Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Lesser of Two Evils

Which of the two representations of the American Indian in the photograph above (the National Museum of the American Indian or the Washington Redskins flag) is more acceptable? Immediately, my mind finds the more formal Museum of the American Indian to be a far more acceptable and respectful representation of Native Americans. However, when attempting to justify my answer to this seemingly straightforward question, I find answering to be far more difficult. Certainly, the Washington Redskins flag does no justice to Native American culture because it one, generalizes American Indian culture, thereby distorting it, and two, attempts to mix the diverse cultures and traditions of the many different Native American tribes with the popular culture of American football. On the other hand, the National Museum of the American Indian does this to some extent as well. By attempting to include so many diverse cultures in a single museum and under the blanket term “American Indian”, the museum also distorts certain aspects of Native American life by failing to highlight their differences. Additionally, despite the efforts to portray the modernity of the American Indian through modern art, the museum does not successfully represent the Native Americans as a surviving and technically sovereign people. Therefore, the failures of both representations of the American Indian stem from their generalizations of varied and distinct cultures, as well as their neglect for the existence of modern Native American culture. However, the question does not include the option to choose neither. Therefore, I must choose the National Museum of the American Indian to be the more acceptable of the two because it is the lesser of the two misrepresentations. Unlike, the Washington Redskins flag, the museum attempts to represent the American Indian culture in a valid manner, despite its generalizations, and also does include some evidence, be it minimal, of a continuing Native American culture.

1 comment:

  1. To elaborate with what you wrote (which I agree with), I was also a bit upset at how the museum failed to acknowledge instances such as the Redskins flag. I think it's important for a cultural museum like such to publicize the need to stay away from such (arguably racist) generalizations. If they could add an exhibit that would focus on the skewing on the modern day Native American, I think that would drastically change the outlook of the museum, thus acknowledging your concern...