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tv   American Artifacts National Museum of the American Indian Trail of Tears...  CSPAN  February 29, 2020 10:00am-10:46am EST

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explores the rise and fall of nations historically and the role of america as a super bowl -- superpower. >> we are not each other's enemies as lincoln said. if we do not make this great experience called democracy work for the succeeding generations, we will expire. there is no guarantee. when things are looking great, it is time to shore up the foundations. watch of these authors sunday on book tv on c-span two. >> each week, american artifacts takes you to museums and historic basis to learn about american history. this looks at the national debate over the indian removal
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act and the impact on southern tribes. associate curator paul chaat smith leads us through the americans exhibit, which examines how indian imagery is prevalent in toys and mascots. is built on ation paradox, the riddle. it is this, the paradox in 2018 the united states is a country of 283 million people. and american indians are perhaps 1% of that population. most americans live in urban areas, parts of the country where they never actually see american indians. and yet in american life, indian images, advertising, mascots, surround people every single day.
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the show is about exploring the strange contradiction of how 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 seems important. the territorial team decided to call this phenomenon "indians everywhere it is 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. we want to enlarge the and look at the vastness of it, the uniqueness of it and the reasons for why it exists.
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we have over 300 objects and ofges of representations american indians before the country began up to the present. they cover every manner of advertising for every sort of product. and we have a handful of major objects that will get a significant amount of visitor attention, including a indian chief motorcycle from 1948. people who love motorcycles often revered the indian motorcycle as a special model. it was at the height of american engineering craftsmanship and style. and what's interesting to us about the motorcycle is that the name of the brand was chosen to distinguish it from competition,
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particularly from the u.k. the company has gone through many changes through the years. 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. that becomes the more valuable thing about the product. you see 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. one of the things the exhibition is about is how indians add value to products, entertainment, and ultimately to
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the nation itself. something people often look for was something about the local nfl team here in washington. we weren't really sure how to present the objects, because we thought them to be a little boring. was in chose to do 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 were interested in is to really appreciate why people support teams. very few people say, which team has the coolest mascot are the best name? -- or the 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 kind of wanted to respect that sports plays a huge role in civic life, bringing people together. having that image of robert griffin the third with a young fan feels like a generous approach to this, while at the same time, the name is a dictionary defined slur.
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indians are certainly opposed to it. for me it is 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 team. we are interested in debate about this. for people who look for washington redskins, it is here. i think virtually everyone understands that if a new team came up, no one would choose such a name. over time, it probably will change. 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.
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there are hundreds of public schools and colleges and universities that have indian names. again, what we think is interesting is there such a tiny number of other examples. people say, what about the notre dame irish, what about the dallas cowboys? in terms of entire ethnic groups, it's like 1000 to one. we are looking at what makes this both socially acceptable and something you don't really need to think about. up until the recent controversies about mascots, most people never thought about it, it just seemed right to call a team warriors or indians or apache. that's really what we are trying to get at, really look at how pervasive it is and how really -- how really strange it is once
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you take a look at it. this is a photograph of michelle obama, with people wearing chicago blackhawks jerseys. something just to show how this becomes normalized and ordinary. when we thought about how to show this in the exhibition, the decision we made, when possible apparel.he children's so again 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
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phenomenon. two examples that are really clear are the cleveland indians, which most people would say the image of the chief feels very stereotypical. i think most non-indian people would say that feels out of place. the team is now phasing that logo out. and 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 this pendant, and this is a national basketball association team. dress to a head 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
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things to debate. our point of view is how vast the phenomenon is. we decided to avoid being prescriptive and to say 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. that is just my point of view. in this case, we give an example of how many distinguished americans have found themselves wearing a headdress, elvis presley did a movie in which he played in native american character. other people are here that were not actually in movies that weren't playing in native american character, including franklin delano roosevelt, richard nixon, the famous union
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cher. jimmy hoffa, the reasons why people warhead dresses in these particular ways vary. again how people would never think in this context would end up wearing a headdress. and through most of the country's history 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 almost 100 years of these 1935 movies
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"stagecoach" all the way to the unbreakable kimmy schmidt and other contemporary television comedies. and it's a little bit like the celebrities that end up playing a indian or wearing a indian outfit, that situation comedies in the 60's and 70's had nothing to do with indians, they would routinely have some indian themed shows. sometimes it was not. -- muld be "the monsters unsters." "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. about thoseeople
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shows, they may not remember. often they say, oh yes, that brady bunch episode. i remember all about it. 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 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 quit being used in television broadcast in the 1960's. what was interesting about it was in the late 40's and 50's
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when tv was new, it's a completely different kind of light that didn't exist. it's this weird machine that's in your house. the engineers wanted something that could actually adjust the broadcast quality, the picture quality, so that explains all the lines and the numbers and everything. they also wanted the majority to -- a drawing to get that quality as well. everyone knows an indian and a headdress. it also signifies american-ness. it's for the american audience. i think there's something spooky subversive about this strange kind of light from a brand-new form of technology.
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it's in your living room, it's on early in the morning, late at night. i somehow feel there is something bizarre going on with ,he american consciousness somehow getting into people's heads in a way they don't fully understand even today. 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 is about the trail of tears, one of the results of the act. what we are really looking at here is how the indian removal act is the most significant law
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ever passed, more important than any other treaty or federal action. we look at why we believe that to be true. we 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. even two years later, white men couldn't vote until they owned property. with all of these terrible flaws in the united states, it still was a beacon of hope around the world. it still was a country that took
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seriously its enlightening ideals. in 1830 this national conversation 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 there are indian nations inside the borders of the united states. this causes problems for the feels intolerable to a certain number of americans that there should be this self-described indian nation 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
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exist without american indians. it proposes an exchange of land so that indians inside the territorial borders of the united states would be west of the mississippi. this is one solution, igniting a national debate. and what we show in this section is how many points of view there were on this. american indians had a great deal of agency and influence. john ross, the cherokee leader was a national political figure in the united states. , bothld marshal allies politicians and members of congress, but also civic groups. there were legislators opposed to what this act was talking about, which was a removal of
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american indians. 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 few people that say that was their finest hour, 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 understood that there was a contradiction in his mind about having these indian
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nations within the borders of the united states. he thought a lot about what the different solutions might be to that. usually, with some form of removal dispossession that was being talked about. during the early decades of the the cotton kingdom was coming into its own. it was clear cotton could be engineered into economic development in the deep south. around 1830 when this is happening, indians in the south are pressured 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.
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we show points of view of president jefferson, general aboutn ross, and we talk different civic organizations that were involved as well. theordore frelinghyusen, who spoke really eloquently against the removal act, and again from the point of view as a betrayal of american principles. so i think president jackson in a way gets too much credit for the removal act.
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there were two choices behind this before he came into office. he was certainly the manager and executor of the policy. and he oversaw the passage of the indian removal act. it interesting it becomes synonymous with this one part of his administration, because for most of the decades since he left office he was much more known for other policies, such as the bank of the united states, being the first person who was in from virginia massachusetts to become president. it shows how history changes. at the same time, if you had to say who was the person most responsible, it was certainly president jackson. one thing that's a surprise to most visitors is how close the ite was in congress, that 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. 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
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in place was a template for a kind of paternalistic approach towards american indians. there was this argument that this is actually 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. the humanitarian argument carried over in the sense of a century of policy following this that basically said the united states knew what was best for american indians. this section is really about words and texts and meaning. it starts with reading the act, which visitors can do. it is not very long. --never director really
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directly references any particular indian tribe. it is almost like a real estate pitch. know, let's come to a deal, if you want, exchange land. it does not directly suggest that if american indians choose not to accept lands in the west, they can stand 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 the one hand it's very clear what it's saying. we are doing this for economic
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development reasons. it is extremely misleading in that it implies that this is voluntary, that it is an offer. it is misleading that it does not concede that it is really 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, you know, kept fighting throughout the 1830's. some indian nations did go ahead with removal. it is important to remember the conditions on the ground were really hard at that point, that indians were under attack. a lot of indians understood
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where this was all going. the cherokee nation fought to become, and it has understood to be primarily about the cherokee nation, and i think that is because of their 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. about theonly cherokee, it is about the five civilized tribes that transformed national borders, transformed to national economies. it was also a massive project for the united states to carry out. the federal government was still quite small then. president jackson had to personally sign every plan for the united states. he spent one miserable december signing thousands of them by hand.
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they were still thousands behind schedule. eventually they passed a law that said some details 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 the project was and how successful it was in one of its goals, to create economic wealth in the united states. and a catastrophe, to imagine it could do that 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 actually extended nine presidential administrations.
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president jackson wasn't actually the president during the final horrific journey of the trail of tears. he was out of office. it became a huge national policy. it was epic in scope. it involved half of the states of the union in removal routes, and it was extraordinarily expensive. some scholars estimate it would be something like $100 million total today. it was something that not only affected the south but created economic wealth in new england. cotton was an important commodity on the planet. we are looking at how massive a project this was.
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visitors may think it is only about a terrible thing that happened to some american indians orchestrated by a bad national, but it was a policy that was carried out and it was epic, it was brutal, it was visionary. it was all of those things. by the end of the decade, the wealthiest americans in the country had zip codes in louisiana and mississippi and alabama. explosion was not due because of the removal the removal was the last barrier to have the south to be a region that was connected by railroads and develop economically and create this new wealth. cotton kingdom a lot. it's important to point out that the five civilized tribes were considered slave states. most indians in those nations didn't own slaves.
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that is true of most white people in mississippi, but they were, by law, slave states. they reinstated slavery when they went into indian territory, and they fought with confederacy. one of the goals of this exhibition is to show indians as human, as capable of all the good and evil and with any other kinds of people do. we have this image of this native leader who had hundreds of enslaved persons, and his mansion was based on one by napoleon. it is complicated. 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.
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first of all, the enslavement of millions, the disposition of native americans. wealth, the success of the country that could not without slavet labor that enslaved labor , results 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 to show that there is an argument to say that indian removal was the most significant event between the american revolution and the american 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
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would be really surprised if they understood in the 21st century, the same indians would reconstitute themselves. prettyre existing in good shape in the united states. they still have a sovereign status. i was in oklahoma and you see television commercials in the major channels. they are from nations that have actual genuine power today. they have recovered in a way that would be shocking to people. that certainly is an element to the story that the native people that went through the removal
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really want to be understood. they not only survived but they prospered in this new place. the trail of tears is a really famous event. pretty much all americans know that phrase, trail of tears. i think everyone knows something really bad that was done to indians, and we know andrew jackson was part of that story. found is that it tends to shaping moment of history, but as a small event. we hope to show how it was a much larger event. we operated from what people already think and people already know. so at 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
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forgotten by american indians. but in national memory it faded away pretty quickly. when you look at what historians were writing in the late 19th century, into the first half of the 20th 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 aren't many books written that touched upon it. it is interesting to hear in the 20th -- 21st century, it is the first thing people think of when they think of president jackson. people are really familiar with that phrase. in our last section we show how that didn't just happen by accident. ofwas actually this group
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young indian women in the early 20th century that launched a campaign that used that phrase that started to catch on. it was a cherokee woman who dressed in clothing. it was not really what they wore, and she knew that, but it was to talk to people about indian removal. the phrase trail of tears caught on. it was not until the 1950's that it started appearing a lot and not until the 60's and 70's that it became well-known. we are always fascinated about how american history changes over time. how we understand advanced today is different than how people understood it at other times even though the facts do not really change.
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today we see that the largest national park is the trail of tears national trail. you can see native americans walking and riding through that. you see motorcycle clubs, all kinds of people enjoying that. you can see it is now something that is understood that it is a really major event in american history. what we hope this exhibition will do is enlarge the understanding of it. that really was an epic chapter. it was about national borders, global economies and policies about indians that had an effect long after the 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.
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again, that this is a moment of national significance that affected the entire country, and not just an unfortunate policy carried out by a single president. >> you can watch this and other american artifacts programs by visiting our website, sunday on american artifacts, a visit to the seminole nation museum in oklahoma. >> we are the descendents of the ancestors that were prisoners of war to the west, and i want you to know that even though seminoles are associated with the indian removal act and what is known as the trail of tears, our people were shackled in chains and brought to the west
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as prisoners of war. at 6:00 p.m.ay eastern on american history tv on c-span three. >> book tv features conversations on u.s. presidents and rates -- race. starting at noon eastern on in-depth a live conversation with april ryan. >> i studied for this just down , this was my vocation. not knowing that i would be under fire. questions of each president, the same question except for one, of each president over the last 21 years. asking questions now has me fearing for my life. >> her latest book is "under fire."
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conversation with your phone calls, tweets, and facebook messages. afterwards,stern on columnist cal thomas explores andrise and fall of nations the american role of superpower. >> we are not each other's enemies as lincoln said. if we do not make this great experiment called democracy work for succeeding generations, we are going to expire. there is no guarantee. then czar looking great, but when things look great, it is time to shore up foundations. >> watch sunday on book tv on c-span two. tonight, a 1959 film produced
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by the president's committee on government contracts which dramatizes racial tensions caused by the first hiring of a black secretary doing federal contract work. here is a preview. >> i will take you down and den.oduce you to mr. har >> have you been complaining about the lack of office help? i have somebody for you right now. have four hands. >> she it was an honor student, loyal and eager to work. she is outside. would you like to meet her? >> tell her to have her pencil start -- sharpened so we can get started. you will find your work cut out for you. >> how do you do?
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how do you do? you should have seen his face. he just looked at me like he could not believe it. like he could not believe it. >> what did he say? >> how do you do? he said it twice and then went back to his desk and said he would see me tomorrow. >> what did the other guy do? >> he smiled like it was some sort of a joke. he took me down to the medical office. anybody say anything about you being the first colored girl for the office? >> they did not have to. you could see it in the faces. me iny the girl looked at the office. >> maybe you just imagined it. >> that's crazy. it is the truth.
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you just do not understand. >> i understand. you may not think i understand, but i do. you think i cannot understand because i am your mother and i am older. i do. what you are going through is not new. when i was a young girl, i had to leave high school and get a job. i would have given anything to work in a shop. it just not was done where i lived. a niggerer heard of working and a shop with white people. so i got a job cleaning a house. and cried atse nights until i got married.
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somethingother had she wanted very bad and could not have and cried about it all night. i do not know. children, and i have watched you grow up and finish school. now mary is working in a shop and crying because she cannot work in a office. maybe she can work there. if she cannot, i do not want to see her throwing away the chance because she is afraid. , and those people hate her maybe she is imagining a lot of it, dreaming up trouble to hide her fears. if this is the way it is, she has to find out. the only way is to go to work tomorrow. of "the new girl" tonight here on american history tv. next, images discussing the
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legend and legacy of amelia earhart, the first woman to fly solo across the atlantic ocean and the first to fly solo across the united states. she also discusses some of the theories behind her 1937 disappearance, while attempting a 29,000 mile flight around the world. the smithsonian associates hosted this event. >> good evening. i'm lauren rosenberg with smithsonian associates, and i'm glad you have joined us for tonight's program. to our members, i'm glad you are here. it is your support that make events like this possible. to any of you joining us for the first time, an equally warm welcome and an open invitation to explore the wide range of programs we offer. now is the perfect time to turn off your cell phones or anything


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