September 28, 2013

Cowboy shoots Indian on billboard

Billboard at 19th and Baltimore causing controversy

By Laura McCallisterA billboard is getting a lot of attention at 19th Street and Baltimore Avenue.

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.
More on the statue:

The Scout (Kansas City, Missouri statue)The Scout is a famous statue by Cyrus E. Dallin in Kansas City, Missouri. It is more than 10 feet tall, and depicts a Sioux Indian on horseback surveying the landscape. The Scout was conceived by Dallin in 1910, and exhibited at the 1915 Panama–Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco, where it won a gold medal. On its way back east, the statue was installed on a temporary basis in Penn Valley Park. The statue proved so popular that $15,000 in nickels and dimes was raised to purchase it through a campaign called "The Kids of Kansas City." The statue was dedicated in 1922 as a permanent memorial to local Indian tribes.

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.

The billboard

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.

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