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tv   American Artifacts Pocahontas American Indian Imagery  CSPAN  December 21, 2018 8:01pm-8:25pm EST

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after that, it's off to the smithsonian national portrait gallery in washington dc for an exhibit depicting pivotal events and personalities from the year 1968. and later, a look at vietnam artifacts that are part of the vietnam center and archives at texas tech university. >> each week american artifacts takes you to museums and other historic places to learn about american history. next we tour the americans exhibit in the national museum of the american indian here in washington dc with curator cecile ganteaume. she shows us how indian names and images are used on products, military insignias, and state and city seals. in the pocahontas gallery, we saw images of the indian princess and learned how she has been used as a symbol of
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america's founding. >> we are standing in the central gallery of the american indie is latest exhibit. this exhibit was conceived around the premise and the premise is that most american people today feel that they have very little to do with native americans and native americans have virtually nothing to do with them or their lives. and we believe the exact opposite is true. so in this exhibition, the national museum of the american indian is examining the nature of non-native americans relationship with native americans. and we do this through the prism of the national paradox. now paradox is what affects americans if they're familiar with it or not. the paradox is american indians constitute 1-2 percent of the us population. yet everywhere you look in american life you see imagery of american indians. this imagery is found not only in advertising, product design
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and corporate locals, it is also found on state and county seals, it is found in us military insignia. it is found on motels and storefront signage, on architectural elements of buildings and bridges, is found in people's tattoos. it's everywhere you look in american life. and whether one is native american or extends from people who came from people who came on the mayflower. or indeed a recent immigrant, one recognize this imagery as part and parcel of american life and so we wanted to begin our exhibit by exploring this phenomenon, which is once familiar but very striking. and here's what is key about it. it's a phenomenon that is unique to the united states. there is no other country in the world that is so fixated with one segment of its population that it is constantly creating images of those people. and in the united states, this
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tradition, this phenomenon started before the country was even found it. it started with the country's most ardent patriots and has continued unabated up to the present day. but there is something else that is really significant about this phenomenon in this country. and that is the fact that although imagery of american indians is pervasive in american life, it actually does nothing to bring non-native closer to understanding who american indians are or to understand the nature of the history that they have shared with an american indians. this imagery actually masks who native americans really are and this shared history. and so what we do in the american indian exhibit is, we open this curtain and we look at what stands behind this
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imagery. because in many ways this imagery is the intersection between natives and non-native, but it's an intersection that is not actually a throughway. so, the americas exhibit ends with a very clear presentation of the fact that non-native americans and native americans share a deeply entangled history. this history is the history of the united states. it has shaped national consciousness as well as popular culture. so, we will look at a few of the images now. but what i would like to show you first, is one that really fascinated me as soon as i learned about it. and this is a sketch for the great seal of the united states. now, the continental congress employed a committee or got together a committee of americans with impeccable
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revolutionary war credentials to come up with a design for the great seal of the united states. the committee presented a proposal and the continental congress did not like it, they got together a second committee. the second committee turned to a man named francis hopkinson. now francis hopkinson was a signer of the declaration of independence and he came up with the sketch that we are looking at here. now people who know about the history of the seal know that this sketch was never submitted as a formal proposal for what the great seal should look like. but i find it extraordinarily fascinating that at the time that the united states was forming its government, that it was trying to codify its foundational ideas and come up with a visual identity that somebody actually considered putting a native american on the great seal of the united states. the fact that this native american was erased from the seal, sad to say, prefigures
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the history that would soon transpire of the united states erasing american indians from the landscape. another fascinating object is this world war i helmet. it's actually a marine helmet. but, it's a us army insignia and this is because during world war i, three or four regiments of the us marines were assigned to the us army to fight in france. and at that time the army didn't have any insignia, but realized it wanted to have an insignia to distinguish its personnel and its vehicles from european armed forces. and so, the officer in charge put it up to the enlisted men to come up with a design. one enlisted man came up with the drawing of a portrait of an indian man wearing an eagle feather headdress. another one came up a star. the officer put the two
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together and when he passed this design of the line to request permission to use it as an insignia, his argument was who is the first true american? but the american indian? and that is why this insignia was improved and is used to this day. now, the other thing that is interesting is, of course it was the us army who was fighting american indians who were diss possessing them of their land and confining them to reservations. but in the 20th century it is the army who puts forward the image of the american indian to resent represent themselves. and when the army did this, they employed the colors of red white and blue to depict the american indian. well, after world war i, when modern advertising as we know it took off, advertisers started using an image of an
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american indian for the same reason, to represent what is truly american and quite often when they would depict american indians in their advertising or their on their product design, they would use the colors red, white and blue as we see in the famous land of legs. how many americans have land of lakes in the refrigerator? and we can see the pro-indian maidens beadwork is red white and blue as is her feather work. and you see this over and over again in american advertising, although famously on hens, what many many advertisers and commercial advertisers use both the imagery of an american indian and the colors red, white and blue because what they are selling is something that is quintessentially american. the us military has been naming weapons and aircraft after american indian tribes and
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weapons for over 200 years. this tradition really took a steam in the 20th century and in the 1960s, the us air force issued a memorandum saying that they would be naming helicopters after tribes. and in their memorandum they justify their reasons for doing this. they said that these names evoke a fighting and a warrior spirit. and today, the tradition is done with the acquiescence of tribes so, for example, one of the most famous attack helicopters in the us military's arsenal is the apache helicopter. and these are produced in arizona, and every time a new model of the apache helicopter is unveiled, there is a ceremony. and in attendance at the ceremony are white mountain
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apache tribal officials and religious leaders and they perform a ceremony and also a lessing for the individuals who will be flying the aircraft. also in the exhibit is a life- size, and actual tomahawk missile. and again, we are getting across the point that they are using not only imagery but names of american indians to invoke a fierce fighting spirit. so now we have looked at just a few images that are in our indians everywhere gallery. they are all over 300 indians of american indians in this gallery are each one of these images can easily be replaced with another image. as we say, what we find significant about this imagery is that it is evidence of the history that americans and american indians share. and in the exhibit we explore
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the history behind this imagery. so now we are going to go into our pocahontas gallery area. we are concerned about getting across the fact that the countries deepest roots are entangled with native americans. so, we are talking about pocahontas, who has been famous for 400 years. she is the only native american, she is the only american in the history of the country who has been famous for this long. and we are in this gallery, we are looking at how improbable it is that somebody who was born 400 years ago, let alone a female, let alone an indigenous woman, let alone an indigenous woman who died when she was in her early 20s, should remain famous for 400 years. and so, we know that a lot of our visitors aren't really sure pocahontas was an actual historical person, so the first
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thing we want to get across is the fact that she was a historical person. and how much it is that we know about her. we know where she was born that she was the daughter of a powerful leader, that she was a frequent visit to the fort james colony, that she was abducted by the colonists and held by them for a year. that she was instructed in christianity and baptized that she married an english colonist, that she had a son and also that she traveled to london. and in london she was twice vetted in the court of king james and unfortunately she passed away just at the outset of her voyage home. now england, pocahontas what a human face on the indigenous face people of the americas for the first time in history. it's important to understand that up until this time europeans were debating whether or not indigenous people in the america were fully human.
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pocahontas as i said, put a human face on the indigenous americans and during her trip to london she entered the human history books. her portrait is created from life. and this portrait is published in a book of british monarchies and other notables. she is received as a daughter of a powerful leader. her life story is published in a famous volume called the grand voyages, one volume deals with the americas and the american volume talks about pocahontas's life. this volume was translated into many languages, so pocahontas's life within a short time after her death is known to a book reading european audience. on this wall, one of the images we are most interested in is a piece from a book on the history of virginia. and in this piece, the four of
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the first us presidents who were born in virginia, the fourth chief justice of the united states who was born in virginia, and patrick henry, the famous patriot who said give me liberty or give me death. they are all shown standing on pocahontas to shoulders. it is a scene of pocahontas saving the life of captain smith. so we want to know why these illustrious americans are depicted standing on the shoulders of pocahontas. and so, we also want to know what is pocahontas saving the life of captain smith, depicted in the breeze of history in the rotunda of the us capitol? now, the us capital of course houses the legislative branch of government. and the rotunda is the countries grandest ceremonial room, which is evocative of a
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roman pantheon. and here is pocahontas in the history under the magnificent dome. and we want to know why is she being afforded this respect? why does she merit being positioned here? and the reason is although historians today dispute and in fact discount the idea that she saved captain smith's life, early in our history people believe that to be true. and this incident is detailed in the rotunda of the us capital. because in saving captain smith life pocahontas was credited with saving before james kalani and in saving before james colony she is credited with saving the birth place of democracy. the place where the first legislative assembly of elected representatives met in what
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would become the united states of america. now in the painting in the us rotunda, a very important motif is the tobacco leaf. and tobacco was not only the cash crop that allowed for james to become a viable colony and enrich england, it is also the cash crop that allows virginia to become the most powerful and influential colony and end up the wealthy most powerful and influential state. on top of that, pocahontas's defiant action, she is defying her father by train to intercede and save the life of captain smith, this rebelliousness was associated with the rebelliousness of the american patriot. so, as i say, in this painting, the united states is extended its lineage back to pocahontas.
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so, pocahontas has always been a household name throughout us history and pocahontas has always been considered an acutely important historical person. and in 1907 when the 300th anniversary of the founding of jamestown was being celebrated, president theodore roosevelt oversaw the celebration and during the celebrations once again, pocahontas is put forward as not only the savior, but a founders of the country. and here in this blowup of what is actually a postcard, she is made to resemble nothing less than lady liberty. she is the chesapeake bay, and she looks westward over the entire country. now in the 19 24, something interesting happens in
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virginia, and that is that the state of virginia is passing racial segregation laws. and they are looking at 1924 to pass an act that they referred to as the racial integrity act. this act is intended to safeguard the "pureness of the white race by banning interracial marriages" so the act requires that every birth of a child born in the state of virginia is registered and at that time, that the child's race is also registered. now, the child can be classified either as colored or white. okay, the legislation is intended to help virginia ban, prohibit and even punished interracial marriages and this law actually is also designed
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to legislate american indians out of existence. well, what happens is that wealthy, powerful elite virginians who dissent from pocahontas realize that if this law is passed, they will be classified as people of color and subjected to jim crow laws. in virginia, wealth, power and influence have long been associated with lineage. and one of the most important lineage societies in the country has always been the first families of virginia. the first families of virginia trace their lineage back to the english colonist who came to fort james. many of these first family of virginia members descend from the marriage, in between
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pocahontas's son thomas and a member of the randolph family. so there are many people in virginia that claim dissent from this marriage and know that they have american indian blood. so, in 1924 when the law is passed, it includes an exception that clause allows for anybody with 1/16th american indian blood to be classified as white, and not as colored and then therefore subject to jim crow laws. but the fact that pocahontas's marriage to john wolf should be evoked in 20th century eugenic laws in the state that long touted the first interracial marriage in between pocahontas and john rawls is nothing if truly ironic.
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generations of contemporary americans have grown learning about pocahontas from the 1995 animated disney film. but throughout us history, americans have been reproducing pocahontas's suppose it like this. and in the early 20th century, however a famous philanthropist paul mellon, acquired a painting of pocahontas that was made in the early 18th century, based on the same engraving of pocahontas. and for decades, it hung in pocahontas's husband, john rolfes family home. it was acquired by paul mellon and in 1942 it was donated to the national gallery of art and then the national portrait gallery where it is touted as their most famous portrait of an american. what we want people to walk away from this gallery realizing is that pocahontas holds a unique place in
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american history. she is the individual who put a human face on the indigenous peoples of the united states and she is reminder that the countries deepest roots are entangled with native americans. >> you can watch this and other american artifacts programs by visiting our website, c- /history. >> this weekend on american history tv, saturday at 8 pm eastern on lectures in history, catholic university professor and former cia historian nicholas douma bits on national intelligence operations during president kennedy's administration. >> i want to focus on the two biggest intelligence subjects of the kennedy administration which often are the two major historical episodes that people remember from this.. the bay of pigs fiasco, and the
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cuban missile crisis. so we have a fiasco and we have a crisis. they're both big problems. what they have in common is obviously cuba. >> and sunday at 6 pm on american artifacts, a look inside the national portrait gallery on its 50th anniversary. >> the charter that was handed to us by congress was a collective of men and women who made an impact on americans history and culture. and i use that word impact advisedly. because of course, we had people like john wilkes booth who assassinated president lincoln, and the notorious gangster al capone. there's no moral test in the portrait gallery, we are not a hall of heroes. what we are is a place to reflect on those people who have changed the national conversation and got us to where we are today. >> watch american history tv, th


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