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Stereotyping of Native Americans

Dualing Images of Native American Culture

California Museum of Photography

February 1, 2005 - February 26, 2006

Around the turn of the 20th century, photographic convention dictated Native Americans be portrayed as noble hunters and squaws living in teepees and as people who wore feathers, buckskins and beads. But since Natives' lives rarely conformed to these portrayals, elements of the pictures often contradicted American representations of Indianness. In some images, the subjects smirk and tug at uncomfortable clothing while their friends in the background and corners of the frame wear gingham dresses. In others, Iroquois are portrayed as living in teepees, and in others, Eskimos are shown posed at the entrance of plaster igloos. These incongruous elements of the pictures undermine American notion of Indian identity by explicitly revealing its constructedness.