One hundred members of NatChat, an electronic mail discussion group concerned with Native American issues, responded to the recent Disney release Pocahontas by calling on parents to boycott the movie, citing its historical inaccuracies and saying that “Disney has let us down in a cruel, irresponsible manner.” Their anger was rooted in the fact that, although Disney claimed that the film's portrayal of American Indians would be “authentic,” the Pocahontas story their movie told was really white cultural myth. The actual histories of the characters were replaced by mythic narratives depicting the crucial moments when aid was given to the white settlers. As reconstructed, the story serves to reassert for whites their right to be here, easing any lingering guilt about the displacement of the native inhabitants.To understand current imagery, it is essential to understand the history of its making, and these essays mesh to create a powerful, interconnected account of image creation over the past 150 years. The contributors, who represent a range of disciplines and specialties, reveal the distortions and fabrications white culture has imposed on significant historical and current events, as represented by treasured artifacts, such as photographic images taken of Sitting Bull following his surrender, the national monument at the battlefield of Little Bighorn, nineteenth-century advertising, the television phenomenon Northern Exposure, and the film Dances with Wolves. Well illustrated, this volume demonstrates the complacency of white culture in its representation of its troubled relationship with American Indians.
About the Author
S. Elizabeth Bird is professor of anthropology at the University of South Florida.