By: Jan Agaton | Social Media Coordinator
“Stirring the Pot: Bringing the Wanamakers Home,” assembled by Joe Stahlman and his wife, Fileve Palmer-Stahlman, is currently on display in Rueff Gallery. Their PhD research involved anthropology as well as photo-ethnography; they looked through the archives of Mathers Museum, and the institution gave them digital copies of six photos of people from the Tuscarora Indian community, so Stahlman & Stahlman could hopefully gather more information on those in the photographs. Joe is of Tuscaroran heritage, so this project actually helped him find his great-great-grandfather in addition to a couple other relatives.
The photos presented in this exhibit show descendants of the people in the six photographs holding the photograph of the person to which they have some relation. According to www.archive.inside.indiana.edu, Joe states, “When people think about Indians, they think of feathers, leather and the headdress. With these images, we are able to show how modern these people really are.” They portray that modernity by capturing the descendants either fulfilling day-to-day routinely tasks, wearing clothes that are similar to the casual streetwear we see everywhere today, or simply standing or sitting in front of a background that resembles that of a modern setting, such as an indoor fireplace or an ordinary kitchen.
When viewing the photos in the exhibit, it is apparent that each of the descendants have varied appearances and lifestyles. Regarding appearance, their skin tones range from fair to a dark tan, which for some may be natural, or due to working outdoors and being in the sun for long periods of time. I’m particularly referring to the photo of “Tom and Dylan holding Isaac Patterson” because Stahlman chose to capture them dressed in white T-shirts, shorts, and sandals, in the middle of a field of tall grass. In another photo, there is a couple named Neil and Francine dressed in clothing resembling that of traditional Native Americans, and they are holding their ancestors’ photos indoors in front of a brick wall with what seems like a fireplace installed into it; Neil and Francine could be perceived as “well off,” just by the choices Stahlman made when taking their photo. There is also a photo of a middle-aged man in a branded white hoodie, and another photo of a father next to his daughter who is sitting in a tractor.
This exhibit relates to human cultural and biological variation as well as the treatment of other groups, in that Stahlman aimed and succeeded in showing the different possibilities that can result in the lives of Native American descendants, regardless of the lives of their ancestors. These people made lives of their own, yet there are so many assumptions made about those of Native American descent regarding what they wear and how they live, we sometimes forget that those from other cultures may not be so different from ourselves.