“‘Hiawatha Produced in Life': Varieties of Authenticity in Motion Picture Productions of Hiawatha, 1908 - 1996”
First published in 1855, H.W. Longfellow's poem, Hiawatha, was based on the characters portrayed in H.R. Schoolcraft's collection of Ojibway Nanabush legends. Sponsored by the burgeoning railroad tourism industry around the turn of the twentieth century, troupes of Ojibway and Iroquois actors began enacting the poem in picturesque natural outdoor theaters at various locations around the Great Lakes . Simultaneously, the poem was incorporated into the pageants of school children and civic celebrations across North America . Through these pageants and through publications, Longfellow's Hiawatha and his cohorts became the childhood heros and the romantic idols of millions of members of the English-speaking general public. Popular interpretations of the story continue to appear in books and videos today.
This work extends my previous studies of Hiawatha photographic imagery into the realm of moving pictures in order to examine several films of the pageant that were produced in the first few decades of the twentieth century. Previous papers include: 1) “Postcards, Portraits and Pantomimes: The Enduring Visual Narratives of Hiawatha Pageants.” American Anthropology Association (AAA), Atlanta , Dec. 19 th ; and 2) “‘Hero of Your and My Childhood': Multiple Meanings in Hiawatha Pageantry and Imagery.” Centre for Rupert's Land Studies Colloquium (CRLS), Kenora , ON , May 27 th .