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The Gilded and the Gritty: America, 1870-1912
Topic: MemoryTopic: ProgressTopic: PeopleTopic: PowerTopic: Empire
Topic: Empire: Manifest Destiny and Beyond
Toolbox Overview: The Gilded and the Gritty: America, 1870-1912
Resource Menu: Empire
Text 1. Frederick Jackson Turner, The Significance of the Frontier in American History
Text 2. Stephen Crane, The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky
Text 3. The Future of the Red Man
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Text 4. William F. Cody and John M. Burke, Buffalo Bill's Wild West and Congress of Rough Riders of the World
Text 5. The New Frontier, Albert Beveridge and William Jennings Bryan
Text 6. Theodore Roosevelt, The Strenuous Life
Text 7. The White Man's Burden
Text 8. Mark Twain, To the Person Sitting in Darkness, The Dervish and the Offensive Stranger
Text 9. Aguinaldo's Case Against the United States
Text 10. Two Wars, Memorial Day, The Twelve-Inch Gun

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Reading Guide
Simon Pokagon
Simon Pokagon
The Future of the Red Man
- Simon Pokagon, "The Future of the Red Man," Forum, August 1897, excerpts
- Studio portraits of Native Americans, 1886-1907

Was there a place for the Indian in America? Simon Pokagon provided an answer. Pokagon (1830-99), a Potawatomi, lived in southwestern Michigan until he left to attend white-run schools, eventually studying at Oberlin College. He became a favorite of the evangelical Protestant Friends of the Indian reformers and on their behalf spoke widely on such topics as temperance, abolition, women's rights, and racial tolerance. He believed that assimilation was inevitable and suggested that, while it might be a loss for Indians, it might also be a benefit for whites. His prominence as spokesman won him the honor of speaking at the opening of the Chicago World's Columbian Exposition, where he was the first person to strike the fair's replica of the Liberty Bell. As much as the machinery on display, Pokagon was for fairgoers a symbol of progress, for he demonstrated how far the Indians had come in the care of Christian civilization. He was not as popular among his fellow Potawatomis, however. An elected tribal official, he had tried to divert to himself funds that a court had ordered distributed among the tribe, and he outraged his fellow Indians by secretly turning over tribal lands to a combine of Chicago attorneys. In his world's fair address he offers sharp criticism of the way white people treated Indians. He views student accomplishment at Indian schools, the success of Indian football teams, and the Native American presence at the fair itself as indications that Indians will not vanish as an enfeebled race but will survive and, indeed, even compete successfully with whites. Moreover, he suggests that "amalgamation" with Indians might enhance the physical vitality of white people.

Was "amalgamation" a real possibility? That is another way of asking how white Americans viewed Indians. The sample of studio portraits offered here provides some answers. In the years after the Civil War, Indians became popular subjects for photographers. Accompanying military and survey expeditions in the West during the 1870s, photographers were able to record Indian life before it had become completely disrupted. When the fascination with what was being lost proved strong enough to make Indian photographs commercially profitable, many photographers ventured west to capitalize upon the demand. Some brought with them portable studios in which they shot portraits for display in the East. You might consider these portraits as measures of assimilation and as reports on the status of the Indians at century's end. How assimilated are the subjects? How assimilated do they want to be? As you study them, keep in mind that a portrait is the result of a complex and subtle interaction between an artist and a subject. The artist poses the subject, but the subject also poses himself or herself. Both the artist and the subject are trying to express a vision. Those visions may coincide or clash. The portrait may be the result of cooperation or struggle. 13 pages.

Discussion questions
  1. Who is Pokagon's audience?
  2. What is the purpose of his speech?
  3. How does he frame the plight of the Indians in his opening two paragraphs?
  4. How does he portray the Indians throughout his speech?
  5. Why does their success at football suggest about Indians?
  6. How does he use the American Revolution and the Civil War to advance his argument?
  7. Compare Pokagon's speech with Booker T. Washington's Atlanta Exposition Address" (see PROGRESS). How do relations between Indians and whites differ from relations between African Americans and whites? Why? What future Indian-white relations does Pokagon envision? How do they differ from the black-white relations envisioned by Washington? Why can Pokagon raise the prospect of "amalgamation" when Washington cannot?
  8. How does Pokagon make Indian competition with and triumph over white people acceptable to his audience?
  9. Compare Pokagon's attitude toward white with that of Zitkala-Sa (see PEOPLE)? How do their attitudes toward assimilation differ?
  10. How do the portraits depict the Indian as the "other"?
  11. What versions of the Indian are represented among the portraits?
  12. How are the portraits themselves "civilizing influences"? What ideological purposes might these portraits have served?

When studying a portrait, use the approach we suggest in "Discussing Art" but consider the following questions as well:
  • Where do the subject's eyes seem to be looking?
  • Is the subject smiling?
  • Is the mouth open or closed?
  • Is the subject's head turned from the camera?
  • Are the shoulders turned in the same or the opposite direction?
  • What is the subject wearing?
  • How is the subject holding his/her hands?
  • What effect does the background have on the portrait?
  • What does the background reveal about the subject's life?
  • Does the subject fill the picture frame?
  • In portraits with two subjects, how has the photographer suggested a relationship between the subjects?
  • Are the subjects posed close together?
  • Are they touching each other?
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Topic Framing Questions
  •  How was the West incorporated into the nation?
  •  How did Americans respond to the nation's changing role in world affairs at this time?
  •  How did issues and concerns at home shape American policies and actions abroad?
  •  How did America project its power beyond its own borders?

Toolbox: The Gilded and the Gritty: America, 1870-1912
Memory | Progress | People | Power | Empire

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