As has become an annual tradition, President Obama has declared November to be Native American Heritage Month. We have been tardy in exploring the topic of Native Americans on Travalanche, mostly because the research we had done for No Applause meant that vaudeville would be our core focus, at least initially, and so we wound up writing substantial amounts about practically every group BUT Native Americans: (African Americans, the Irish, the Jews etc — see the links on the right) and also related topics such as blackface and ethnic stereotyping. By comparison, there weren’t large numbers of Native American in vaudeville or even represented in vaudeville. (Only a couple of things immediately spring to mind: Will Rogers and Leonard Reed (like me!) were both part Cherokee. And there was the popularity of the so-called Apache Dance in the 1920, which had nothing to do with actual Apaches). And tomorrow, by coincidence, we will be writing about an important Mohawk Indian vaudeville performer, Princess White Deer.
That said, Native Americans and representations of Native American have played a huge role in show business, just in other branches of it besides vaudeville, and in recent months we have been writing loads of about those other branches (e.g: museums and sideshows, medicine shows, Wild West Shows, the melodrama stage, and the cinema), so now’s the perfect time to crack the topic open. I started a Native American Interest category this morning and found that I already had two dozen posts with some relevance. We’ll add a bunch this month (mostly in the second part of the month as we’ll be in Ireland a good part of the first half of November). As with many of these categories, we’ll be discussing and sharing examples of the stereotype as well as the reality of Native American culture. As the recent remake of The Lone Ranger has shown…the old stereotypes are hardly a thing of the past.
For more on show business history consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.
And don’t miss my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc