Indigenizing Movements in Europe - Graham Harvey

Indigenizing Movements in Europe - Graham Harvey

Powwowing My Way: Exploring Johnson’s Concepts of Indigenizing and Extending through the Lived Expressions of American Indian-ness by European Powwow Enthusiasts

Indigenizing Movements in Europe - Graham Harvey

Christina Welch [+-]
University of Winchester
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Dr Christina Welch is a Reader in Religious Studies at the University of Winchester. She is an interdisciplinary scholar with research interests in the relationship between religions and material and visual culture, notably in relation to death; her research into Northern European erotic death art, and British and Irish cadaver sculptures speaks to this. She gained her PhD in 2005 exploring the role of popular visual representation in the construction of North American Indian and Western Alternative Spiritual identities, and has continued to explore issues around indigeneity and identity construction, most recently writing about the Garifuna of St Vincent. Over the past 14 years Christina has led the Masters degree in Death, Religion and Culture, teaching many death professionals from as funeral directors and death doulas, to embalmers and palliative are leads, as well as people just interested in death as a subject of academic study.


Paul Johnson suggests in his article ‘Migrating Bodies, Circulating Signs,’ that the “identifying practices of indigenousness… are imagined through global media and often expressed in their forms” (2005: 65). And nowhere is this more the case than with a specific group of Europeans who find a form of Indigeneity through interactions with North American Indian spiritual lifeways, typically mediated via the global media; European Powwow enthusiasts - individuals who, put simply, dress-up and dance as Plains American Indians in Powwow-style events. Powwows are essentially highly symbolic North American Indian ceremonial social gatherings with spiritual elements. Although their roots lie with the Plains and Prairie peoples of North America, powwows have become a pan-Indian phenomenon, a dynamic and evolving tradition that features singing and dance. Powwows act as an opportunity for North American Indian peoples to honour their cultures and heritages, and powwowing now stands as a major signifier of Indianness for both North American Indian people, and the wider populace. The predominantly White-Western pursuit of dressing, dancing and ritualising as a North American Indian, although not a mass activity is one to be found in North America, Canada, Australia, Japan, the former USSR, and across large stretches of Europe with regular gatherings in England, Germany, Denmark, Bulgaria, and Czechoslovakia. Although not all Powwow enthusiasts seek to identify as Native American, that they experiment with Indigeneity is beyond question. This chapter seeks firstly to explore in brief, the long history of global media representations of North American Indians and their spiritual lifeways, that allowed, and continue to allow, Europeans to take on aspects of the Indian Indigenousness, and secondly to examine how Johnson’s processes of Extension and Indigenizing, can be applied to European Powwow enthusiasts own processes of locating themselves within a form of Indigeneity.

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Welch, Christina. Powwowing My Way: Exploring Johnson’s Concepts of Indigenizing and Extending through the Lived Expressions of American Indian-ness by European Powwow Enthusiasts. Indigenizing Movements in Europe. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. 85-106 Mar 2020. ISBN 9781781797914. Date accessed: 05 Dec 2022 doi: 10.1558/equinox.36297. Mar 2020

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