Indian Parade Umbrella
I grew up watching Indian parades. Shoshone Indian Days was held in the field behind my house. My sister and I spent all day and evening there for one weekend every summer watching the rodeo, eating snow cones, cheering on our mother's friends during the moccasin tying contest in the arbor, and watching the afternoon parade. And once a year, my family drove up to Crow country in Montana (Disney World was definitely not our vacation destination) to watch and participate in the largest old style Indian gathering in the nation. One of the biggest highlights of Crow Fair is the afternoon parade. Sweating in the sun, (our mom, like so many other fashionable Indian women, always brought an umbrella for shade but we were too cool for that) we saw a parade of well dressed Indians on horses, on foot, in trucks, on convertibles, and in flatbed trailers that lasted at least an hour.
Indian parades, to me, were one more expression of pride and cultural wealth that made it hard for me to understand why my people and the other tribes I grew up with never received more than a one paragraph mention in the American History books I read at school in the winter.
The whole idea of Indians parading seemed very natural to me as a young person. It wasn't until later, after a college education did I realize that originally Indians had historically been put on parade. Buffalo Bill and others like him brought the tamed Indians to the big cities of the US to delight the white audiences and quell their fears about the Wild West. Indian parades were historically, in the white man's hand, a tool of colonialism. They were a contained circus like exposition showing America that not only was the West won, it was now safe to settle; the Indian was so rare, he was nearly extinct.
But this wasn't what I saw growing up. The parades I grew up with were run by Indians, for Indians. Generally the only white face was that of the lone politician who had entered our parade to win our votes. Like so many other things in our lives, Indians seemed to have adopted this tool of colonial America, re-invented it, turning it on its head, using it instead as an expression of pride of ourselves for ourselves. And perhaps really, parading is only an Anglicized extension of the old rendezvous times when our bands or allied tribes got together in the summer.
Each of the panels on the umbrella is a narrative of the individuals I watched on hot summer afternoons when I was young. Combined, their narratives speak to a larger narrative of the Indian Parade...its historical significance and its on going significance in Indian communities across the nation today.
These are the people I grew up with, the people who to this day strut their stuff into the new millennium and in the face of a predicted extinction.
Dimensions: H: 3', W: 3.5'
Media: brain tanned deer hide, 13 and 12 cut beads, glass beads, abalone shell, Bisbee turquoise, cloth, brass studs, nickel studs, Indian head nickels, antique umbrella frame
(Best of Show, Indian Market, 1999)