WHO IS ROBOHONTAS?

 

She comes from a dream, or perhaps another dimension. She may be here from a distant future. She is made from technologies both old and new, Indigenous and Western.

 

Robohontas is Mataoka/Pocahontas. She also is not Mataoka/Pocahontas.

 

She comes in peace. Her directive is to question, explore, and interact with the world around her.

 

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Robohontas is the creation of artist Fox Spears (Karuk).

 

"I was inspired by my own experiences as a multi-racial Indigenous adoptee raised by white parents in a middle-class urban/suburan environment. Going back to school to pursue a B.F.A. in my late twenties, I truly began to connect with and reclaim my indigenous identity. Spurred by my disappointment in the multitude of stereotypical representations of Native historical figures, I chose to reappropriate Disney's version of Pocahontas and create a new identity for her as a futuristic indigenous robot. For me, she reflects a contemporary Native experience of walking between different worldviews and her purpose is to help create new Indigenous futures."

 

 

For further reference on this topic, the paragraphs below are excerpted from an essay titled, "Savage Desires: The Gendered Construction of the American Indian in Popular Media" by S. Elizabeth Bird. (This essay was found in the book Selling the Indian: Commercializing & Appropriating American Indian Cultures, edited by Carter Jones Meyer and Diana Royer.) 

 

"As Robert Tilton describes it, the Pocahontas/Princess myth became a crucial part in the creation of a national identity: The Indian Princess became an important, nonthreatening symbol of white Americans' right to be here, because she was always willing to sacrifice her happiness, cultural identity, and even her life for the good of the new nation. Endless plays, novels, and poems were written about Pocahontas, extolling her beauty and nobility. The prevailing view of the Princess was that she was gentle, noble, nonthreateningly erotic, virtually a white Christian, yet different, because she was tied to the native soil of America. As Tilton explains, the Pocahontas/Princess story enabled the white United States, but especially the South, to justify its dominance, providing a kind of origin myth that explained how and why Indians had welcomed the destiny brought to them by whites." (79)

 

"In the mid-1990s, living, breathing Indian women have become largely invisible and irrelevant in mainstream popular culture. In fact, the most prominent Indian icon of the decade was, perhaps fittingly, a cartoon. In spite of being touted as a feminist rendering of the tale, Disney's 1995 animated feature Pocahontas clearly echoes the old imagery. Pocahontas persuades her father to make peace, even though it is not clear why it is in her best interests to do so. She rejects the Indian man chosen for her in favor of the Nordic John Smith. And even though she eventually loses her lover, Pocahontas learns to recognize the inevitability of "progress," an important, guilt-reducing element in the white image of Indians. In the cartoon, Disney tells us also that Pocahontas taught John Smith respect for nature, implying that she had a profound impact on how the nation developed--a sentimentalizing of the way things actually happened and a kind of collective fantasy that recalls the sentimental image of Pocahontas embraced in the nineteenth century. Disney's version harks back to Victorian imagery in other ways. The cartoon character is notably voluptuous and scantily clad, as were the earlier images; the film even echoes Victorian conventions in showing Pocahontas as lighter skinnned than the men of her tribe." (85)

 

R

© 2016 by Fox Spears.

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