A CRITICAL STUDY OF NATIVE AMERICAN ART AND HOW EUROPEAN AMERICANS HAD TO DESTROY THEIR CULTURE BY EXTERMINATING AND DESTROYING THE FIGHTING CAPACITY OF THE NATIVE AMERICAN OR FIRST NATION PEOPLES. AN APPRECIATION OF THE CONTINUING FIGHT BY FIRST NATION COMMUNITIES TO DEFEND THEIR CULTURAL HERITAGE: PART 2

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This is the second part of my exploration into Native American and First Nation art which fought to re establish itself as a continuing tradition of  the First Nation peoples against the European Americans who were arrogant and exploited the First Nation peoples. They set out to crush them but they never extinguished their art.

Francis Pohl continues his commentary on the white Europeans who invaded North America and Canada.

” White Europeans were the chosen people. Native Americans the heathen savages , agents of the Devil who had to be converted or destroyed”. [1].

George Catlin an Artist who was sympathetic to their plight wrote

“Their rights invaded, their morals corrupted their lands wrested from them, Their customs changed and therefore lost to the World and they at last sunk into the Earth”. [2].

” While Catlin sympathised with the plight of Native Americans he also believed that they were doomed and must perish”.[3].

Pohl shows how Catlin  took scenes of Native American Life throughout his life.

” Catlin produced over 500 scenes of Indian Life , including the Last Race , part of the Okipa Ceremony. Clermont First Chief  of the Tribe organised many of these paintings along with costumes and a collection of native objects into an Indian Gallery”. [4].

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Pohl shows in his analysis of Catlin’s work was that it failed to totally respect Native American’s but instead turned them into the ‘Noble savage’.

” The success of Catlin’s Indian Gallery in Europe was due in part to the fact that what Catlin presented was an affirmation on the Noble-American as a noble savage”. [5].

” Thus despite Catlin’s attempt to reproduce on canvass what he saw in front of him , his images of Native American Life were filtered by himself , through the lens of an Imperialist Nostalgia”. [6].

Pohl explains how the Plains Indians under the leadership of sitting Bull and Crazy horse finally surrendered and were defeated in 1875-6 and were imprisoned in Fort Marion.

” The Battles between Native Americans and the US Army continued throuighout the late 1860’s and early 70’s with the former suffering increasing numbers of defeats”. [7]

” in the spring of 1875-72 Southern plains chiefs and warriors were imprisoned at Fort Marion Florida. Those Leaders of The Cheyenne , Kiowa Arapaho and Commanche Indians were deemed dangerous Criminals by US Government for their wartime aggressions” [8].

 

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Pohl explains the origin of Ledger Art and how Indians imprisoned at Fort Marion started using drawing books to reproduce their Art and life in all its aspects.

” During their 3 years of incarceration at Fort Marion many of the Chiefs and warriors filled drawing books with brightly coloured images of plains Indian life”. [9].

” By the last 3rd of the Century this Ledger Art began to replace the traditional pictorial surface of Buffalo hide robes within tribal culture”. [10].

Pohl describes how the Ledger art was a long tradition of pictorial imagery in Plains Indian life.

” The imagery that filled these Ledger books continued a long tradition of  narrative pictorial Art that had developed within plains tribal culture both before and after the arrival of the Europeans”. [11].

” In Fort Marion ‘Prisoners dancing for Tourists 1875-7 The Cheyenne warrior Cohoe presents his own interpretation of the theme of the savage Indian entertaining civilised Euro-Americans” [12].

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This Ledger Art shows how the Plains Indians were able to express how their culture and tribal customs were smashed and destroyed by the Oppressors who invaded their Country and Nation

” The Cheyenne Prisoner Cohoe on the other hand was drawing upon the conventions of plains Indians hide painting to create images for white tourists who wanted to take them with them”. [13].

” Art Historian Janet Berlo describes as an Idealised penal colony where a miniature but representative society of plains Indians enacts scaled down and sanitised simulacra of warfare for their captors Pleasure”.[14].

Cohoe shows how his fellow prisoners would have seen the images he drew as a correct representation of Plains Indian culture.

” Yet Cohoe’s fellow prisoners would have read the image differently , having experienced themselves the indignity of having to don Traditional dress to perform for tourists (Like a Monkey). They may well have read the scene as one of humiliation rather than pleasurable entertainment “. [15].

” In the late 19th Century 2 solutions had been proposed to the ‘Indian Problem’ extermination (The only good Indian is a dead one) and assimilation. the need for a solution became even greater after the defeat of Custer on June 25-26th 1876 by the Sioux and the Lakota tribes at the Battle of Little Big Horn in South east Montana”. [16].

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Pohl concludes with a cryptic statement that showed effectively was never achieved to the degree that the Exploiters and the Oppressors wanted. Instead they shot , killed and tried ultimately to destroy every last vestige of First Nation culture in a country that was not theirs.

” Assimilation was successful only after a large percentage of the Native population had been killed and then only partially successful”. [17].

” This Living memory is necessary in order to assuage a national conscience trying to reconcile the near-destruction of a people with the establishment of a (Capitalist oppressive Bourgeois) Democratic nation. American culture did not die in the 19th Century but remained a resilient and dynamic force in nation life”. [18].

This completes the second part of My article on First Nation Culture and their struggle to defend that culture. In My concluding part I will show different aspects of the cultural activity of  the First Nation Peoples and how they continue to defend their culture. A recent example is Standing Rock

FOOTNOTES

  1. 19TH CENTURY ART A CRITICAL HISTORY: OLD WORLD NEW WORLD THE ENCOUNTER OF CULTURES OF THE AMERICAN FRONTIER. FRANCIS K POHL.PG.167
  2. DITTO.PG.167
  3. DITTO.PG.168
  4. DITTO.PG.168
  5. DITTO.PG.168
  6. DITTO.PG.168
  7. DITTO.PG.175
  8. DITTO.PG.175
  9. DITTO.PG.175
  10. DITTO.PG.175
  11. DITTO.PG.175
  12. DITTO.PG.175
  13. DITTO.PG.175
  14. DITTO.PG.175
  15. DITTO.PG.176
  16. DITTO.PG.176
  17. DITTO.PG.177
  18. DITTO.PG.178

 

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4 thoughts on “A CRITICAL STUDY OF NATIVE AMERICAN ART AND HOW EUROPEAN AMERICANS HAD TO DESTROY THEIR CULTURE BY EXTERMINATING AND DESTROYING THE FIGHTING CAPACITY OF THE NATIVE AMERICAN OR FIRST NATION PEOPLES. AN APPRECIATION OF THE CONTINUING FIGHT BY FIRST NATION COMMUNITIES TO DEFEND THEIR CULTURAL HERITAGE: PART 2”

  1. You clearly show that First Nations don’t need sympathetic European Americans saving their art in a little corner of mainstream culture. They rather have to develop themselves their own cultural expression. The oppressed and dispossessed don’t need paternalistic ‘pity’ from members of the dominant group, but rather must organise their own struggle.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. thanks for putting this together as I really enjoyed learning and the fact that they expressed their ideas and hearts with art is such an inspiration. THANKS for writing this and I look forward to the next.

    Liked by 1 person

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