Karl May Museum’s Lastest on Human Remains? WE Decide, Not You. We’re in Control. #Repatriation

These photos were taken by and copyright to Mark Worth, used with his permission.

This photo was taken by and copyright to Mark Worth, used with his previous permission.

A “case study” by Robin Leipold, curator of the Karl May Museum in Radebeul, Germany. Karl May is the German author who created the stereotypical “American Indian” character Winnetou, peopling his dozens of books and later films with fabricated, mythical, heavily distorted “Indians”, but “positive” characters, not the vicious or dumb savages churned out by the USA. That’s why some try to claim it’s not so bad, and No, it’s not the same, but the effects of stereotyping are.

Forum: R. Leipold: The “Recommendations for the Care of Human Remains” in Practice: Case Study of the Karl May Museum Radebeul
This town is Germany is the homebase for Karl May fans, and hosts an annual festival each May. A festival which some Natives are invited to and attend, and without fail and no sarcasm whatsoever, are treated close to royalty as many Germans were introduced to “native culture” through May’s work and natives who dress and are believed to be traditional and thus “authentic”, due to appearance based on stereotypes, most certainly are. One isn’t faulting them, most have been misinformed for decades. There are lots of sincere people in Germany about native concerns as they understand them, but behavior and practices of the dominant culture still remain: appropriation. We believe it’s a unique opportunity that can benefit both, but this particular situation is unacceptable.

This same musuem (and others in Germany, but especially this one because they say they’re celebrating native culture) has been holding and refusing to return Native American scalps for years. Dismissing or ignoring entreaties to return these relatives home for proper, respectful treatment and burial. I was contacted and alerted in 2013 and began researching and writing, and by 2014, when invited to the festival I declined to participate in a “Q&A” on Native spirituality, not just because I won’t take part in any such affair but because of their holding native captives. So, almost 3 years of talks, negotiated and bluster, this is the latest from the museum.

Full of Eurocentrized interpretations of Native American cultures and practices, dripping with colonialism and pure German rationalé: that since they haven’t yet written guidelines and established protocols using only their logic and reasoning, the human remains cannot be returned. The level of white privilege and white supremacist behavior, the objectification of Native peoples is so deep, I could barely read the whole. So much for those who call themselves “Indian” experts, knowledgeable of native peoples and cultures, because obviously they have no respect or understanding of the Peoples, or even of cultural bridges.

And part of all this is reinforced when Natives and other allies are told, because we’ve been repeatedly told these exact phrases by staff and directors from KKM:

  • “Natives have visited many times and THEY never complained about the scalps.” (How could they, they were your guests!)
  • “Oh, natives were battling each other all the time and taking these trophies, what is the issue of us having them?” (If you can’t see it, it’s because you don’t want to. Multiple Native individuals, nations and organizations have informed you.)

Or by Natives: “They don’t know. We must educate them” On topics like these? They KNOW, they chose to ignore. When you’re not here year round, aren’t aware of the issues and know what they’re doing otherwise, your presence validates and further exacerbates the continuing colonialism, racism and silencing of minorities and ethnicities’ voices so they can continue their privileged play. These aren’t generally interested villagers you’re dealing with but those who consider themselves experts and wish to remain in control as decision-makers. Unacceptable. There are people who you can reach and help educate, and that’s what our documentary Forget Winnetou-Going Beyond Native Stereotypes in Germany is about. We’ve been researching and working hard to bring it to the world, about the REAL story behind Germany’s fascination with Natives, and it’s fall-out. Help us reach our goal.

Learn more here.
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My past articles and appearances on the topic of these human remains:

Karl May Museum Reneges on Agreement to Return #NativeAmerican Scalps

“Forget Winnetou!” Our #Documentary on #NativeAmericans in Germany, Stereotypes & Reeducating the Resistant

“Whether from novels, non-native historians and so-called native experts, US systematic, institutional racism and white privilege caused the spread of misinformation and misinterpretation of natives around the world. In the US,  native stereotypes and Eurocentric perspectives at times nearly subsumed real natives and their reality.

From kindergarten to post-doctoral university, misinformation and skewed history has miseducated generations. Whether in books, film, pop culture and fashion or on sport fields as mascots, native identities have been stolen, and that theft justified with a sense of ownership and superiority.

Along with minimization of the challenges native peoples face to represent and present themselves, disregard or dismissal of native concerns and those negative impacts to their lives continues to be widespread. Such attitudes and behaviors have also spread to and flourished in Germany. However, Germany presents a unique opportunity for reeducation for several reasons….”

 


“Forget Winnetou! Going Beyond Native Stereotypes in Germany” is a documentary film project by Timo Kiesel of Glokal e.V., and Red Haircrow. It is currently in pre-production. The film will be approximately 45mins-1hr in running length.

More information can be found on their website, and updates and news on Facebook and Twitter.

Film Review: “Autism in Love” (2015)

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“Autism in Love follows the story of four adults with autism spectrum disorders as they search for and manage romantic relationships.”

Director: Matt Fuller

Writer: Ira Heilveil (concept by)

 

Originally shown on PBS, this low-key yet heart-touching, even heartbreaking documentary included expressions my son has made, especially those of the young man Lenny. Most people know the word autism or have heard the term Asperger’s Syndrome or Autism Spectrum Disorder. Some have, at least, a vague definition of what that means, but usually a stereotypical view of how people with autism or Asperger’s spectrum disorders act, how they look, speak, learn and live. This has also been evident in film, such as in “Rain Man”, which stereotype is pervasive. Those with the diagnosis, of course, share some similarities, some baseline behaviors, but individuals can greatly vary as the word spectrum suggests. Not all act like “Rain Man”, and some of the most hurtful words you can say or they can hear is, “You don’t look like–“, “You don’t act like–” as if that is some kind of compliment or something they should be proud of because you said it.

In any case, what the majority of people don’t have is personal interaction or knowledge of these ones, their homes or even more so, how home life, growing up, teaching them, every day interactions go. My son was “normal”, meaning higher spectrum, but a head injury at eleven years old, a result of being bashed in the head with a locker by a bully, resulting in a hole in his skull. It changed his behavior and personality in definite ways. There was cognitive issues, loss of memory but also, and in some ways more devastating, the terrible blow to his self-confidence, self-esteem, trust of people, especially other young people, and of any school setting as staff had repeatedly dismissed or ignored his and our requests for help with and protection from harassment.

Young adults are often very cognizant of being “different”, real or perceived. They want to be “normal”, just as the subjects of the film repeatedly expressed, but as autists or Aspies, being treated like they’re dumb, weird, unworthy, or strange is too often what is normal. Because of some of the inabilities they have such as with self-expression or self-defense, they can come to live in fear of not just others, but also of life never changing: of always feeling/being useless, a perpetual flawed child, of being “stupid” or incapable. Continue reading

Native Perspectives Film Review: “The Revenant” (2015)

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THE REVENANT

Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu
Writers: Mark L. Smith (screenplay), Alejandro González Iñárritu (screenplay)
Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson & Full Cast

 

Review:
With its honest portrayal of life spend in nature, the shifts between intense action and often tedious but necessary patient waiting and work, “The Revenant” was rumored to be an unforgettable film centered on Leonard DiCaprio’s performance and it delivered. “The Revenant” is directed by Mexico-born Alejandro González Iñárritu, an award-winning writer, director and producer born, an artist known for works highlighting the complexity of human motivations and needs. Self-described as music more often influencing for his work than other films, one easily discerned this in his latest offering for it was like watching a movie equivalent of a symphony: slow movements, a rising crescendo, and at last a finalé and resolution.

There have been survival dramas in the past, and the closest equivalent I can think of is “Jeremiah Johnson” (1972), whose titular character was played by Robert Redford. A similar theme of vengeance against those who wronged and murdered his adopted native family is central, as well as the poignant ending. DiCaprio’s character Hugh Glass was left to die after a bear attack, though mostly because his former comrades rationalize this eventuality is best to save themselves from threatening natives. Thomas Hardy’s character, John Fitzgerald, is most outspoken to abandon Glass along with a half native son, whose people and all natives John deeply hates. However, he volunteers to stay behind to witness Glass’ passing, but as soon as the others leave his rancor is made evident to both Glass and his son. Continue reading

#Native Perspectives- #Film #Review: “The Last Saint” (2014)

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Tagline: “Sometimes doing right means doing wrong.”

Special Notes: Debut feature film from the director.

Director/Writer: Rene Naufahu
Stars: Beulah Koale, Calvin Tuteao, Joseph Naufahu
Production Companies: Imaginex Studios, The Reservoir

Location: Auckland, New Zealand

Release Date: August 28, 2014

Plot: “Minka is a teenage Polynesian boy living in the heart of the city. With his P-addicted mother well on the way to going completely off the rails, three people enter his life – each with a promise – each with the power to destroy.”

Review:

“Minka lives in a home where his mother obviously loves him, but who suffers from emotional and mental disorders due to domestic violence and intergenerational trauma. She has long attempted to self-medicate through substance abuse, triggering episodes where she terrorized and abused her son leaving him traumatized as well. Like many children in such homes, however, he is deeply devoted to her, serving as a keeper, a parent, his own childhood lost through having to take care of both her and himself, a lonely existence.

When his long absent father Joe returns offering him work, his mother having used all their funds on drugs, Minka accepts, not knowing what it really involves. Soon, the reality of the ‘requirements’ hits hard, leaving Minka between the proverbial ‘rock and a hard place’. While he might gain a sense of belonging through the gang and attempts at ‘normalizing the family, the ‘live skills’ Joe attempts to teach him and the casual, terrible violence and aggression often involved makes him question where will it all end. When tragedy occurs, Minka finds the answer for himself.

Continue reading