This dissertation, entitled “’We All Have a Part to Play’: Salvage Tourism in American Indian Historical Pageantry,” examines three historical pageants in Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Oregon through the lenses of race and authenticity, performance and memory, tourism and the economy, and popular culture and federal policy. In this dissertation, I argue that American Indian historical pageants – which I consider to be staged productions based on local Indian history for the purposes of creating or enhancing regional tourism industries – were not interested in preserving indigenous history. Instead, businessmen, town boosters, and local entrepreneurs sought to capitalize on the continued commodification of indigeneity. The non-Native tourist desires that aligned with long-held fears that authentic American Indians would disappear, crushed beneath the wave of white settlement and progress, echoed throughout the nation in the early twentieth century. For American Indians at the height of the assimilation era, historical pageantry became an acceptable outlet for the continuation of traditional practices that had been increasingly repressed by the federal government because dances, songs, and stories could be presented in a commodified environment. Assimilation policies intended to systematically eradicate the cultural elements that made Indians Indian, but by doing so they created a rarified commodity. If Indians were disappearing, then white Americans leapt at the opportunity to see live performances of traditional songs and dances, to see Indian history performed by Indians, before it was too late. The geographic range of these pageants shows the broad reach of connecting tourism and indigeneity, while their temporal range – from the early 1900s through the present day – highlights their continued resonance with local economies and their reliance on these pageants as a means of survival. Some only lasted a few years, while others have been performed for nearly a century. Some relied heavily on indigenous participants, while others simply settled on a general narrative of indigenous history as a way to sell tickets. Regardless of their individual nature, these American Indian historical pageants offer a compelling account of the commodification of Indians, Indian history, and Indianness and its conflation with American history.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. May 2015. Major: History. Advisor: Jean OBrien. 1 computer file (PDF); vi, 391 pages.
"We All Have a Part to Play": Salvage Tourism in American Indian Historical Pageantry.
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