Make some observations on the portrayal of American Indians and the Indian-White
relationship in these 19th century illustrations and art works. Categorize the
ways Indians are presented during this period. As you view the images, it's
important to remember that they present Indians through Euro-American imagination
and ideology. Consider the following questions while analyzing individual illustrations
or art works: What is emphasized in the work? What ideas and values are evident?
What emotions does the work appeal to or communicate?
In the oral cultures of American Indians, artwork serves as a visual language
that expresses the lives and worldviews of the people. Through signs and symbols,
function and form each work speaks or tells a story rich in history and belief.
Study the following images and observe on the form and design of each; consider
the materials, as well. Describe what you find aesthetically pleasing or interesting.
Explain how the object provides insight into the lifeways and culture, the beliefs
and values of the creator. Make note of symbols or decorative motifs that you
see as important or puzzling. In the 19th century, Euro-American ideas of "art"
defined American Indian creations as "craft"-expressions of the primitive or
naïve-not as sophisticated as the "high" art of the Western world. Do you agree?
Collectively, how might these works, tell a different story, and offer an alternative
view to the "official" white explanations of Indians and early American history?