June 12, 2009

Cowboys and Indians

Posted in Look tagged , , , , , at 6:06 pm by onetinyacorn

In an area where cowboy iconography/mythology/actuality plays such a huge role in regional identity, how is the matter of Native American identity addressed? The answer, to my newcomer eyes, seems to be: it’s not. Sure, there’s a prominent sculpture of Chief Washakie that greets people as they enter the University of Wyoming campus, but by and large, the issue seems to just be skirted. Even in a state with Native American reservations, they seem largely absent.

There is an exhibit of Crow regalia at the University of Wyoming art museum right now, which does not have as much explanatory material as I would like. The matter of ethnic representation in museums is a hot-button issue (who describes the objects, how they are displayed, messy issues around provenance, and the very idea of turning people into study objects for academics are all argued).

The museum also hosted a Pow Wow. I’d never been to one before, and I wondered how the practitioners felt about performing their traditions for a bunch of Euro-Americans. How would it feel to be made exotic in your homeland? To be trotted out as an educational opportunity? I don’t know. I am working on an oral history project, interviewing locals about this area’s history, and their place in it. Maybe it will help to answer some of my questions.

Pow Wow


1 Comment »

  1. Kathy Marquis said,

    Hey, Erin,

    The only pow wows I’ve been to have been in Minnesota – in high school auditoriums and arenas. Also very surreal. My impression, though, is that they are very proud of showing their heritage to us Anglos. Also, there is a group of Indians, from a variety of tribes across the U.S., who travel from pow wow to pow wow compete nationwide, so they’re performing for, and competing with each other probably more than for us. Sort of like rodeo competitors, in a way.

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