After a storm of protests from enraged parents concerning issues of (mis)representation and cultural appropriation in the new children’s movie, The Young Chief Winnetou (2022), the German publisher, Ravensburger Verlag, withdrew the companion book and puzzle to the film. Soon thereafter, the main German TV station (ARD) announced they would no longer broadcast the popular Winnetou movies from the 1960s based on Karl May’s novels. Everyone seems to have their take on the current controversy; yet, there’s been some criticism regarding issues of paternalism due to the lack of Native voices in the debate. That’s why the American Studies Blog has gone directly to the source and interviewed Drew Hayden Taylor acclaimed Canadian Anishnaabe author, frequent flyer to Germany, and creator of the documentary, Searching for Winnetou (2018).
Intellectual legacies of colonization play a powerful role in shaping how mainstream U.S. and global society has come to see Native Americans. Artwork from the 19th and 20th centuries – such as James Earle Fraser’s sculpture, “The End of the Trail” – have helped to create the image of Native Americans on horseback as representations most associated with Indigenous populations of North America. Type “Native American” into a search engine, and you’ll likely get many historical images of Great Plains Indians. In parts of Europe as well, the perception of Native Americans has been shaped in unique ways by authors like Karl May and the later movies based on his books. Without a doubt, our students’ perceptions about Native Americans are influenced by these fantasies and representations.
We met Miriam Toews at a reading in Hamburg on March 26, 2019. Toews was on a book tour to promote the German translation of her seventh novel, Women Talking. The novel is based on very disturbing events that took place between 2005 and 2008 in Bolivia. The German version, Die Aussprache, was published by Hoffmann und Campe in 2018. For her novel, A Complicated Kindness (2004), Miriam Toews won Canada’s most prestigious literary prize, the Governor General’s Award. Since Toews will not be physically present at the Frankfurt Book Fair 2020 to represent Canada, this year’s guest of honor, this interview will hopefully help tie us over until her next visit to Germany.
Now that the national holidays of both Canada (July 1) and the United States (July 4) are upon us, it’s time to check how well you, our readers, know both countries. In my seminar, “Introducing North American Studies,” I’m always pleased with how much my students know about the States and, at the same time, shocked at how little they know about Canada. Let’s see if you fare better….
It goes without saying that the Germans’ unrivalled fascination with the Native people of North America is not exactly a well-kept secret. Case in point: the annual Karl May Festivals in Bad Segeberg and Elspe. But I’ve always wondered whether this fascination might be mutual. Spoiler alert: It is.
In 2017, Anishnawbe writer Drew Hayden Taylor set out in search of Winnetou. What he found ranged from the amusing to the unsettling. In other words, the perfect material for his documentary film, Searching for Winnetou, where the fine line between appropriation and appreciation becomes a bit blurred. Curious about the making of? Then click on our exclusive interview with the writer. Read more