Der Indianer: Why do 40,000 Germans spend their weekends dressed as Native Americans?
(Page 2 of 2)
Carmen Kwasny, who chairs the Native American Association of Germany, is convinced that Germans’ fascination with der Indianer comes from a lack of interaction with the natural environment in the country’s increasingly crowded, industrial cities. Kwasny grew up in Bavaria in an area surrounded by towers and factories; she remembers longing for an intimate connection to nature. “People in Germany are looking for some closeness, a new religion, new way of thinking,” she says. “The conflict is they have to find out that Native Americans are just people.”
They have to get past Karl May, in other words. If Germans knew the conditions in which a lot of Natives live today, they would have no interest in recreating them, says Marta Carlson, a member of California’s Yurok tribe and a Native studies teacher at the University of Massachusetts. “No one wants to be living below the poverty level on a [North American] reservation,” she says. “It lacks a certain romance.”
John Blackbird often feels frustrated with his role as a “dime-store Indian,” but when he comes home to Canada, he sees airport gift shops hawking sweatshirts and mugs stamped with the faces of chiefs who were persecuted during their lifetimes. If he looked for a job or an apartment, he would face a wall of racism. His daughters might expect to have poorer health and higher rates of unemployment as adults.
So he stays in Deutschland and promotes the documentary film he finished in 2005. Entitled Powwow, it follows several people as they perform dances from across a broad spectrum of Native traditions. Blackbird says he is trying to show Germans that Native dances are evolving art forms, not the ancient rituals of an extinct people.
Once, as part of his promotion efforts, he described his documentary in an e-mail to a hobbyist organization as being about “Indian life.” He received a quick response informing him that the proper term was “First Nations,” that he would do well not to use racist terminology.
“I am an Indian!” Blackbird shot back. “My friends are Indians, my family are Indians. We have always called ourselves Indians. I have a status card from the Canadian government that tells me I am an Indian. You have no right to tell me what I am.”
Excerpted from Alberta Views(July-Aug. 2008), a magazine that reports on Albertan politics and culture with wit and zeal and a 2009 Utne Independent Press Award nominee for social/cultural coverage; www.albertaviews.ab.ca.
Page: << Previous 1
| 2 |