In what ways is John Taylor's work "Treaty Signing at Medicine Lodge Creek" ethnocentric?

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stolperia | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Medicine Lodge Creek was located in southwestern Kansas, an area of the country that was part of the open plains in 1867. The meeting of the representatives of the United States government and the Native Americans took place in a large, open area - it would have needed to have space for erection of tents, pasture for horses used by all parties, and access to hunting grounds to obtain food.

While an arbor, a temporary shelter of branches over a framework of larger limbs, was created to serve as a location for the negotiations, there would not have been the established forest pictured in Taylor's rendition. His version certainly makes the land look more desirable to potential settlers than would a wide-open and empty vista.

In Taylor's picture, all participants are seated in an orderly manner, giving attention to the one white man standing and addressing the gathering. This looks very reassuring and familiar to persons accustomed to conducting meetings and following parliamentary rules of order to organize such events.

The reality is that there were over four thousand Native Americans from parts of five different tribes gathered for the occasion. These individuals would have been seated in groups with others from their clan or tribe; some would have been attending the meeting while others cared for the animals; most of the Native Americans would not have understood the white speakers and probably would not have been sitting quietly and listening attentively.

Taylor's work was designed to present a reassuring and familiar representation of the treaty signing to be viewed by white Americans who might be considering joining the westward movement to seek their fortunes in that resource-rich territory.

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