Powerful Images — Portrayals of Native America

Aug 15th, 1999 | By | Category: 10-4: Native Arts Education, Media Reviews

POWERFUL IMAGES COVEREssays by Sarah E. Boehme, Gerald T. Conaty, Clifford Crane Bear, Emma I.
Hansen, Mike Leslie, and James H. Nottage
Published by the University of Washington Press—Seattle, with  Museums West, 1998.
160 pages, 110 illustrations
Paperback $30, cloth $50

Review by Philip H. Red Eagle

This beautifully presented book utilizes the powerful painting “Spring Arrival” by Dan Lomahaftewa (Hopi/Choctaw) as the cover image, which is a strong statement in itself. Inside are many more powerful images wrought both by Native American artists/artisans and by the newcomers as they struggled to understand exactly what they had encountered in these “New World” people.

Five essays attempt to sort out what has happened over 200 years of post-contact perception and misperception. In the light of current understandings, the book looks at the popular image of the Native American as projected in their own art, historical and contemporary. It shows how romanticized images of Native America are used to sell products or to juxtapose the newcomer’s own identity in relation to the Native image. The essays are well written and reflect the changes in perception and understanding that have happened in the last 30 years since the “hippies” of the ‘60s sought to translate Native American culture into the Peace Movement and their call for changing the American way of life.

The point of view is much better than usual. It is clear that these writers have made an effort to understand Native American culture(s) and have treated them with equanimity and fairness–a great change from the views of the “dominant” society and condescending drivel. It is a move in the right direction. It would be interesting to see the exhibit that this book was intended to supplement. The book actually includes Native American input. Dave Warren (Santa Clara Pueblo) wrote the introduction. The essayists include Clifford Crane Bear (Siksika Nation of Canada) and Emma I. Hansen (Pawnee).

The foreword and introduction do an excellent job of explaining what is to come and why the book was published. Peter Hassrick wrote the foreword. If you are a student of politics and art, this would be good book to have in your collection for reference, point of view, and simply for the sake of beauty.

Philip H. Red Eagle (Dakota/Puget Sound Salish)  is a Pacific Northwest writer whose first book, Red Earth–A Vietnam Warrior’s Journey, was published in June 1997 by Holy Cow! Press, Duluth. He is also the originator of The Raven Chronicles, a multicultural literary journal based in Seattle. The Powerful Images exhibit will be at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyo., through August 1999.

Find similar:

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.