Wendy Red Star and the 1899 Indian Congress

Five hundred people from thirty-five different Native American tribes, the largest gathering of tribes at the turn of the twentieth century, met in Omaha, Nebraska for the 1898 Indian Congress and International Exposition. The meeting was originally photographed by Frank Rinehart, a photographer renowned for capturing the personality and culture of the Native Americans. He meticulously recorded each individual sitter’s name and their tribal affiliation. Seen as noble people whose way of life was quickly disappearing, the Indian Congress exhibited the way of life of the American Indians, from ethnic traits to native industries. Tribes represented included Apache, Cheyenne, Kiowa, Pueblo, Sioux, and many others. The largest delegation was the Sioux, who travelled from the South Dakota reservations and included the very elderly Chief Red Cloud. Apache warrior Geronimo also attended.

The event and its collection of photographs intrigued Oregon-based multimedia artist Wendy Red Star, of the Apsáalooke (Crow) nation. While in Omaha, she visited the site of the Congress, and even Rinehart’s grave. “I was very, just in awe of … the magnitude of 500 individual Native people gathering together,” she said in an interview with the Joslyn Art Museum’s associate curator of Native American Art, Annika Johnson. “And the Rinehart images are so beautiful, and the other thing that I really appreciate about those images is that he has written each individual sitter’s name and their tribal affiliation, which is rare, and sometimes hard to do, so that was even more exciting for me.” To bring that history to life, she created the site-specific installation, The Indian Congress, at Omaha’s Joslyn Art Museum, which is on display until April 25, 2021. 

Visit the Exhibition

About the Artist:

Wendy Red Star

Raised on the Apsáalooke (Crow) reservation in Montana, Wendy Red Star’s work is informed both by her cultural heritage and her engagement with many forms of creative expression, including photography, sculpture, video, fiber arts, and performance. An avid researcher of archives and historical narratives, Red Star seeks to incorporate and recast her research, offering new and unexpected perspectives in work that is at once inquisitive, witty and unsettling. Red Star holds a BFA from Montana State University, Bozeman, and an MFA in sculpture from University of California, Los Angeles. She lives and works in Portland, OR.

Learn more about Wendy Red Star

Long form articles:

https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/native-american-artist-indian-congress-1898

https://www.forbes.com/sites/chaddscott/2021/02/07/travel-back-in-time-to-the-indian-congress-of-1898-via-wendy-red-star-at-joslyn-art-museum-in-omaha/?sh=59102cf3795c

Photogravures of the Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition Held at Omaha, Nebraska June 1st to November 1st, 1898

F. A. Rinehart]

Published by F. A. Rinehart, n.p., 1898

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