A quick post to prove to you that I am not dead, merely buried under a large pile of books and papers, in the final stretch before completing my final major research project for my Master’s degree in Public History at Carleton. I have been staring at hundreds of postcards of First Nations people over the past year. I would be hard pressed to point to the ones I find the post intriguing (though the privately produced “Calf Robes Resisting Capture” series I’ve written about before may come close). The main thrust of my MA project is in the analysis of postcards not as neutral photographic representations of the past (which has of course been thoroughly debunked by many a historian of photography) but in the very “biases”/incorrect assumptions about Aboriginal people written on postcards in the captions and the handwritten messages. I examine the way that the textual elements of postcards reveal how such images were interpreted in the first three decades of the twentieth century and therefore how the photographic subjects were understood by white settler communities and tourists. Picture postcards served as interesting platforms for the spread of a certain rhetoric about “Indians” in circulation in the Prairie West. I’m interested in the ways that postcard messages, even “lighthearted” ones with (often racist) jokes, reflected and propagated usually damaging depictions of Aboriginal people.
Heavy thoughts for such small objects.
At the moment, I thought I would leave you with a postcard that I did not discuss in my thesis, mainly because it was not sent through the mail and has no handwritten message on the reverse. I chose to post this example here because of how visually striking the composition of the image is – and because it reminds us that whatever American Wild West films say about “cowboy versus Indians,” First Nations people have also historically been cowboys.
Wish me luck as I wrangle words, not cattle!
Related Posts (With Postcards!):
- Postcards That Intrigue Me #1 – The First Car in Canada
- Postcards That Intrigue Me, Part II: Bison/Cow Hybrids and “Domesticated Buffalo”
- Mystery Photoset: “Calf Robes Resisting Capture,” “Susie’s Blind Husband,” and Other Unique Postcards
- Bears Behaving Badly (And the Humans That Encourage Them)
- Where is Fort Edmonton?
- “Why can’t I call them ‘Indians’ anymore?” A question and a few possible answers