By Rosalyn R. LaPier
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Additional resources for City Indian: Native American Activism in Chicago, 1893-1934
For example, more than two dozen Inuit people from Labrador protested their treatment by their employers in various ways. Some went on strike, and several quit working in the “Esquimau Village” and found jobs on their own. Some took work “as carpenters with contractors on the fair grounds,” Raibmon tells us. ”23 The fair marked the beginning of efforts of American Indians in Chicago to take control of the narrative of both their history and their place in the modern world. Their efforts competed with the popular imagery of the encampments on the Midway Plaisance and the daily exhibitions of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West troupe.
Following the ideology of social Darwinism, this combination was intended to illustrate the steps of civilization that mankind had undergone. The Indian exhibit was placed at the start of the evolutionary scale. 6 This was no accident. ”7 Prominent Indians would bemoan and protest how Indians were treated both as people and as symbols by fair organizers. S. government. As early as 1891 the Smithsonian Institution had deﬁned the parameters of its participation in the fair exhiThe World Comes to Chicago 19 bitions.
One observer, Richard Henry Pratt, ex-Indian ﬁghter and founder of Carlisle Indian Industrial School, lamented that “long ago abandoned tribal homes were erected,” and “in some cases the ethnologists . . ”18 In fact the ethnologists and government ofﬁcials were working at cross-purposes to some degree. 19 All of their work was complicated by fair organizers’ efforts to sensationalize in order to draw crowds. Pratt believed that Indians could enter the American mainstream through assimilation; his boarding school efforts were meant to prove that Indians had the innate intelligence to leave their tribal past behind and enter modern American society.