules governing human society, and they were the main characters in the movie plot. Some of the more recent films that have been sympathetic to Indians, when viewed in the context of these early silent films, are not as revolutionary as they may seem at first. Many of these early silents were made in unexpected areas like New Jersey or Philadelphia, before Hollywood even existed.

The research on Indian images in early movies is partly based on my research in the records of the New York State Motion Picture Commission (later, the Motion Picture Division) in Albany and in the Lubin Manufacturing Company records at the Free Library of Philadelphia.

Bartosz Hlebowicz is an anthropologist and Ph.D. from the Jagiellonian University, Cracow. He is author of a monograph on the contemporary Oneida Indian Nation of New York State and the Nanticocke Lenni-Lenapes of New Jersey (in Polish: Odnaleźć nasze prawdziwe ścieżki [To Find Our True Ways], 2009) and of the Polish translation of the Lewis Henry Morgan’s League of the Iroquois (2011); editor of the book The Trail of Broken Treaties. Diplomacy in Indian Country from Colonial Times to Present (2011).