Explore issues connected to representation and point of view in depictions of 19th century Native Americans by George Catlin and Black Hawk in this video from Picturing America On Screen. Catlin’s paintings provide testimony not only to the country’s fascination with American Indians but also to the artist’s ambition to document disappearing frontier cultures. Black Hawk’s work provides invaluable visual testimony to the nation’s Native American heritage and reveals intriguing details of the Lakota people—from manner of dress to social customs. In doing so, he captures a way of life that was fast disappearing as settlers moved West in increasing numbers and tribes were moved to reservations.
Support material challenges students to define culture and asks them to consider how Native Americans see themselves today. While it may be valuable to look to history to help understand Native American culture, tribes are still very much alive today and have redefined themselves as a living culture. Students are asked to think about stereotypes held about Native Americans and to research and learn more about a Native American tribe today.