Senior Honors Projects, 2010-2019

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Date of Graduation

Spring 2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (BA)


Department of History


Raymond M. Hyser

Timothy J. Fitzgerald

Steven A. Reich

Joshua Iddings


The late nineteenth century in America was a period of intense change, where society took on the project of describing what exactly made America what it was. An important vehicle for this exploration of identity was the world’s fair. This paper analyzes the Chicago World Columbian Exposition of 1893, the Omaha Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition of 1898, and the St. Louis Louisiana Purchase Exposition of 1904 and their depictions of Indigenous North Americans which were closely tied up in the current project of national myth making. A three-way conflict emerges in this study between contemporary anthropologists, entertainment professionals, and so-called reformers (advocates of reeducating Indians in the ways of white civilization) where the three attempt to assert contradicting images of Indianness. Because of this conflict, conceptual gaps appear, creating opportunities at world’s fairs for Indigenous Americans to assert their own self-representations. Much scholarship on world’s fairs treats these indigenous peoples as objects, just as their contemporaries in dominant culture did. This paper illuminates the indigenous acts of agency that appeared in diverse forms in world’s fairs’ physical space. Using the ideological framework of Linda S. McNenly, the paper examines contact zones, transculturation, and cultural projects as Indigenous Americans sought to subvert or appropriate to their own means the identities these three competing groups tried to assign them.



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