American Ethnological Society
Oral Presentation Session
I will discuss issues of relations and cultural exchanges among Indigenous peoples, popular culture, identity assertion and indigenization. Indigenous peoples from the ‘Far West’, mostly the ‘Sioux’, have strongly marked the imaginary of peoples around the world, including other Indigenous peoples, especially through the popular culture with western cinema and the pan-Indigenous movement since the end of the 19th century. In 1894, the first Indigenous appearances before a motion picture camera were recorded (Dickson). It was black-and-white silent film shots of Sioux dancers from the Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show: Buffalo Dance and Sioux Ghost Dance. In the first half of the 20th century, Indigenous peoples in Quebec began to dress (and act) like “Far West” Indigenous peoples, with feather headdress and so on, to assert their indigeneity in special occasions, for themselves as well as to meet the demand of tourism and colonial authorities. In residential schools, missionaries organized film screenings of western movies with cowboy and ‘bad Indians’. Paradoxically, at the same time as they were trying to eradicate their Indigenous background, belonging and identity, the missionaries dressed them as stereotyped ‘little Indians’ with feathers on the head and false leather clothing when they received great visit from the clergy or the government. Today, those outfits are viewed as outdated. However, the pan-Indigenous spiritual, healing and cultural recovery movement of the pow wow, originating from the West Plains and spreading across North America, gains more and more Indigenous peoples and communities in Quebec each year.