Native American Women and the Politics of Potraiture at the turn of the 20th Century

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At the turn of the twentieth century, Native American cultures, governments, and traditions were under sustained attack by federal policies that sought to destroy them. Policymakers drew a contrast between “modern Americans” and “primitive Indians” based on clothing, hairstyle, and self-presentation. Those ideas were reinforced by the many images of American Indians that proliferated in art, literature, the built environment, and myriad other aspects of U.S. culture. This presentation explores how two Native American activists, Marie Bottineau Baldwin (Turtle Mountain Chippewa) and Gertrude Bonnin, also known as Zitkala-Ša (Yankton Dakota), strategically used self-presentation–especially clothing and portraiture–to change public opinion about Native communities in their fight for political rights.

This program is a part of the Greenberg Steinhauser Forum in American Portraiture and is hosted by PORTAL, the Portrait Gallery’s Scholarly Center.

Presented by Cathleen D. Cahill, Associate Professor of History, Penn State University, with a Q & A moderated by Cécile R. Ganteaume, curator, National Museum of the American Indian.

Online via Zoom
Free-Registration required:
Closed captioning provided.

Image credit: Zitkala-Ša by Joseph Turner Keiley, glycerine-developed photograph, 1898. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

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