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OnView Digital Collection

This collection contains photographs of groups of people and organizations participating in public events such as parades and regional celebrations and/or festivals.  These events appear to be themed or representations of historical events.  These costumed events do not appear to have an intentionally racist agenda or purpose during this time period (around late 19th century up to today).

However, these historic photographs do exhibit the persistence of racially insensitive caricatures regarding races other than Euro-American.  Minstrel Shows of the early 19th century in America are an example of racist caricature.  Cartoons and comic books used what society is beginning to understand as offensive caricatures of Native Americans. This post on Pinterest of Warner Brothers’ Bugs Bunny is one example. These commonly seen images of tomahawks, ponytails, fringed breeches and ignorant or blank facial expressions helped to cement the racially insensitive images that must be recognized racist. 

As stated above, the purpose of this inventory of images is not to condemn or berate the individuals, families, communities or the organizations represented.  The purpose of this inventory is to acknowledge the gaps in the historical record and harmful misrepresentations in order to honor the presence and significance of Indigenous People past, present and future. 

children in steryotipical native clothing


There are about 25 images from about 1910 to 1976 of various non-Indigenous community and student groups dressed in Native American inspired attire, from parades to 4-H clubs, to scouts, Thanksgiving classroom parties and the bi-centennial celebration. There is one image of an Indigenous individual performing a ceremonial dance in 1993 (pictured), though it is not well described.  The image of Monongalia elementary students on Thanksgiving, 1960, exudes the traditionally taught story of Thanksgiving and the Native American, the stereotypical and simplified understanding enhanced by the crafted costumes.


About thirty images, including photographs of places in Appalachia with Indigenous Place Names (many that are and some that are not acknowledged), historical markers described from the white settler perspective, and grave desecration without acknowledgement of the land originally occupied by Native Americans. For example, in the 1952 historical marker for Edray County, the language: “Site of early settlement and fort of Thomas Drinnon, Scene of attacks by Indians in 1774 and 1778,” ignores the fact that Native Americans were actually on the land and thus invaded first. This settler perspective new history via an erected, official sign, exemplifies the distorted history of our area. In the 1935 photograph of Dorsey’s Knob in Morgantown, it is stated that “The Indian graves were opened by the late Hu Maxwell, in which were found a few bows.” What Indigenous tribes originally lived here? It is unknown what was done with the objects found; it is of belief by many Indigenous communities that archeological items should remain in the earth. Since 1990, it is of law that these objects should be returned to the descendants and tribal nations (and as previously noted, illegal now to desecrate such sites).

Native Americans on horsesNative American History

There are a handful of images that relate to Indigenous people and culture, including an 1870s photograph of a Summers County, WV class with text “Note Indian Children,” (were these students forced into assimilation?), a 1909 photograph of “Three Generations of Red Cloud” (Oglala Lakota leader, 1822-1909), a photograph of Native Americans in the Monongalia County Sesquicentennial Parade, 1926 (below); photographs of Native cave paintings in Harrison County, 1955; up to a photograph of the Planting of the Native American 'Peace Tree' in Woodburn Circle, West Virginia University, 1993. Very few and far between, these photographs indicate a strong need for rethinking and redeveloping the text around these images.


WVU Librarian liaison to the Program for Native American Studies, Jane Beth Toren,, has researched, compiled and created two important research guides for the continued reconciliation of Colonial American History with Native American history 

These guides are not to be regarded as complete. They are an ever-evolving resource and will continue to expand as research is compiled and presented.