By Laura McCallister
A local artist posted a picture of a man standing on scaffolding and pointing a rifle at Kansas City's famous statue called The Scout. The actual statue is about 10 feet tall, was created by Cyrus E. Dallin and depicts a Sioux Indian on horseback surveying the landscape.
It overlooks downtown Kansas City.
A number of groups are calling the artwork offensive to Native Americans.
The Scout (Kansas City, Missouri statue)
Comment: Before we even get to the billboard, The Scout has a few problems:
1) Missouri wasn't part of the Sioux's historic range.
2) A Sioux Indian doesn't honor the local tribes because the local tribes aren't Sioux. That's like having a statue of a Norwegian to honor the French.
3) The Indian is half-naked, which he might be in summer, but not in winter. Portraying him this way emphasizes his savagery--how different he is from "us," who wear clothes all the time.
4) The Scout resembles another Indian sculpted by Cyrus Dallin: Massasoit. Indeed, it could be the same Indian. A Sioux scout shouldn't resemble a Wampanoag chief.
On to the billboard. The shooting image implies that the Indian is anonymous, an enemy, someone who's less than human and deserves what he gets. Would anyone raise a billboard showing a cowboy shooting a black man? Then why is it considered acceptable to depict shooting an Indian?
Answer: Because Indians hold a unique place in our national mythology as "the other." They're our arch-nemesis: the human "wolves" we tamed to "found" America. As with Elmer Fudd or Wile E. Coyote, they exist only to provide sport for us--or so we think. We can imitate, mock, and insult because we consider them cardboard characters from history, not real people.