new documentary, Searching for Winnetou, explores the German
Indianthusiast scene, where Germans dress up as First Nation
For years, Ojibway author and playwright Drew Hayden Taylor
heard that some Germans are so fascinated by First Nation culture
that they throw festivals similar to powwows.
There is even a name for Germans obsessed with First Nation
Searching for Winnetou, Ojibway writer Drew Hayden Taylor
uncovers Germany's obsession with First Nation culture. (drewhaydentaylor.com)
Taylor became so intrigued by this idea, he decided to take
a film crew to Germany, to try to uncover how this obsession started,
which all unfolds in his new documentary, Searching
"Try to imagine a German powwow, with all Germans dressed in
looking like a typical Native powwow, except for
all the blonde hair and blue eyes," said Taylor.
At the root of this obsession are the fictional stories of Winnetou,
created by German writer, Karl May.
"Winnetou is ground zero of this fascination
he is an
Apache warrior in the American southwest," said Taylor.
"He is seen as the idealized First Nations man as perceived
by 1880s Germany. He's brave, he fights grizzly bears with his knife
and wins easily."
But as Taylor pointed out, May created the character having
never actually met a First Nation person.
had never been to North America when he wrote
these books. There's a story that he came [to Canada] in the early
1900s, and went to Niagara Falls of all places, and then left."
'They refer to us as Coca-Cola Indians'
Even though Taylor recognizes there is a lot wrong with these festivals,
he said that Germans who attend don't really want to know the truth
about how modern First Nation people live.
"These are people who grew up on these books, which were made
into movies, television series, huge play spectacles they
are content with that perspective of North American Aboriginal people,"
"There's even a group of these Indianthusiasts who believe that
people like me contemporary Native people who wear
shoes, drive cars, go to the dentist
that we have been corrupted
by the 20th and 21st centuries
and they refer to us as Coca-Cola
Appreciation or appropriation?
While some may think these Indianthusiast festivals are examples
of cultural appropriation, Taylor isn't as quick to make that judgment.
"[Germans] do not think they're Native
they are happy
playing," said Taylor. "It's like going to a Star Trek convention
and seeing people dressed up like Klingons."
"In their own way
it's their way of honouring our culture,
but it's our culture as perceived through the writing of [Karl May]."