x Foreword while in White Fawn’s Devotion tribal justice is meted out when a white man is accused of killing his Native wife. Was the participation of Native American actors and an Indian director influential in making Pathé films different? Or was it a matter that these positive images of Native Ameri- cans were rooted in the fact that Europeans have always been more sym- pathetic to Native Americans, even if they harbored colonialist and racist attitudes toward other people of color? Or was it that the U.S. film indus- try had not yet become a major pillar of American industry and white supremacy and still functioned as a cottage industry that allowed for free spaces not subject to the control of big capital? Aleiss argues that it is indeed the influence of Native Americans onscreen that humanized these cinematic Indians. As a European American male growing up in suburban Chicago, my own naïve knowledge of Native Americans at that time was wholly based on Hollywood’s Western stereotypes, mostly seen on television in shows like The Lone Ranger. Being a Boy Scout for a good part of my childhood, I did have more than a passing interest in Native Americans, actually joining an Indian dancing troop for about a year in sixth grade. Reading nineteenth-century author James Fenimore Cooper as a teen- ager added little to my knowledge, given that he propagated at best a “noble savage” vision of America’s Indigenous people. Later that intern- ship year, I wrote one of my first essays as a young academic on a silent Hollywood film that also seemed to treat Native Americans sympatheti- cally, even as it reproduced the myth of an almost extinct race. Maurice Tourneur’s film adaption of The Last of the Mohicans (1920) portrayed the Mohicans as the noble remnants of a “dying race,” but also employed a good–evil dichotomy, contrasting the peaceful nobility of the Dela- ware, represented by Uncas, with the unbridled savagery of the Huron, exemplified by Magua. Almost all of the Native Americans were played by Caucasians in redface. Only much later when I co-curated a major retrospective of films made by Native Americans, “Through Indian Eyes: Native American Cinema” (UCLA), in 2014 did I realize that nega- tive images are not the only problem with Hollywood’s portrayal of Native Americans. Rather, American filmmakers treated Indians as completely invisible, as if extinct, appearing in historical films but almost never in contemporary society. Furthermore, Hollywood consis- tently failed to differentiate between the many individual tribes, their history, their languages, their rich tribal customs, choosing instead to create a mono-dimensional image of Plains Indians as stand-ins for all Native Americans.
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