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The series Encountering Cultures photographically captures the Rendezvous and their participants. Rendezvous are historical re-enactments of the French fur trader era, which took place from1760-1840. Today re-enactors come from all over the country to relive this happening by engaging in period events, setting up camp, displaying furs and dressing the part of fur traders and Indians. This sub-culture has utilized and adopted the material culture of Native Americans through objects, clothing, ceremonies, and lifestyles. I have chosen to concentrate on photographing this project only within the original homeland of my tribe, the Ho Chunk Nation, which encompasses Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota. Through turning the camera lens back on the Rendezvous sub-culture I am exploring the nostalgic romanticizing of Native Americans.

Within this series I continue my ongoing examination of how early photographs of Native Americans, taken by people from outside our society, have affected the perceptions of our culture. I do not come with preconceived judgments of these re-enactors. I am instead interested in how they pose and present themselves dressed as Indians to the camera by way of their reinterpretation of these historical images. There has been a long history of these assumptions and perceptions of our culture and by reversing these roles I intend to put in an active Ho Chunk voice within this dialogue. The presence of a Ho-Chunk photographing non-Indians, dressing as Native Americans, takes on a new meaning within the history of Photography and Ethnography.

Through these re-enactments in Germany and the United States these particular narratives and images of Native Americans are reproduced and reframed into a collective memory that is at times distorted. As stated in Phillip Joseph Deloria's book "Playing Indian", the American tendency to appropriate Indian dress and act out Indian roles has a long history, and includes such examples as The Boston Tea Party, Indian fraternal orders, Camp Fire Girls, Boy Scouts, Grateful Dead concert groupies and the Berkeley tribes of the 1960s. It is through these groups, along with Hollywood movies and the Wild West Shows a century ago, that the cultural tradition of perceived and portrayed Indian identity and culture has been shaped and distorted. These assumptions and understandings of Native Americans have affected the entire population of the world.

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© Tom Jones, II