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).
Ask any Native Studies scholar in Europe, and they will be well aware of the European fascination with Native peoples of North America – a fascination that can be traced back to the novels of 19th century writer Karl May who furthered the noble savage stereotype. The preeminent scholar for Native Studies, Hartmut Lutz, even coined a term for it: Indianthusiasm. When we heard about the 8th Indianer Inuit Festival in Stuttgart from February 6–9, 2020, two questions came to mind: Would this Indianthusiasm come to life or be deconstructed at the festival? And is “Indianer” even a term that should still be used in German-speaking countries?
So we packed our bags and took the 5½-hour train ride from Lüneburg to Stuttgart to investigate. The festival’s program was quite extensive, encompassing documentaries, short films, feature films, children’s films, and music videos produced and directed by Indigenous artists from North America and beyond. Apart from visiting the film screenings, we also encountered fascinating people who gave us an inkling of the impressive variety of contemporary Native artistic expression.
Perhaps you’ve toyed with the idea of becoming a professional writer, or you simply want to indulge in flights of fancy that you later commit to paper. Whether you turn your passion into your profession or rekindle the embers of that passion every now and then, there’s always something to learn from veteran writers. Since one of my passions is improv, I asked Anishnawbe writer Drew Hayden Taylor if he’d mind doing an improv interview with me. As someone who is used to scripting his characters’ responses, Drew was skeptical at first but warmed up to the interview in no time. During our Skype call, I sent him 10 rapid-fire questions one by one, which he, in turn, had to answer off the cuff. The result is a writer’s unadulterated lowdown on writing. Read more
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