"Vanishing Indians"

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Vanishing Indians (50th Anniversary Historical Pageant), Carleton College, Northfield, Minnesota

Depictions and photographs of Indians (here, played by White college students) disappearing into the West as a trope began in American art in the mid-19th century. The image of generalized dying Indian culture in its last sad throes has been immortalized in Edward Sheriff Curtis’ platinum print Vanishing Race (1904), James Earle Fraser’s plaster sculpture End of the Trail (1915), and is even part of the essential iconography of the Minnesota State seal.

This 1916 photograph is of a staged parade that was part of a play for the 50th Anniversary Historical Pageant at Carleton College, narrating the history of the state of Minnesota. In it, Carleton students dressed in feathers and blankets, solemnly drag their belongings West on fake travois, presumably leaving Minnesota for good. And yet Native people are still here, will always be here, and will always adapt to the changes thrown at them while keeping their traditional cultures alive.