FRSEMR 631: The First Americans: Portraits of Indigenous Power and Diplomacy

Semester: 

Fall

Offered: 

2019

Instructor: Shawon Kinew
Meeting time: Friday, 12:00-2:45

The First AmericansHarvard’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology is home to 25 oil portraits of indigenous American leaders painted in the first half of the 19th century. Originally commissioned to preserve cultures an American bureaucrat feared would be extinct, these paintings transcend a moribund history. In fact, the Native American nations represented are still here. Moreover, these portraits have much to teach us about diplomacy, power, representation and indigeneity in 2019. The Peabody portraits, painted by the American artist Henry Inman, represent some of the most fascinating political leaders of the American nineteenth century—chiefs, spiritual leaders and diplomats, who all traveled to Washington, D.C. to negotiate with the U.S. government on behalf of their tribal nations. Through the close examination of these artworks in person at the Peabody, this seminar will focus on the stories, histories and teachings communicated by these portraits and their sitters.