Native American Portrayals in Comics, Part 2

By | Monday, March 12, 2007 Leave a Comment
(Check out Saturday's late post for the first part of this summary.)

After lunch, they held their first panel discussion. Editor Richard Van Kamp provided an impassioned introduction and Rob Schmidt gave a brief history of how Native Americans have been portrayed in comics over the years, before they all went through the different thoughts of the panelists on the best and worst of the bunch. There was almost no anger or embarrassment over the stereotypical "feathers and fringe" versions of Native Americans (often called "First Nation" or "Aboriginals" by the Canadians) and only mild dismay at depictions of them which used imagry and references from multiple tribes. Artist Steven Sanderson went so far as to note that his tribe, the Cree, traditionally are known for their humor, so he found a lot of the kitsch to be quite humorous.

An interesting undercurrent throughout the panel was that many of the panelists (and, I expect, the audience) were hearing creators and titles for the first time. There was a lot of scribbling down of things to check out. In part, this stemmed from a cultural wall that seems to separate the U.S. and Canada, and in part, this stemmed from the lack of communication between different tribes.

The panel ran about an hour and a half and given that it was only scheduled for an hour suggests how much the topic interested everyone involved. Towards the end, it was getting into the area of how so many Native Americans simply don't even consider the idea of doing anything but wasting their lives away. That they've been programmed to think they're destined for a life of insignificance and poverty simply because of their heritage. There are exceptions, certainly, but they are decided exceptions.

Afterwards, I talked briefly with writer Michael Sheyahshe and Steve Sanderson. They began playing Raven Tales (a computer animated series from Canada that retells some old Indian myths) and I watched for a bit before exploring some of the rest of the museum. (I was especially partial to the bronze castings from Frederic Remington and a painting by N.C. Wyeth.)

This was, I believe, the first event of its kind and everyone seemed fairly pleased at the turnout. It's certainly something that SHOULD be bigger and more widely known, and the topic is one that also is sorely neglected. Here's hoping that they're able to do it again next year, and that even more people attend. I certainly didn't do nearly enough credit to the insightful and enjoyable experience I had here, so if you consider attending again, double whatever my impression of this year's event you think I have.
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