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Ethics of Native Reenacting
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Fitzhugh Williams
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Joined: 15 May 2007
Posts: 385
Location: Greenville, SC
Real Name: Fitzhugh Williams

PostPosted: Wed Oct 21, 2009 4:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Okwaho wrote:


1. That your heart be right
2. That you do honor to the tribe/clan which you are portraying.
3. That your gear/kit be as historically authentic as possible.



We could even apply these principles to those portraying the French.
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Okwaho
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Real Name: Tom Patton

PostPosted: Wed Oct 21, 2009 4:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

ABSOLUTELY, Fitz.

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Capt John Black
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Real Name: Ron Black

PostPosted: Wed Oct 21, 2009 5:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fitzhugh Williams wrote:
Okwaho wrote:


1. That your heart be right
2. That you do honor to the tribe/clan which you are portraying.
3. That your gear/kit be as historically authentic as possible.



We could even apply these principles to those portraying the French.


I could not agree more. You have all change my stance on this issue, which is not easy to do. Thanks everyone.

If I did offend anyone I did not mean to.

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Isaac
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Real Name: Isaac Walters

PostPosted: Thu Oct 22, 2009 9:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Okwaho wrote:

As always my good friend from the frozen north has written an excellent post especially the last paragraph.One of the great ironies here is the fact that Isaac ,for whom I have the highest respect, would ALWAYS be welcome in my lodge were he to portray a Native.


Well... I am building up the kit and research, but if my diabolical plot goes as hoped, a friend will be wearing it. I know a few guys that would do a good job at this and I think would be interested in reenacting if I can get them out. This would fit them well... that said, if I can't get them to do it... We will see.

IW

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Michael Galban
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 22, 2009 4:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have posted on this exact subject far more than I should on the FF board. Some thoughts.

I am a Native American (Washoe-N.Paiute) and am in a mixed marriage. (My wife is Kaniekehake a.k.a. Mohawk) I also work at a historic site dedicated to the Seneca.

I have never felt ok about portraying a Seneca in any century. It's my own thing i suppose. We all must decide on what we feel comfortable with and be that eh? I do however portray a Frenchman (17th c ex-soldier and 1750's Milice) and a Crown (English) Interpreter (Andrew Montour or William Printup who were likely both mixed race) during the mid 18th c.

I probably feel more comfortable portraying a Mohawk because of my wife but I never have. Do I think it's wrong for a non-Native to portray a Native? not if they do it with respect and to the best of their ability. BUT if they do a crappy job I can't stand it.

For us there is a cultural component that makes it hinky. I would never want to be labled a 'poser' with the local Native community. LOL. I have to live here after all!

For folks in Ohio or PA it's different. There are no local reservations or continuous Tribal groups anymore so the ability to fill the vacuum is simpler. no one to criticise you? LOL.

Mike's advice for Native reenactors:

Please be true to the people you are portraying. This might be the only time a person has contact with a Native American (even though you may not be one) so please make it a positive experience. Be sincere.

Get the material culture right first. THEN try and learn social culture. Heck, if you can't get the KNOWN stuff down (clothing, tools ect) how can you do the societal stuff which is FAR MORE difficult to research?

Please don't attempt to interpret "religious" aspects of native culture at a reenactment. For us, these are still in current use so by 'reenacting' them it dilutes their meanings and many of us find it downright insulting.

Read. read. read. Then read some more.

Know that some modern Native people will object to your impression. Some harshly. Learn to be earnest and honest about your impression and be so when meeting actual Natives. Honesty is an amazing leveler.

Learn that there is a huge difference between portraying a Native American and BEING Native American. BUT sometimes when you are in "kit" you will experience discrimination, crappy comments, stereotypes and bitterness - welcome to our world. I have some friends who are not Native but do an EXCELLENT job in their portrayal who were openly challenged and verbally abused when in kit. I said to them. "Now you know why I do French." LOL.

Have fun. This is both the simplest and most complex portrayal both in study and in reality. When it works it can be awesome - when it doesn't.........<wretch> think about doing a longhunter.

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Capt John Black
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 22, 2009 6:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think you have hit the nail right on the head!

We have three tribes in tiny Rhode Island, only the Narragansetts hold any tribal lands (not much I might add). They are a serious lot. The few I have met are wonderful people, but I know they would be very offended.

My goal is to get the OK of the tribal leaders before we allow it. I am also afraid that we might get uneducated people trying to portray Natives. I have seen it happen, it ain't pretty.

Thank you for your input. Might I be so bold to ask, Can I use your suggestions on our web site?

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Capt. Jas.
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 22, 2009 6:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mr. Galban, your advice is good on all points and should go for anyone portraying someone they are not. That would be all of us huh? ; )
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GreyWolf
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Real Name: Chuck Burrows

PostPosted: Thu Oct 22, 2009 9:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Learn that there is a huge difference between portraying a Native American and BEING Native American

A VERY good example Michael...
FWIW - I'm mixed blood - various Euro, Tuscarora, and Choctaw (neither of the latter "papered"), but my biggest NDN influences are western since I moved west in 1965 -
anyway a few years ago I was invited to attend a Ute sun dance (I live on the So Ute rez) - also invited were some very earnest German NDN reenactors - plain and simply they made an ass of themselves - modern NDNz while "traditional" in many ways are also a living/growing society that aren't "stuck" in the past (i.e modern pow wows are no less "real" than than what some many consider 'traditional"), but the German "guests" didn't understand this in what turned into a nasty sort of way and claimed they were more "Indian" than their hosts when the hosts didn't meet their limited expectations - a real lack of respect .......use your imagination, but they were as "gently" as possible removed from the scene.............
For many reasons I don't do a full-blood "impresssion", but rather one more or less reflecting my own mixed blood heritage ( ie. eastern NDN "forced" into the 1810-40's RMFT), but I don't have a problem (and neither do most of my full-blood friends of several western tribes) when the impression is done with respect and knowledge/understanding - on the other hand it's sometimes like watching the Cowboy Action Shooter's doing their "thang" - nice up to a point, but after working as a real hand you KNOW the difference - being arm deep in a cow's butt during calving is not the same as being a shooter, CAS style....
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Loyalist Dave
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Joined: 21 Aug 2008
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Real Name: David Woolsey

PostPosted: Thu Oct 22, 2009 11:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is an odd discussion (imho)...,

For.., folks by some of that "logic" then no Asians allowed in reenactments unless you can document them eh? No Hispanics unless you are doing a Spanish regiment. etc etc

To look at all Europeans as a single group capable of portraying each other, denies the actual attitudes of Europeans themselves. If you understand and agree that a person of one Indian nation would not want to portray a different nation..., then how do you then lump all persons from Europe (an arbitrary set of nations of different languages and alphabets) into a big happy group? If Huron, Cherokee, Mohawk, Seneca, Shawnee, are different, then so are English, French, Irish, Spanish, German, and etc. Otherwise your viewpoint sets up a double standard.

Here in Maryland, and in PA within a few hours drive of me, there are historic sites where aboriginal peoples took part in the conflicts, BUT very few folks of those genetic phenotypes are available to portray their ancestors, AND their ancestors did adopt captured enemies, including Europeans. So, because somebody "feels" uncomfortable about a white portraying the part..., we should neglect to show the vital role the indigenous ethnic groups played in our collective history? Instead of filling the field with guys wanting to provide for the public a better view of what really happened, we omit any portrayal of indigenous peoples when none are available, and when the kids say "If this is the French and Indian War, where are the Indians" we simply shrug?

Sure some of the guys don't have proper body types..., and some of them are actually recognized by Indian tribes as members.

Doesn't a person who plays such a demanding part, do it because they respect and in many cases love the culture? Doesn't such an action teach respect, and also preserves that culture? In an age when we still see people killing each other over cultural differences, how do we then accept a prohibition against a person reaching across from their ancestry to embrace another?

When you are an American, you belong to the only country whose history belongs to all of its citizens. Every other nation traces its roots back to ethnic groups, but WE invented ourselves. We get it all, the good and the bad, but it's ALL OURS. From the guy who traces his ancestry back to Jamestown, to the Gal who gets sworn in tomorrow at the Federal Courthouse..., Americans get the same history. So we all get the ability to legitimately look into any area of our history as living historians. The alternative is to forget what really happened..., and to forget who was really here..., and that ladies and gents, boys and girls, really would be wrong.

LD

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Michael Galban
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 23, 2009 8:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
"If this is the French and Indian War, where are the Indians"


LOL. In the MANY battles of the SYW sometimes there weren't any Natives there!
BUT, I know what you mean.

I don't think anyone is saying that Non-Natives should never portray Natives. If you ythink this you should re-read the posts.

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Le Nez
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Real Name: Bob Norment

PostPosted: Fri Oct 23, 2009 9:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

. "Now you know why I do French." LOL.


Now that IS funny Mike!!!!!!!! Having done French impressions representing three different centuries, I have experienced more "French-Bashing" at public events from the ignorant and uneducated general public that dished out to any other nationality or ethnic group!

Simply amazing!

Le Nez

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Fitzhugh Williams
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 23, 2009 9:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Le Nez wrote:
.

Now that IS funny Mike!!!!!!!! Having done French impressions representing three different centuries, I have experienced more "French-Bashing" at public events from the ignorant and uneducated general public that dished out to any other nationality or ethnic group!

Simply amazing!

Le Nez


I have noticed that re-occurring theme at the events I attend, too.
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Okwaho
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Joined: 16 May 2007
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Real Name: Tom Patton

PostPosted: Fri Oct 23, 2009 10:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Michael Galban wrote:
I have posted on this exact subject far more than I should on the FF board. Some thoughts.

I am a Native American (Washoe-N.Paiute) and am in a mixed marriage. (My wife is Kaniekehake a.k.a. Mohawk) I also work at a historic site dedicated to the Seneca.

I have never felt ok about portraying a Seneca in any century. It's my own thing i suppose. We all must decide on what we feel comfortable with and be that eh? I do however portray a Frenchman (17th c ex-soldier and 1750's Milice) and a Crown (English) Interpreter (Andrew Montour or William Printup who were likely both mixed race) during the mid 18th c.

I probably feel more comfortable portraying a Mohawk because of my wife but I never have. Do I think it's wrong for a non-Native to portray a Native? not if they do it with respect and to the best of their ability. BUT if they do a crappy job I can't stand it.

For us there is a cultural component that makes it hinky. I would never want to be labled a 'poser' with the local Native community. LOL. I have to live here after all!

For folks in Ohio or PA it's different. There are no local reservations or continuous Tribal groups anymore so the ability to fill the vacuum is simpler. no one to criticise you? LOL.

Mike's advice for Native reenactors:

Please be true to the people you are portraying. This might be the only time a person has contact with a Native American (even though you may not be one) so please make it a positive experience. Be sincere.

Get the material culture right first. THEN try and learn social culture. Heck, if you can't get the KNOWN stuff down (clothing, tools ect) how can you do the societal stuff which is FAR MORE difficult to research?

Please don't attempt to interpret "religious" aspects of native culture at a reenactment. For us, these are still in current use so by 'reenacting' them it dilutes their meanings and many of us find it downright insulting.

Read. read. read. Then read some more.

Know that some modern Native people will object to your impression. Some harshly. Learn to be earnest and honest about your impression and be so when meeting actual Natives. Honesty is an amazing leveler.

Learn that there is a huge difference between portraying a Native American and BEING Native American. BUT sometimes when you are in "kit" you will experience discrimination, crappy comments, stereotypes and bitterness - welcome to our world. I have some friends who are not Native but do an EXCELLENT job in their portrayal who were openly challenged and verbally abused when in kit. I said to them. "Now you know why I do French." LOL.

Have fun. This is both the simplest and most complex portrayal both in study and in reality. When it works it can be awesome - when it doesn't.........<wretch> think about doing a longhunter.



Michael; a really great post and one with which I wholeheartedly concur. Here are a few thoughts on what you had to say:

First ;my Native heritage is Monacan,a Siouan language pattern tribe in the James River Basin of Virginia and when up North in Yankee land {tongue in cheek}I normally portray an "elderly" Mohawk and I am extremely aware of my obligation to be true to the people I am portraying especially when talking to civilians.I have a very good friend whose wife is Mohawk and before I came North a few years ago she and I had a long and very fruitful talk on that subject. I touched on this subject in my last post on this thread but I definitely think that both of our comments bear repeating.

Second;as for interpreting the religious aspects of Native culture,I didn't touch on this subject but again I am in total agreement with your statement here and in fact will go a little further as to my oft refusal to touch on some aspects in posts herein i.e.neck knives and certain ornamentation worn by some non Native reenactors.I think you know what I mean here.

Third;As to your mention of criticism by our portrayal of Native peoples,I haven't had any up north but not so in the South.Several of these come to mind BUT they were made by non Natives. As to any criticism by Natives either reenactors or civilians I have been fortunate . Perhaps I am following your sage wisdom and counsel i.e. I long ago learned to be earnest and honest. After all as you say,"Honesty is an amazing leveler".

I really like your last comment.I have been in this hobby since early 1984. Gee,has it really been 25 years? I can say aqbsolutely without any qualms that by far portraying Native has been the most enjoyable and rewarding. Where else could I associate with people like my nephew who has been known to appear at a event with a huge mop of blonde hair.

In conclusion and before I climb down from this soap box,I am in total agreement with your post. That concept is truly scary for ONE of us.

Tom Patton

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redhawk67
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Real Name: Anonymous

PostPosted: Mon Nov 30, 2009 7:20 pm    Post subject: ethics of native renacting Reply with quote

my self i have no card no need for one my family did not walk the trail of tears. but am very active with alot of cherokee creek and meherin people.
I am learning cherokee and have family in nc. . if you go by the b.i.a
I am not native but by my peers I am excepted.So I guess it depends on who you are with at the time.If you go back to pre-B.I.A and look at the blood quantum of such tribal leaders as Mcintosh,brant,john ross,sequoiah,
and a host of others all great chiefs all not carded .none full blooded.
thanks,Peter
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Luke MacGillie
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Real Name: Fred Lucas

PostPosted: Fri Jan 08, 2010 8:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote





Lots of intersting comments here. Anyway a coat of paint and some colored contacts do wonders for your ordinary average white guy

One thing I think is key, is that if you are going to try a Native impression, is that you know, interact and be friends with real natives living in a native community. You need to be keyed into what is going on in the community today, just as much as you need to know how to apply a bead edgeing to your leggings.

The reason I say this is that so many people do view native culture as being static, and being connected to todays issues always re-inforces in your own mind that culture is dynamic.

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