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tv   American Artifacts National Museum of the American Indian Trail of Tears...  CSPAN  December 16, 2018 10:00pm-10:39pm EST

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/history.g >> c-span where history unfolds daily in. created as a as public service by america's cable television companies. continue to bring you >> when the new congress takes office in january, it will have the youngest, most diverse freshman class in history. watch it live on c-span. starting january 3. week, american artifacts take you -- takes you to museums and historical places to learn about american history. we visit the trail of tears gallery at the national museum of the american indian in washington dc, which looks at the national debate over the 1830 indian removal act and its impact on southern tribes. associate curator paul chaat smith leads us through the
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gallery after the introduction in the americans exhibit, which examines how indian imagery is prominent in children's toys and mascots. paul: it is built on a paradox, a riddle. the paradox is this -- in 2018 the united states is a country of 283 million people. indians are perhaps 1% of that population. most americans live in urban areas, suburban areas, parts of the country where they never actually see american indians. life,t, in american daily images, advertising, mascots, surround people every single day. the show is about exploring the strange contradiction of how
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prevalent american indians are in american life really from the earliest memories of americans throughout their life, and yet somehow it was never really noticed much, never seemed is important. the territorial team decided to call this phenomenon "indians everywhere." it's about normalizing what's actually a really weird phenomenon. we looked and we couldn't find any other country in which one ethnic group has been used for so many different purposes for such an extraordinarily long time into the present. you look at the vastness and uniqueness of it, and explore the reasons for why it exists. we have over 300 objects and images of representation for
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american indians before the country began up to the present. they cover every manner of advertising for every sort of product. we have a handful of major objects that will get a significant amount of visitor attention, including a motorcycle from 1948. people who love motorcycles often revered the indian motorcycle was a special model. what is interesting to us about the motorcycle is that the name of the brand was chosen to distinguish it from competition, particularly from the u.k.. the company has gone through many changes through the years.
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ownership has changed multiple times. almost nothing exists from the early days when it started out as a bicycle factory. and so it went through all of these changes in ownership. the one thing that survives is indian. ultimately that becomes the more , valuable thing about the product. you see in this motorcycle how much they emphasize that and the options are all indian related. you don't choose something like that unless you feel it adds value. that sort of name, that sort of advertising strategy. one of the things the exhibition is about is how indians add value to products, entertainment, and ultimately to the nation itself. indians become a significant --
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signifier for the united states. something people often look for , and something we always knew was going to be in this hall of images, was something about the local nfl team here in washington. washington redskins. we weren't really sure how to present the objects because we thought them to be a little boring. we would just have a football helmet or something. we chose to do was, in multiple places, really show how these mascots are in everyday life rather than show them by themselves. here we have a photograph of robert griffin the third, a sensational quarterback for the redskins.
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what we are interested in is to really appreciate why people support teams. very few people say which team has the coolest mascots or best name. you usually support a team because you're in a region, because your family and friends support it. the teams are chosen by rich guys, and it is a determinative thing. we wanted to respect that sports plays a huge role in civic life, brings people together. so having that image of robert griffin the third with a young fan feels like a generous approach to this, while at the same time it is a slur.ionary defined most are certainly opposed to it.
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for me, as someone who lives in the washington area, for a main representation on a daily basis, it is annoying. at the same time, we are not about trashing people who support the tea more interested in debate about people who support this. for people who look for washington redskins, it is here. i think everyone understands of a new team came up no one would , choose such a name. it was part of our effort to be welcoming to people, including people who don't necessarily agree with us. i've always thought the chicago blackhawks have one of the most attractive logos as far as aesthetics. the professional sports teams are the most famous examples of sports mascots, but there are
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hundreds of public schools and colleges and universities that have indian names. again, what we think is that there is such a tiny number of other examples. people say what about the notre dame irish, what about the dallas cowboys? in terms of an entire ethnic group, it's like 1000 to one. we are looking at what makes this both socially acceptable something you don't , really need to think about. most people never thought about it. it just seemed right to call a team warriors or indians or apache. it wasn't really an issue. that's really what we are trying to get at, really look at how pervasive it is and how strange it is once you take a look at it. this photograph is of michelle obama, when she was the first lady of the united states, with
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people wearing chicago blackhawks jerseys. to show howthing this becomes normalized and ordinary. when we thought about how to show this in the exhibition, the decision we made is it is possible to show it in infants clothing. it's about how people usually decide to support a team, usually because that's where they live. it tends to be a unifying force in many ways. and it comes at a way that dehumanizes american indians. this is something that happens to native american people. rarely does it happen to other ethnic groups in the united states to this degree. there is not one opinion as far as american indians on this phenomenon.
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two examples that are clear are the cleveland indians, which most people would say the image feels very stereotypical. i think most non-indian people would say that feels out of place. the team is now phasing that logo out. the washington redskins being a dictionary-defined slur. others aren't clear, blackhawks, or the name "indians," without a stereotypical name. one of the images we have here is the pennant from the golden state warriors back when they were called the san francisco warriors. -- nationalsa goal basketball association team. they used a headdress to promote a team in the early days. now they are still called the , warriors, but they made no reference to american indians. i think those are interesting things to debate.
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our point of view is how vast the phenomenon is. we decided to avoid saying prescriptive saying this one is ok, or chicago blackhawks, if you make this change it's fine. we are really looking at the larger picture. i think every exhibition should have a photograph of elvis presley in it. fetish is my own point of view. in this case, it is an example of how many distinguished americans have found themselves wearing a headdress. elvis presley did a movie in which he played a native american character. others weren't playing a native american character, including franklin delano roosevelt, richard nixon, the famous union leader jimmy hoffa, cher.
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the reasons why people warhead -- why people wore headdresses in these particular ways very. again how people would never , think in this context would end up wearing a headdress. through most of the country's history, it would seem like something that just made sense. when we talk about these representations surrounding americans throughout their lives, one of the most important ways is through movies and television. we have a section in this exhibition, which really shows 100 years of these images, going away from 1935 movies stagecoach all the way to the unbreakable kimmy schmidt and other contemporary television comedies.
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and everything in between. it's a little bit like the celebrities that end up playing in indian or wearing a headdress. -- kind of like an indian wearing outfit. that comedy in the 60's and 70's had nothing to do with indians. they would routinely have some indian themed shows. it could be the monsters. -- munsters. it could be seinfeld. it was interesting to us because television was a more intimate form than film because it's in your living room, it's in your house. actually watching indians on american life on your tv and in your living room. if you ask people about those tv shows they may not remember, often they say, oh yes, that brady bunch episode. i remember all about it.
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i always knew i wanted this in a show, but would probably decide against it because kids today didn't grow up with this image. this is called the rca test pattern. in the early days of television, it would be broadcast at the beginning of the broadcast day, at the end, and often throughout the day, when television still had limited amount of programming. actually you see this image now in hipster t-shirts, in video games. it has established a life of itself. even though it could being used in television broadcasts in the 1960's. what was interesting about it was, in the late 40's and 50's when tv was new, it's a completely different kind of light that didn't exist.
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it's this weird machine that's in your house. the engineers that devised to this, they wanted something that could help them adjust the broadcast quality, the picture quality. that explains the lines and the numbers and everything. they also wanted a drawing to get that quality as well. again, this is just one example that made sense to use an indian in a headdress because everyone an indian in a headdress. it also signifies american-ness. it's for an american audience. i think there's something spooky and submersible about this. it's in your living room, it's on early in the morning, late at night.
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i, somehow, feel there is something bizarre going on with the american conscience. somehow getting into people's heads in a way they don't fully understand even today. in this main hall, we have hundreds of objects and images. we have three galleries that look at these huge moments in american history. we will look at one now. 50 years after the american revolution, the united states passed the indian removal act of 1830. this section of the exhibition is about the trail of tears, which is one of the results of the indian removal act. what we are really looking at here is how the indian removal act, in our view, is the most significant law ever pass. it was more important than any
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other treaty or federal action. we look at why we believe that to be true. we also look at it in this moment in which american democracy was on trial. at this time, in 1830, the united states was the only representative democracy in the world. revolutions had failed in europe. despite all the horrific flaws in the united states in 1830, the enslavement of black people, women couldn't vote, indians being dispossessed. in fact, not too many years earlier, white men couldn't vote until they owned property. this was after the revolution. so it is all of these terrible flaws in the united states. it still was a beacon of hope around the world.
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it still was a country that took seriously it's enlightening ideals. in this national conversation 1830, that had been simmering for some time, comes to a head and the jackson administration proposes the indian removal act. what it's about is trying to manage this problem, which is there are indian nations in the state. this is something that causes problems for the state, limits their development, and it feels intolerable to a certain number of americans that there should be this self-described indian nations within the united states. in 1830, the act proposes something that is really quite extraordinary. it really imagines a future in which the united states would exist without american indians.
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it proposes an exchange of land s so that indians inside the territorial borders of the united states would be west of the mississippi. this is one solution, igniting a n intense national debate. and what we show in this section is how many points of view there were on this. and in fact american indians had , a great deal of agency and influence in the conversation. the cherokee leader was a national political figure in the united states. he was well known. he was somebody that could inshal allies in the country both politicians, members of congress but also civic groups. , there were legislators opposed to what this act was talking about, which was a removal of american indians.
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we knew that most americans today, if they knew the term trail of tears, they understand that it was a moment of national shame for the united states. there are very few people that was their finest hour, that was great, let's do it again. we know people understand it was something the country regrets. what we were interested in doing is trying to explain how there was a real national debate about this. that people at the time, including people in congress, predicted that it would not go well. we wanted to show that it was a national conversation that happened. in this section, we show a range of points of view. we start with president jefferson who was a leader that understood there was a contradiction, in his mind about , having these indian nations within the borders of the united states. he thought a lot about what the
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different solutions might be to that. usually, with some form of removal dispossession that was being talked about. during the early decades of the 19th century, the cotton team was coming into its own. it was clear cotton could be an economic development in the deep south. by 1830, when this was happening, indians in the south are under intense pressure to remove themselves, and some of them do accept offers of removal in exchange for land and money. but this debate is a moment in which the country really has to think about what it stands for. we show points of view of
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president jefferson, of john ross. we talk about different civic organizations that were involved as well. a particular member of congress, who spoke really eloquently against the removal act, and again from the point of view as -- view of it as a betrayal of american principles. so i think president jackson in -- jackson, in a way gets too , much credit for the removal. there were two choices behind this before he came into office. he was certainly the manager and executor of the policy. and the one that oversaw the passage of the indian removal act. it is interesting that it has become synonymous with this one part of his administration because, for most of the decades since he left office he was much policiesown for other
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such as the bank of the united , states, being the first person who was in from virginia massachusetts to become president. it is interesting to us because it shows how history changes. tothe same time, if you had take a person to say that was most responsible it was , certainly president jackson. one thing that's a surprise to is how close it was in congress. it passed with a margin but it , wasn't an overwhelming margin. i think it's fair to say that after this debate, it really became national policy in a genuine way. that even though the vote was split, once it was enacted into law, it really does become the policy of the united states of america. one of the things that was set in place was a template for a kind of paternalistic approach
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towards american indians. there was this interesting humanitarian argument that said this was really good for american indians. they are going to be much better off west of the mississippi. they are going to be just fine and they are being compensated. ,that humanitarian argument carried over in the sense of central policies following this, that basically said the united states knew what was best for american indians. this section of the american activation is really about words and texts. read, whiching to because it'sdo, not very long, 200 words. it never references any particular indian tribe.
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it is almost like a real estate pitch you know, "let's come to a deal, if you want exchange , lands." it does not directly suggest that if american indians choose not to accept lands in the west, they can stay and everything will be fine. it's extraordinarily misleading. it's also revealing in that it does state pretty clearly that the states in the south would grow in economic wealth and power, an explicit goal that this would help build this part of the united states, which is being held back by these internal nations. on one hand it's very clear what , it's saying. we are doing this for economic development reasons. and it is extremely misleading this isit implies that
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voluntary, that it is an offer. it is misleading and does not signify that it is targeting indian nations in the south. after the indian removal act was passed in may of 1830, indian nations still fought against it. they still marshaled public opinion, they filed suits in the united states supreme court to prevent it. and, you know, kept fighting throughout the 1830's. some indian nations did go ahead with removal. it's important to remember, conditions on the ground were really hard at that point. indians were under attack. a lot of indians understood where this was all going. the cherokee nation fought to
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the very end. it's become understood in american imagination to be primarily about the cherokee nation. i think that's a lot because of their heroic struggle against removal. one of the things we wanted to accomplish in this exhibition was to show that this is a large , national, even global event. the cherokee about and the five civilized tribes, it transformed national borders, transformed national economies. it was also a massive project for the united states to carry out. the federal government was quite small in the president 1830's. jackson had to personally sign every land deal in the united states, and he spent one miserable december signing thousands of them by hand. he was still thousands behind schedule.
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eventually, they passed a law saying someone else could sign the deed. it gives you an idea of how small the federal government was. in this section, which we call the machinery of removal, we focus on how epic a project it was and how it was really only successful in meeting one of its goals, which was to create economic wealth in the united states. and a catastrophe, that the act could somehow do this, and that this would be a good thing for american indians. of course it was a disastrous , failure. one of the things few people understand is that removal from the passage of the act until the final removal treaties were amended and changed and the final payments were made out, it spanned span did -- nine presidential administrations.
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president jackson wasn't actually the president during the final jury of the trail of tears. again, it became a huge national policy. it was epic in scope. it involved half of the states of the union in removal routes, involved west of the mississippi. it was expensive. it was budgeted for 500,000. some scholars estimate it would be something like $100 million total in today's dollars. it was something that not only affected the south but created economic wealth in new england. cotton was the most important commodity on the planet. it created wealth in the united kingdom as well. we are looking at how massive a project this was. think it is may only about a terrible thing that happened to some american indians, orchestrated by bad
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was a national policy carried out. it was all of those things at once. by the end of the decade, the wealthiest americans in the inntry had zip codes mississippi and alabama. the cotton kingdom explosion wasn't due to removal. removal moved the last barrier from have the south be a region connected by railroads and create this new wealth. we focus on the cotton kingdom a lot. it's important to point out that the five civilized tribes were to be understood as slave states. most indians in those nations didn't own slaves. which is true of most white people in mississippi. they were, by law, slave states.
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they reenacted -- reinstated slavery when they went into indian territory, and they fought with the confederacy. one of the goals of the museum was to show indians as human, as capable of all the good and evil and with any other kinds of people do. we have an image of the house. greenwood leflore. a native leader who had hundreds of enslaved persons, and his mansion was based on one by napoleon in france. it is complicated and this is something the museum is taking on to show the complexity of some of this history. the cotton kingdom's success of building it came at an extraordinarily high cost. first of all the enslavement of millions of human beings. the disposition of native americans.
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but even that wealth, even accessibility to the country in the cotton kingdom resulted in the civil war. the worst war in american history. the end result of this is something that the country is still coming to terms with. what we hope is in this exhibition to show there is an argument to say that indian removal was the most significant event between the american revolution and the civil war. so when american indians arrived in indian territory it's a different landscape, a different environment, different situation. i think people from the 1830's would be really surprised if
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they understood in the 21st-century come of the same indian nations would reconstitute themselves and exist in pretty good shape and the united states. that they still have a sovereign status. i was just in oklahoma and you see television commercials in channels on the chickasaw nation, the cherokee nation, the choctaw nation. these are nations that have actual genuine power today. and have recovered in a way that would be really shocking to people. commencing with a went through in the 1830's. shocking to people who had seen what they went through in the that certainly is an 1830's. element to the story that they really want to be understood. that they not only survived but they did prosper in this new place.
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the trail of tears is a really famous event. pretty much all americans know that phrase, trail of tears. i think they pretty much know it is something about indians, something bad that was done the indians and we know andrew , jackson was part of that story. but what we found is it tends to be seen as a shameful moment in history but a small event. it was done to indians. we hope to show how it was a much larger event. we operated from what people already think and people already know. the concluding section of the exhibit we look at trail of tears in national memory over time. what is really interesting is the trail of tears was never forgotten by american indians. but in national memory it faded away pretty quickly.
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when you look at what historians were riding in the late 19th century, into the of the 20th first half century, it's rarely in textbooks as a major event involving indians. and it's often completely omitted from discussions of the jackson administration. there were many books written that barely touched on it or ignored it all together. it's interesting to hear the 21st century it is the first thing people think of when they think of president jackson. and that people really around the world are familiar with that phrase. in our last section we show how that didn't just happen by accident. there was a cadre of young indian women in nearly 20th launched their own sort of campaign and it started
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to catch on. it was different kinds of writings. there was a cherokee woman who dress in plains indian clothing. to talk to people about indian removal. the phrase 'trail of tears' really caught on among the american public overtime. it was not quick. it was not until the 1950's that it started appearing a lot and and 1970'she 1960's that it became well-known. we are always fascinated about how american history changes over time. how we understand today is different than how people understood it at other times, even though the facts of what happened don't actually change. we look today and see the largest national park is the trail of tears national trail. you see native americans walking
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and riding through that. you see motorcycle clubs, all kinds of people enjoying that. it is now something that is understood as a major event in american history. what we hope this exhibition will do is enlarge the understanding of it. that it really was an epic chapter about national borders, global economies and policies about indians that had an effect long after the actual removal. this billboard behind me, we chose that because we wanted to sort of suggest something provocative that has visitors kind of question what they may already think they know about it. again to say this is a moment of huge national significance that affected the entire country and
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that is an unfortunate policy carried out by a single president. >> you can watch this and other american artifacts programs by visiting our website, /history. >> senator elizabeth though did not attend ku, but she did recently decide to have her papers housed at the dole institute of politics. up next, we will take you inside to learn about her career that dates back all the way to the lbj administration. audrey coleman: we are at the dole institute of politics, which was founded in 2003 to honor the life, service, and legacy of senator bob dole. in 2017, we got an exciting announcement that we would be housing senator elizabeth dole's


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