This article has been started and scrapped time and time again. An American studies blog should run Native American stories regularly and most definitely for Native American Heritage Month this November. But then I, the author, am just another white European trying to share somebody else’s stories. So here’s what I decided to do: I’ll use this platform as a reminder to listen elsewhere, all year around.
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).
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