Hello!  Today our lecture began with First Nations art.  Our beginning topic was a continuation of examining the photos taken by American photographer, Edward S. Curtis.  These photographs examine the idea of romancing the concept of the First Nations person and emulate the idea of capturing a “dying race”.  One thing I feel is important when looking at works like Curtis’s and also of the Canadian painter Paul Kane, is to remember when these photographs and paintings were excuted and what purpose they would have served.  People have a natural curiousity, and the “New World” would have likely have been of special interest to Europeans back home.  The Curtis photos present a dilemma.  On one side, they are helpful in examining how this culture existed at one point, as it does not exist like this today.  On the other hand, we know that Curtis did not always portray things exactly as they were.  Curtis was constantly searching to portray the “ethnically pure Indian” which is a stereotype that I feel even exists today.  People of non-First nations descent still see the culture of First Nations people as being interesting, fascinating.  Traditions within these cultures have been revived over the past few decades, and now we, as viewers, can see dances performed, with all the traditional elements of masks and costumes revived.  It is certainly quite different to see cultural items in use, rather than being displayed, which I think can be somewhat readily applied across all cultural studies done in different places throughout the world.  I think this is why newer anthropology and ethnography studies seek to authenticate themselves more through direct communication with members of groups, rather than relying solely on observation and interpretation from an outside perspective.  This new way of studying cultures attempts to challenge the view that one culture cannot effectively describe another.  When we were speaking in class about the romanticized view of the Indian, I was reminded of a clip from the Disney movie, Pocahontas.

This clip, I have to say, was a favourite of mine as a child, and as a Disney fan, I still enjoy the movie Pocahontas today!  However, this clip in particular reminds me of what Curtis was after in his portrayals.  People who were one with nature, who had a different, exotic way of life that was completely foreign to a European way of living and thinking.  I think Curtis would have likely have been quite satisified that this clip from Pocahontas would supply an image of a noble savage to the viewer.

We also talked today about how there has been a revival among First Nations communities in terms of the practice of First Nations artistry.  I’d like to just add a link in here to the Freda Diesing School of Northwest Coast Art.  This school is the first of it’s kind, where it focuses on First Nations traditional art, and then developing these art skills into fine art.  It exists in my own hometown of Terrace BC!  It is a recently developed program in partnership with Northwest Community College and it is on it’s way to developing a degree program in First Nations Fine Art.  They’ve got some fantastic instructors and a gallery of student work up online.


Well that’s all for now!  I’d love to hear feedback, comments, anything!  Look out for another post coming this week!