Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition - Images of the Fair
Native Peoples at the AYPE
Native Peoples in living displays is one of the difficult subjects of early American expositions. Obvious indignities aside, in some situations they were treated cruelly, inhumanely, outrageously, shamefully. That being said, they were nevertheless a very visible part of the AYPE, and a fascination to visitors. They were an important part of the certification of the fair itself - other fairs had them. Any controversy over them tended towards protection of the visitors; their display was not only otherwise generally acceptable but helped to establish the educational credentials of the Pay Streak. As with many aspects of the fair, what would seem a glaring inconsistency today did not pose a conflict. And at the AYPE, there does not seem to have been the overt abuse that attended some, earlier and later fairs. Depending on the group's background - some groups were professional performers showing a limited, choreographed view of a national culture, some families had been participating in this country for a generation, some were newly arrived - reaction between the fairgoers and the Native Peoples seems to have been as much one of mutual curiosity and tolerance as anything else. Images exist of well-dressed, middle-aged, matron-visitors chatting casually face to face with Igorrote warriors. That the fairgoers viewed the Native Peoples with paternalism there can be no doubt. In viewing the active displays of craft production, domestic life, dance, clothing and war making did the fairgoers learn anything? Let us hope so. Did this encourage eugenics, imperialism, separate-but-equal legislation, immigration quotas? We might wish to hope not. Just how well each group was treated or profited from the experience is difficult to determine. Much research has, and continues to be done, on this complex topic.
These sensitive portraits of Igorotes, (note that spellings vary widely) were photographed by Asahel Curtis sometime before the AYPE but were published as part of the Romans studio AYPE offerings. They show a respectful relationship to these Philippine Natives. However, it is worth noting that Romans also published a sensationalist AYPE view of the Igorotes roasting dogs on open spits.
Additional Iggorote views
Nancy Columbia, best known as "Miss Columbia", is the sixteen year old seated on the floor of the left image.(unattributed). She was born at the Columbian exposition and educated in American schools, but is pictured here in a native setting. She had a warm personality and the public took her to its heart; she was voted the most popular performer on the Pay Streak.
In the right-hand image (O.T. Frasch), Nancy Columbia is situated in a place of honor, dressed as a normal fairgoer (she is wearing a small crown as the "Pay Streak Queen") and is not in the company of any other Labradorians.