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Turns of the Centuries Exhibit > Native American Indians 1880-1920 > Points of Contact
This theme in other eras: 1680-1720 | 1780-1820 | 1880-1920

(c) Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, Deerfield MA. All rights reserved.

Points of Contact : Ethnicity and Tourism


White Americans at the turn of the twentieth century went to great lengths to force Native peoples to assimilate and conform to Western culture. Interestingly, non-Natives also sought out romantic and exotic ways to interact with Native American culture. Tourism became a thriving industry as many Native people successfully marketed their ethnicity to an eager white audience. For example, Satekenhatie Marion Patton Philips of Kahnawake, Québec, recalled that as a young woman she helped her mother to produce beadwork to sell at the Toronto Exposition, making items such as beaded horseshoes, boots, hearts and picture frames. Families also made and sold baskets and beadwork in resort towns like Saratoga Springs, New York, and Niagara Falls.

More or less restricted to meeting the desires and tastes of its customers, this limited interaction did little to communicate the richness and autonomy of Native culture to non-Native consumers. Other ways in which whites sought to "obtain" Native culture included attending Native ceremonies and dances and attending summer camps that had Native Americans on their staffs. Scenic routes like the Mohawk Trail in Massachusetts fed the appetites of tourists for Native exoticism and "untamed" landscapes while allowing them to indulge their growing love affair with the automobile. Children across the nation participated in organizations such as the Boy Scouts and the Campfire Girls that emphasized Native crafts and woodcraft.

Stylized images of Native Americans also were part of the marketing of Native American ethnicity. Artists like Frederick Remington presented images of Native people that generally romanticized and depersonalized "real" Native people and their life experiences. Such images were, for many whites, their only exposure to Native culture. For many white Americans, Native people, like their art, symbolized a connection with nature they felt their own culture had lost. Elijah Tahamont, an Abenaki from Lake George, New York, was a popular and highly paid model who posed frequently for Remington.


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Tahamont, of the Abenakis

accession #   #M.11

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See Also...

Tuscarora beadwork sellers

Niagara Falls needle case

Beaded Horseshoe Souvenir

Abenaki Basket

Birch bark waste paper basket

Souvenir Folder of Mohawk Trail, Mass.

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