The Edward Curtis Project
- Human Geography (Native Studies; Visual Arts; History; Geography; Social Sciences and Humanities)
Have students design a map of North America, identifying and depicting the different nations pictured throughout Curtis’ career. Choose two differing groups and do a visual comparison of their cultures and icons based on their geographic location.
- First Nation Profiles (Native Studies; History; Social Sciences & Humanities)
Edward Curtis photographed many important and well-known Indians, including Geronimo, Chief Joseph, Red Cloud, Medicine Crow and others. Choose a prominent historic figure photographed by Curtis and research his/her life, origins, culture and contributions to his/her people as well as his/her relationship or response to the incoming Europeans.
- Face to Face (Native Studies; English: Media Arts; Dramatic Arts)
Have students examine Edward Curtis’ collections by visiting http://curtis.library.northwestern.edu/ and choosing one face for whom they would like to tell an imaginary story. Students may write either from their chosen image’s imagined perspective, or from their own perspective imagining an encounter or relationship with this person. Make sure that any cultural references made are accurate.
- Storytelling Traditions (Native Studies; English; Dramatic Arts)
Have students watch the interview with The Edward Curtis Project playwright Marie Clements at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c6qe5xDVP6Y. Identify and explain her statements about the “power of story”. Write an essay, poem, rap or tale based on storytelling traditions about how the story of Angeline in The Edward Curtis Project applies to the playwright’s comments.
- Media Impact (Native Studies; English; Dramatic Arts; Media Arts; History; Social Sciences and Humanities)
In a 2010 interview with photojournalist Rita Leistner (http://www.magazine.utoronto.ca/feature/photojournalist-rita-leistner-photos-of-native-communities/), she states that her goal was “to show the richness and variety of Aboriginal life on this continent”. She also comments about how very few photographic representations of Aboriginal life exist and “what there is tends to focus on misery and poverty in those communities”. Have students discuss, then form groups to create a visual storyboard demonstrating how Edward Curtis’ romanticized depictions denied what was truly occurring at the time (early 1900s), compared to how current media’s depiction of Aboriginal Peoples can distort “what’s really going on in Native communities”.
- Dramatic Relationship: (Native Studies; Dramatic Arts; English; Social Sciences and Humanities)
Have students examine one of these relationships in the play: Edward Curtis and his wife Clara; Yiska and Angeline; Angeline and her sister Dr.Clara; Edward Curtis and Angeline; Upshaw and Curtis; or Upshaw and Yiska. List the characteristics of their relationship dynamics. Write and perform a scene that exists outside the play’s text, but enhances the meaning and demonstrates understanding of the themes explored in The Edward Curtis Project.
- Traditional Teachings (Native Studies; Visual Arts; English; Social Sciences and Humanities)
Have students design the personal Medicine Wheels of each character using the four components of the self. (Visit http://www.edu.gov.mb.ca/k12/abedu/foundation_gr12/introduction.pdf for an explanation of the Wheel.) Draft a list of each character’s emotional, physical, spiritual, and intellectual journeys to visually depict. Create a deeper profile of each character by contemplating each of these four directions in relation to the issues raised in the script. Create a visual collage of these coloured “Character Wheels” and present to the class.
- Quotations as Creative Stimulus (Native Studies; English; Dramatic Arts; Social Sciences and Humanities)
Have students reflect upon and write a journal response to explain how they relate to one of the following quotations:
- Angeline to Curtis: “Believe me, nobody retires from who they are”.
- Angeline to Audience: “All I wanted to do was get out... Get out of all the lies that have framed me.”
- Dr. Clara to Angeline: “…if you’re in someone else’s room you play by their house rules.”
- Clara Curtis to Angeline: “You, in the end will be nothing but the memory of an Indian.”
- Yiska to Angeline: “…I wish to be free of all things I am not and will never be…”
- Angeline to Dr. Clara: “…not the same colour of skin so not the same reality”.
- Upshaw to Curtis: “Sometimes a translator has to speak even when two men are speaking the same language.”
- Yiska to Curtis: “Nobody who looks like you passes through without taking everything he can.”
- Hunger Chief to Curtis: “The only way a white man can become an Indian is to starve.”
Use the quote as the beginning line of dialogue in an original scene which is workshopped with other students who reflected upon the same quote. Develop the scene by improvising and creating spontaneous dialogue. Decide how the scene should be shaped and rehearse it for performance purposes. Alternately, have two or more working quotes interconnect at some point throughout the scene.
- Rivalry and Dramatic Tension (Native Studies; English; Civics; Media Arts; Dramatic Arts; Social Sciences and Humanities)
Angeline mocks her sister for donating money to Africa and Dr. Clara points out that Angeline is an Aboriginal foreign correspondent in her own country. Have students discuss or debate these two topics from the perspective of Nation to Nation relations, and cultural differences.
- Should Canada first and foremost address struggles from within its own citizenship before assisting others? What is the political perspective? What is the cultural perspective?
- Does the media depict Aboriginal Peoples fairly? What are Aboriginal stereotypes? How can stereotypes victimize a person?
- How may bi-racial identity affect sibling relationships?
Have students write a persuasive essay or develop a dramatic scene about what they explored in group discussion.
- Aboriginal Identity (Native Studies; History; English; Dramatic Arts; Social Sciences and Humanities)
Have students do an in-depth study of the history of European/Aboriginal relations from the arrival of the French in the 1600s right through to the birth of the Métis Nation in 1980s Manitoba. How does this history shape the definition of what or who is Métis? Have students interview a person of(any) mixed heritage to discover whether they share any similar emotions or experiences as those of Angeline or her sister in The Edward Curtis Project.