March 18, 2012

The Return of the Red Man

In 1967, LIFE Magazine published a special issue on Native peoples. Dubbed "Return of the Red Man," this issue featured two major stories in a section titled, "Rediscovery of the Redman." These two stories were:

1. Bright Vignettes of a Lost World. Newly discovered journals of a brave Jesuit priest show how Indians lived in the northern Rockies in the 1840s.

2. 100 Years Later, A Double Rediscovery. Hippies play Indian as real Indians explore their heritage and renew it. Juxtaposing two articles, With Old Ritual and Modern Dance, A Heritage Comes to Life, and Happy Hippie Hunting Ground, the 'double rediscovery' becomes more clear.

The writing is definitely a product of its time, but provides some interesting insight, especially as it pertains to the current hipster movement and international interest in 'the Red Indian.'

It is also in this section that we get a very cool glimpse of the Institute of American Indian Arts in the 1960s. We also get to peep the hippie obsession with Indians, powwows near Paris, and Tepees on the Danube. And as the author points out, "Europe, too, has loved the noble Redskin."

Some noteworthy quotes:

"..convinced that he [the 'Native American'] has deeper spiritual values than the rest of society, hippies have taken to wearing his costume and horning in on his customs."

"..a 'white Indian' may sport a feather or a headband, which is believed to provide 'good vibrations' during an LSD trip. A fortunate few possess a genuine war bonnet."

"But being a real Indian is far more complex."

"In addition to having the usual teen-age problems, IAIA pupils must take the full brunt of the cultural conflict."

"Shrill chanting and the beat of tom-toms echo across the [IAIA] campus while the sound of Diana Ross and the Supremes fills the workshops where students are engaged in pottery, sculpture, beadwork and weaving." (IAIA's rock band, The Jaggers, are pictured to the right).

"In their reclaimed hunting grounds, hippies try earnestly to achieve authenticity."

"Then a [hippie] chief arose and said, "Let us do it the Indian way." The 10 formed a circle, passed around the peace pipe (filled with marijuana), and each in turn expressed his views. Soon there was harmony."

"But, in taking up with the Indian now, Americans lag far behind the Europeans, who have been enchanted by Indians ever since the first saw the red men that Columbus brought back to show Isabella."

"A group of French Indianists recently opened a weekend amusement park called Redskin Valley, 28 miles from Paris. It has become such a thriving commercial enterprise that its founders now flee to the forests to whoop it up authentically."

"The Hungarians are the real purists - restricting themselves to only one tribe as they powwow on the banks of the Danube. 'We are Dakotas,' their chief insists."

"As the Hungarian chief explains, 'We just play Indian for relaxation.'"

Ah-ha. History repeats. Have fun and read the entire issue by clicking here.

LIFE Magazine is the treasured photographic magazine that chronicled the 20th Century. It now lives on at, the largest, most amazing collection of professional photography on the internet. Users can browse, search and view photos of today’s people and events. They have free access to share, print and post images for personal use.


  1. It is really bizarre to hear and see some of this stuff. I have actually had an English woman apologize to me for all the atrocities committed against "your people", so I forgave her! I had a German man tell me that I cannot be a reaI Indian because he never heard of my Tribe and he was the authority..... I loved beadwork since forever and I used to dress up as an Indian for Halloween.  Our cultural ties are all messed up and the greater society in this country has no culture, so they are messed up too. I feel sorry for everybody except the traditional Natives who seem to have a clue as to who they are. Play Indian for relaxation??? That is hilarious, since most Indians I know do not have a relaxing or easy time of being Indian in this day and age.  I think you need to write a NEW article, Jessica! please?

  2. Yea! I see that you can buy a hard copy online, I may have to do that...

  3. It is very bizarre indeed! What shall we title our new article? 'The Unreturn of the Red Man,' 'The Red Man Remix,' 'The Red Man Rebuttal,' hahah I could go on and on