Why are Europeans, Germans perhaps most famously, obsessed with Native Americans? So many reasons: The chance to delve into a past where the bad guys are not your grandparents. A crowded continent’s longing for wide open spaces. A romantic attachment to an idealized “authentic” humanity, rooted in the anti-industrial backlash of the 1800s. And, of course, Karl May, the 19th-century writer who devoured James Fenimore Cooper while in prison and cranked out novels of the American West (and the Middle East, and the fantasy planet Sitara) that have been best-sellers for going on 125 years. May’s most enduring hero, Winnetou, wages a heroic, doomed battle against the railroad and white settlement, and the books’ juxtaposition of bareback-riding freedom and overweening state power (plus a heavy dose of Christianity), made them an underground sensation behind the Iron Curtain. Today, Indian clubs from Prague to Potsdam put on elaborate reenactments complete with acres of buckskin outfits while (mostly) waving off concerns about how redface paint and the appropriation of sacred symbols like eagle feathers might play with actual Native Americans. As one hobbyist informed Indian Country Today‘s Red Haircrow, “No people should be allowed to keep their culture just for themselves.”

German dressed as Native American, holding a gun

Outside Leipzig, Germany
Jen Osborne/Redux
 
Man dressed as Native American, riding a horse

Czech Republic
Jen Osborne/Redux
 
Girl being fitted for a dress in front of tee-pees.

Czech Republic
Jen Osborne/Redux
 
Man dressed as Native American with face paint.

Hungary
Jen Osborne/Redux
 
Man dressed as Native American with mohawk and braid.

Czech Republic
Jen Osborne/Redux
 
American flag inside tee-pee.

Czech Republic
Jen Osborne/Redux
 
Man dressed as Native American being fitted with feather headdress.

Russia
Jen Osborne/Redux
 
Baby dressed as Native American.

Czech Republic
Jen Osborne/Redux
 
Man dressed as Native America carring a flag.

Russia
Jen Osborne/Redux
 
Portrait of man dressed as Native American.

Germany
Jen Osborne/Redux
 

THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.