Don’t Scalp the Messenger

by Lisa


            This is not my photo. It came right off the Autry Museum site.

On Saturday I had the very clever idea to go to the Indian festival at the Autry Museum in LA.  Each year I attend the beautiful show of paintings at the Autry Museum –Masters of the American West–and there are always many paintings of Indians in the show. I figured that the painters must go to this Indian festival to get reference pictures. So off I trotted to take glorious pictures of the the noble Indian from which I would create a beautiful masterpiece to enter into the show next year.

I paid my little $6 fee and walked right in laden with all my camera gear, right past the table that said “register your camera here”. I did not notice them–they did not notice me. Honestly. I’m not lying. I WISH I had registered my camera because maybe I would have been more prepared as to what I was about to encounter.

The first really colorful Indian I saw, I walked right up to, assuming this was old hat/headress for him, and said, “Can I take your picture?”. He glared at me and told me that he was talking to someone. I had interrupted him. Just as I was turning to slink away, he looked around again and said, and I quote, “Are you going to use this to exploit me?” “Exp-, exploit-, well no, I’m just a painter trying to get reference photos”. At which point he begrudgingly agreed and I snapped one shot of him snarling at me.

And this set the mood for the rest of my photo shoot which lasted all of about 10 more minutes during which time I got a total of 5 more shots of an Indian glowering at me, an Indian smirking at me, an Indian giving me the evil eye, two cute little girl Indians who didn’t know better and grinned big smiles for me,  and an Indian chain smoking cigarettes (what the hell, I just snapped that picture without asking and ran). In essence, those big bad Indians intimidated the crap out of me.

I’d say they were testy Indians with just a little resentment still. What do you think? Do you suppose I’d get accepted into the Masters of the American West Show if I painted an Indian spitting on me? What the hell. There’s enough paintings of the regal Indian looking westward into the sky.

This entry was posted in On Suffering, Painting. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Don’t Scalp the Messenger

  1. wrjones says:

    Are you sure they were real Indians? There are a couple of ways to check:

    1. Drop a cigarette but and beer can (empty) and walk away. Look over your shoulder to check for a tear in his eye.
    2. Ask him what the odds are on his slot machines.

    Looking at the wonderful job they have done (as a group effort) on the reservations, one can only imagine how advanced they would be if only those filthy, Euro grubbing, Europeans hadn’t ruined things. Who knows how many dreams they might have caught with those net things.

  2. Rhonda says:

    Sorry you had such a bad experience. I’ve attended several pow wows and never had a problem – but here in the Midwest all people are friendlier and you don’t have to register your camera, you just shoot the dances and whatever comes up – if you can get your hands free from the fry bread you’re eating.

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