Der Indianer: Why do 40,000 Germans spend their weekends dressed as Native Americans?


| May-June 2009


The first thing John Blackbird learned when he was growing up on the Canadian prairies was that his people were no good. Raised primarily by a white family, Blackbird heard from friends and classmates that Natives were lazy and unemployable. Even in childhood games, nobody wanted to be the Indian. Everyone wanted to play the gallant cowboy.

Today in Germany, Blackbird is a star, a celebrity even. He’s seen as a descendant of the wild and free people of the plains—an embodiment of environmental respect. Fans routinely trail the 38-year-old Cree filmmaker on the streets. He tours the country’s military installations and schools, and is asked for opinions on everything from politics to spirituality.

Blackbird’s fame springs from a remarkable cultural phenomenon: some 40,000 German “hobbyists” who spend their weekends trying to live exactly as Indians of the North American plains did over two centuries ago. They recreate tepee encampments, dress in animal skins and furs, and forgo modern tools, using handmade bone knives to cut and prepare food. They address each other by adopted Indian-sounding names such as White Wolf. Many feel an intense spiritual link to Native myths and spirituality, and talk about “feeling” Native on the inside.

Their fascination with Native culture is due in large part to Karl May, the best-selling German author of all time. In 1892, May published the first of many books about a fictional Apache warrior named Winnetou and his German blood brother, Old Shatterhand. The two men roamed the North American plains, using their nearly superhuman powers to fight off the land-hungry government and thuggish, violent pioneers. (Fans of the stories included Albert Einstein and Adolf Hitler.) In the 1960s the duo was immortalized in five popular films, and hobbyist groups began forming across Europe. There are now more than 400 clubs in Germany alone.

Some Natives do take issue. When he first traveled to Germany, David Redbird Baker, an Ojibwe, thought adults playing cowboys and Indians were cute. But when the hobbyists began staging sacred ceremonies like ghost and sun dances and sweat lodges, Baker was offended.

“They take the social and religious ceremonies and change them beyond recognition,” says Baker, who believes that hobbyists, in claiming the right to improvise on the most sacred rituals, have begun to develop a sense of ownership over Native culture. They’ve held dances where anyone in modern dress is barred from attending—even visiting Natives. They buy sacred items like eagle feathers and add them to their regalia. They’ve even allowed women to dance during their “moon time,” which is, according to Baker, the equivalent of a cardinal sin.

bertrandfeuvray
12/25/2017 11:00:39 PM

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Bertrand Feuvray shared his post. 22 hrs · ... Bertrand Feuvray shared a post to Bertrand Feuvray's timeline. 22 hrs · I wrote a response to this article about Germans who love Native Americans. Click on picture to read about it. . Bertrand Feuvray June 30 · Grit · . As a Frenchman born and raised in France, If there is one thing that makes me like the Germans, it is their love for Native Americans. I love American Indians a... See More Becoming 'Indigenous': German Fascination with North American Indians - Community - Utne Reader Examining why German hobbyists study and even try to emulate North American Indians through scholarly essays. utne.com .. Like Comment Share . Comments Bertrand Feuvray Write a comment... . Bertrand Feuvray shared a link. November 18 · Quora · ... Overall, are you proud of Britain and what she's done for the world? Bertrand Feuvray's answer: Yes! Britain is a hero country. When I think of World War II and what Britain did for France--I was born and raised there--it is amazing that Britain… quora.com .. Like Comment Share. Comments Bertrand Feuvray Write a comment... . Bertrand Feuvray shared a link. November 18 · Quora · ... Overall, are you proud of Britain and what she's done for the world? Bertrand Feuvray's answer: Yes! Britain is a hero country. When I think of World War II and what Britain did for France--I was born and raised there--it is amazing that Britain… quora.com .. Like Comment Share. Comments Bertrand Feuvray Bertrand Feuvray Yes, I am proud. Manage Like · Reply · 23h. Bertrand Feuvray Write a comment... . Bertrand Feuvray shared Bertrand Feuvray's post. October 7 · ... Bertrand Feuvray shared a link to your timeline. October 13, 2016 · . The Drifters perform 'Under the Boardwalk' live on QVC Music group The Drifters performed 'Under the Boardwalk'… youtube.com .. Like Comment Share. Comments Bertrand Feuvray Write a comment... . 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Manage Like · Reply · 22h. Bertrand Feuvray Write a comment... . Bertrand Feuvray shared his post. October 7 · ... Bertrand Feuvray June 30 · The New York Times · . Native Fantasy: Germany's Indian Heroes. Native Fantasy: Germany’s Indian Heroes Germany’s biggest folk hero is an Apache named Winnetou who fights for justice outside of Hamburg. Best-selling author… nytimes.com .. Like Comment Share. 1 Bertrand Feuvray . 1 Share Comments Bertrand Feuvray Bertrand Feuvray Click on the picture above to watch a documentary on the reasons about German fascination with Native Americans. Manage Like · Reply · 29m. Bertrand Feuvray Write a comment... . Bertrand Feuvray shared his post. October 7 · ... Bertrand Feuvray June 30 · . Fascination for American Indians in Germany. American troops at the end of WWII could see that Germans had a knowledge of the American WEst. European Indians: Germany’s Fetishization of Native American Culture Staff Writer Nick Vacchio explores Germany’s unusual fascination with Native Americans and the unintended cultural consequences. prospectjournal.org .. Like Comment Share. Comments Bertrand Feuvray Bertrand Feuvray My name is Bertrand Feuvray and I live in Montana, USA. I became a USA citizen in 2011. My email address is bertrand_feuvray@yahoo.com ...I am also on Facebook. I was born and raised in France and lived there for 25 years of my life. Then, I lived in England for 10 years and now have been living in the USA for 28 years. I am married to a Native American lady who has Chippewa-Cree Indian ancestry on her father's side and has Assiniboine-Sioux (Lakota and Dakota) on her mother's side. Also she claims to have English and French ancestry on both sides of her parents' families. I love American Indians but I do not emulate them. I do not wear Native outfits but I have necklaces or rings that were given to me or that I bought as souvenirs and I wear them. For my Birthday, my sister-in-law who is my wife's sister buys me Indian Tee Shirts from Crow Indian Country. We, Europeans, do romanticize about the Indians and I know I do it and I have been told when I did it, but it is hard to catch yourselves doing it because you are so involved with your fascination that you do not see around it. So with German Hobbyists, I understand what is said about how they are perceived and I also know when they have Native American visitors, they want to learn from them in order to be more accurate. If there is anything that, as a Frenchman, makes me love the Germans, it is their love for Native Americans. Do you realize that nothing about Europe excite Europeans??? I mean as far as uniting Europe. I think that if you told everyone in Europe how much the Germans love American Indians, that would increase positive feelings towards Germans. Think about it, they were and they are still blamed for two world wars-- Nazis kill millions of people and THEY LOVE ONE OF THE MOST PERSECUTED PEOPLE IN THE WORLD: THE INDIANS!!! WOW! this is very good because among Native Peoples, they are mentioned as if they were the only Europeans who love Native Americans. And the term Wannabees is mentioned. Why be always negative? They feel what they do. But we all do love the Indians, but they are more known for it. Well, I am going to say that they definitively got it right somewhere. And because of their love for the Indians and because all Europeans love them, too, do you know that could be the unifying factor between all Europeans, because it makes us love those from other countries who loves the Indians. Many Europeans--Germans included, probably by far--will ask and cannot stand not to ask about the Indians when they meet Americans. To only get a response like "yes, what about the Indians?" from Americans is rather disappointing. I have read hundreds of books on Native Americans and if there is one aspect that makes me sad is all the terrible things Americans did to the Indians. What makes me believe in the USA is the fact that it has so much going for it: constitution, freedom, helped nations be free from oppression, etc. But they seem to be good a helping everyone else except for the Indians. A nation cannot survive if they do not adopt things from the vanquished nations that were first on the land. They learned to know the land and preserved it. Sure, they used fires for different purposes but the destruction of the land was not as it is today. And the waste, what a shame to throw everything!!! So to the Germans and other Europeans, we see the Indians as something refreshing coming out of the past--a past that is fascinating because the Native Peoples were free and had so much space. Europe back then was crowded and the people were sickly. From 1450 to 1650, there were the great plague, reduced harvest seasons, 50% of the people died of disease or killing in times of war, and so America and the Indians offered something more healthy. When they first met the Indians, they could run as fast as a horse, they were in great shape, etc...


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Sylvia McAdam
3/3/2012 5:48:55 PM

tansi, I would like to suggest something. Its true Indigenous people struggle with many colonialistic symptoms and most likely will for a long time. In saying that, there is also a beauty and sacredness that still exists within the traditional and "grassroots" Indians. The ones who carry the knowledge and understand the laws of their people. Our songs, our ceremonies, our languages are all of a much bigger picture immersed in Nationhood. A "true" Indian will not promote themselves nor seek out attention. People need to understand we are a gifted Nation still linked to the spirit world in many ways. Mina kehtwam.