Lost in Translation: Germany’s Fascination with Native Americans.

The recent public attention in the New York Times about the Karl May Museum and how the German fascination of Native Americans is still strong today throws the spotlight on the museum, which also has a festival, that claims to “honor” Native Americans. Now, the controversy is about human scalps that were on display at the museum itself but have since been removed. The museum is now working harder than ever to keep and maintain good relations with Native Americans themselves while displaying artifacts by talking and negotiating how to implement best practices together. Please clink on link for entire story.

Lost in Translation: by New York Times (August 17, 2014)


Visual representation of one of Karl May’s most popular imagined Indian character creations: “Winnetou”


The imagined ideas of Germans and Indians fighting side by side with each other as portrayed by the fictional character: “Old Shatterhand”

In the film “Into America: The Ancestor’s Land“, we address the American fascination of Indians and Westerns and how Hollywood is known the world-over for its famous landscapes and indigenous peoples, including Germany. However, Karl May is a popular writer of Germany who claimed to live with and know Native Americans (which is disputed as well according to the media piece here), and his ideas, fantasies, and stereotypes of Indigenous peoples in the United States still live on. It is the cooperative nature and equal partnership of representation that we hoped to achieve in making the film in order to get away from such stereotypes including cultural misappropriation and incorrect representation.


The outside of the Karl May Museum in Germany that houses numerous collections of American Indian materials.

Picture from Karl May Museum of scenes of believed American Indian life

Picture from Karl May Museum depicting scenes of believed American Indian life.

Native Americans in the United States are confident that the museum will do the right thing, as they are committed to doing by partnering with tribes and their representatives, and let us consult with them to view collections of numerous artifacts and objects in the museum’s possession to assist in determining their origins, cultural significance, any funerary items and/or human remains. It is one of the best ways to honor Indian people.


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