UNC's "Native American Tribal Studies" Course


Clyde Ellis gave a very interesting lecture on the topic of the Indian Hobbyist or Indian Lore Movement in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. I had never heard of this movement or these ideas before the lecture. The Indian Hobbyist Movement is essentially the attempt of middleclass whites to preserve American Indian culture. Dr. Ellis explained that the Hobbyist movement intensified around the turn of the 20th century. At this time American Indians were being romanticized as a people on the path to extinction. As a culture and people on the brink of extinction whites saw it as their duty to learn from Indians, and preserve their culture. In the minds of middleclass whites Indians were incapable of surviving and passing down culture on their own. The Indian lifestyle latched onto as a pure and simple antidote to the chaotic industrialization of the 20th century. The perceived rugged outdoor lifestyle of Indians was admired by whites. One of the founding fathers of the Indian Lore movement was Ernest Thompson Seton. Seton was an eccentric intellectual who wrote many books about the Indian lifestyle. Seton trained young men in Native ways and formed a group called the Seton Indians. In 1910 Seton also helped found the Boy Scouts using his Native American principles. From Seton the Indian Lore Movement became very popular. The main focus of Hobbyists was on music, dance, and other material culture. The hobbyist’s have even created very nice artwork in the Indian Lore style. Dr. Ellis went on to explain that the quintessential problem with Hobbyism was that Indians were not being extinct and their culture and this time was flourishing totally apart from whites. Also, the “culture,” that Hobbyists preserved was their own version of Indian culture. The Hobbyist movement did more to serve the white community than it did the Indian community.

Overall Dr. Ellis’s lecture was fascinating and informative. The Indian Lore movement is a unique chapter in both American and Native American history in the 20th century.

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