Staging Indigeneity

Salvage Tourism and the Performance of Native American History

By Katrina Phillips

262 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 22 halftones, 4 maps, 1 table, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-6231-2
    Published: March 2021
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-6230-5
    Published: March 2021
  • eBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-6232-9
    Published: January 2021

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As tourists increasingly moved across the United States in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a surprising number of communities looked to capitalize on the histories of Native American people to create tourist attractions. From the Happy Canyon Indian Pageant and Wild West Show in Pendleton, Oregon, to outdoor dramas like Tecumseh! in Chillicothe, Ohio, and Unto These Hills in Cherokee, North Carolina, locals staged performances that claimed to honor an Indigenous past while depicting that past on white settlers' terms. Linking the origins of these performances to their present-day incarnations, this incisive book reveals how they constituted what Katrina Phillips calls "salvage tourism"—a set of practices paralleling so-called salvage ethnography, which documented the histories, languages, and cultures of Indigenous people while reinforcing a belief that Native American societies were inevitably disappearing.

Across time, Phillips argues, tourism, nostalgia, and authenticity converge in the creation of salvage tourism, which blends tourism and history, contestations over citizenship, identity, belonging, and the continued use of Indians and Indianness as a means of escape, entertainment, and economic development.

About the Author

Katrina Phillips (Red Cliff Ojibwe) is assistant professor of American Indian history at Macalester College.
For more information about Katrina Phillips, visit the Author Page.


“This is an important study about “playing Indian” and the complexities of American Indian identity.” – CHOICE

“Thoroughly researched and well-written . . . Phillips rejects simple narratives and, instead . . . brings a nuanced understanding of these varied motivations as well as the shifting meanings that the pageants hold for American Indians over time.” --The North Carolina Historical Review

"Phillips has a keen eye for observation and possesses a deep knowledge of these contemporary performances. Her writing is beautiful, her analysis of the productions is stunning, and her central theoretical apparatus of 'salvage tourism' is enticing."—Boyd Cothran, York University

"Phillips's model of salvage tourism will prove influential and highly adaptable, and I expect to find echoes of her core concept in my own environment for some time to come."—Andrew Denson, Western Carolina University