By Custer, George; Custer, George; Denzin, Norman K
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Extra info for Custer on canvas : representing Indians, memory, and violence in the new west
Political art! Speaker Two: Robert Taft (in blackface) The Last Stand pictures fascinate all beholders . . [but] the scene is totally imaginary, for no white witness survived the Custer tragedy. . Hence, as historical documents, pictures of Custer’s Last Stand are admittedly worthless (1953, pp. 130–131, emphasis added). A Good Day to Die 33 Speaker One: Coyote 2 Whose imaginary? Lakota and Cheyenne men, women, and children survived, told their stories, made paintings, did oral histories. Discounting the Last Stand pictures by white artists allows Taft to discount the Lakota and Cheyenne stories and drawings.
Accepting official memory/history conceals fierce conflicts of interest between conquerors and conquered, between masters and slaves, Indians and whites, a world of victims and executioners (Zinn, 60 Chapter One 2003, p. 10). In such a world, it is “the job of thinking people not to be on the side of the executioners” (Zinn, 2003, p. 10) in the case of Custer, the American military. The Custer Last Stand narratives are about the endless production of official history. They represent a preoccupation with power, memory, loss, race, masculinity, heroes, Manifest Destiny.
Women and old men rounded up the horses. The women brought in wooden sledges pulled by ponies to carry the dead and wounded away. The women who lost their men cried and cut the bodies of the dead soldiers in a ritual of revenge and mourning. Many women and children were yelling, laughing, and singing (Welch, 1994, p. 180). They sang these words: “Our brave women and warriors went onto the battlefield and avenged the 46 Chapter One deaths of our brave men. m. Hi-es-tzie (Custer) was accorded special treatment.