Johns Hopkins University Press

This essay closely examines the extant visual archive surrounding nineteenth-century Mohawk poet-performer E. Pauline Johnson to argue that her gestural and sartorial aesthetics situate her within a transnational genealogy of American Delsartism, a turn-of-the-century literary, cultural, and kinesthetic movement closely tied to a bodily discourse of white bourgeois femininity. Drawing links across a diverse array of visual and textual archival documents, the essay deploys a methodology of performance reconstruction that newly calls attention to the importance of Johnson’s rhetoric of gesture amid her prevailing reception and interpretation as a poet in voice and paper only. By situating her costumed elocutionary poetry performances (1892–1909) within an expressive tradition of women’s Delsartean recitation and posing in North America (1880–1920), the essay historicizes the close links between literary and performance cultures during the nineteenth century, as well as intervenes in a primitivist critical tendency to interpret Indigenous performance gestures as natural and therefore outside the domains of the rhetorical, the theatrical, and the aesthetic. As a result, the essay establishes new links among cultural histories of American theatre and dance, transnational modernisms, and Indigenous popular performance in North America.

In 1897, an unnamed Winnipeg Free Press reviewer offered this description of E. Pauline Johnson’s two-part, costumed recital act:

In the first part of the programme she appeared in picturesque Indian costume, and in every gesture, in the glances of her eye, in the varying expressions of her face, and in the working of the different emotions and passions she was a pure Indian. . . . When Miss Johnson, in the second part of the programme, appeared in a rich and beautiful dress made in fashionable, civilized style, the impression upon the audience was entirely changed. People then thought she must surely be at least almost white, in her features and complexion they could see nothing of the Indian.1

Performing what was by then her standard two-part act in front of a packed theatre of white, Anglo, western Canadian audience members, Mohawk poet-performer Pauline Johnson seemed to accomplish the impossible: one moment she was “pure Indian,” and the next, there was “nothing of the Indian” in her. Curiously, the Free Press reviewer attributes this spectacular racial transformation neither to the “picturesque Indian costume” in which she begins her recital program nor to the “rich and beautiful dress made in fashionable, civilized style” she wore later. Rather, the reviewer locates “Indianness” in Johnson’s “every gesture, in the glances of her eye, in the varying expressions of her face,” and then fails to see it a moment later, in the same “features and complexion” that had once been so arresting to the critic’s gaze. According to the Free Press reporter, Johnson’s racial transformation was evident not only in her costuming, but on the surface of her performing body. [End Page 1]

I begin this essay with an anecdote about the fanciful kinds of racial sight that Johnson’s act engendered because it helps to illustrate the central role that looks and looking played in her overall reception, particularly after the introduction of theatrical costuming into her act in late 1892. That looking at Johnson constituted a significant site of both pleasure and fantasy for her predominantly white nineteenth-century viewing audience is evident in the scores of performance reviews, like the one cited above, that repeatedly refer to Johnson’s “dark skin,” her “glossy black hair,” her “lithe, graceful figure,” and her “picturesque” costuming to account for the fascinating hold that Johnson seemed to have over her audience.2 Yet both racial sight and its attendant operations of looking remain surprisingly under-studied, under-theorized topics within scholarship on her. In positioning practices of looking, rather than Johnson herself, at the center of my inquiry, I distance myself from a biographical project of looking for Johnson, and ask instead what a critical project of looking at Johnson (and looking at Johnson being-looked-at) might yield.

E. Pauline Johnson (1861–1913) was a celebrated writer, performer, and public figure who amassed considerable fame for her costumed recitations of original poetry from 1892 until her retirement from the stage in 1909.3 Born in 1861 to a Haudenosaunee (Mohawk) chief and a British mother on the Six Nations of the Grand River First Nations Indian Reserve outside of Brantford, Ontario, Johnson wrote poems and prose on both “Indian” and “non-Indian” themes that she began performing for live audiences beginning in 1892. Shortly thereafter, she adopted costuming into her act, devising a two-part structure to her recital repertoire that prominently featured her appearance in two costumes: a buckskin leather dress of her own design, and a Victorian evening gown of a rotating selection.4 Alone, or with touring partners Owen Smily and later Walter McRaye, she toured extensively across Canada, the United States, and England, appearing on mixed program bills of “music and entertainments” that took her to such disparate venues as parlors, church basements, concert halls, Chautauqua stages, and frontier mining camps. Throughout these recital tours, Johnson continued writing and publishing poems, articles, and narrative prose—something that she had done prior to her official stage debut in 1892 and that she continued to do until her death in 1913. During her lifetime, she published three books of poetry, one book of collected stories, and dozens of poems, articles, and short stories appearing in newspapers and popular magazines from 1884 to 1913. Until recently, it has been this written record of Johnson’s work that has received the most amount of critical attention, and which has served to canonize Johnson as a literary figure within the nationalist, culture-building project of Canadian literature, or “Can-lit.”5 [End Page 2]

However, Johnson also left behind a vast archive of visual and material artifacts that remain to be examined in-depth. The most notable of these is Johnson’s infamous “picturesque Indian costume,” which she willed to the Vancouver City Museum upon her death in 1913. Also of significance are the dozens of photographic portraits of her in theatrical costume that exist, many of them publicity shots taken at the Charles Schriber Cochran Studio between 1893 and 1896. As I will demonstrate, these portraits, taken in the typical style of nineteenth-century cabinet-card photographs of actresses, show Johnson posed in-character in scenes taken directly from the dramatic monologues that made up her performance repertoire. While these images have frequently been circulated and analyzed as individual publicity images, when seen in ensemble, the Cochran photographs provide valuable performance documentation of the heretofore unknown kinesthetic and expressive dimensions of Johnson’s recitations. Together, I contend, both costume and portraits situate Johnson within a transnational genealogy of American Delsartism, a turn-of-the-century intellectual, cultural, and kinesthetic movement that combined solo literary recitation with stylized posing and expressive gesture.

This essay brings together recent work across performance, race, and visual culture to argue that Pauline Johnson’s visual archive yields crucial insight into the ways that Delsartism’s visual ideology of “the legible body” both contributed to and strategically negotiated a settler colonial biopolitical project that transformed North American Indigenous peoples into racial subjects (“Indians”) at the turn of the twentieth century.6 By Delsartism’s “legible body,” I extrapolate from dance historian Carrie Preston’s succinct explication of Delsartist posing as a “semiology of gesture, a way of using posed bodies to make meaning.”7 Pushing Preston’s emphasis on the semiotic principles of Delsartism—that is, Delsartism as a highly organized system of signs comprised of stylized poses, gestures, and expressions—to its next logical conclusion, I suggest that we understand Delsartism not only as a modernist kinesthetic practice of posing bodies, but as a modernist perceptual practice of reading bodies in terms of race and gender.

While recent scholarship on Delsartist performance genealogies has focused on the ways in which gender and genre have obscured the former from an archive of twentieth-century aesthetic modernism,8 less attention has been paid to the ways in which American Delsartism’s rhetoric of bodily legibility may have been strategically appropriated by racialized and gendered subjects whose own bodily legibility as modern [End Page 3] remained contested, struggled over, and newly forged. In what follows, I propose that recuperating Johnson’s costumed elocutionary poetry performances (1892–1909) within an expressive tradition of women’s Delsartean recitation and posing (1880–1920) offers new strategies for reading Johnson’s cultural labor as well as new racial and spatial historiographies of American Delsartism, which is often represented as the sole domain of white, bourgeois, middle-class US women. As a result, this work, at times speculative, seeks to establish new links among cultural histories of American theatre and dance, transnational modernisms, and Indigenous popular performance in North America. I mobilize a methodology of performance reconstruction that is at once rigorously historical and deeply suspicious of the positivist truth-claims of the visual archive in relation to racialized and gendered subjects. In the absence of incontrovertible archival evidence attesting to Johnson’s Delsartian aesthetics (such as a documented claim from Johnson herself), speculation in the form of performance reconstruction here emerges as a theoretical intervention into the way that historical archives render Indigenous and feminized performers as incapable of mediating their own representational appearance.

American Delsartism, Delsartian Spectatorship, and the Real Indian

American Delsartism was a popular movement begun in the latter part of the nineteenth century and derived from a system of dramatic expression invented by French acting theorist François Delsarte (1811–71). The Delsartean “semiology of gesture,” as Preston puts it, established a technical vocabulary of expressive gestures, movements, and stilled postures for the actor that was later developed and incorporated into upper-class American women’s physical culture regimes that focused on “self-cultivation” at the turn of the twentieth-century.9 Part rationalist science of human expression and part Christian philosophy celebrating the holy correspondence among body, soul, and mind, Delsartism was, at its core, a kinesthetic technique that sought to realize through expression an essential interior self. Under the leadership of Delsarte’s American school of proponents (most famously Steele MacKaye, Henrietta Hovey, and Genevieve Stebbins), Delsartist drills (including poetry recitation, Greek statue posing, and harmonic gymnastics) moved out of the specialized field of actor training and came to be understood as part of a larger cultural-moral-civic practice of self-development, especially for white middle-class women.

Writing from a variety of disciplinary perspectives, Preston, Nancy Lee Chalfa Ruyter, Julia Walker, Taylor Susan Lake, and Marian Wilson Kimber have each documented the significance of amateur women’s participation in Delsartist physical and expressive cultures at the turn of the twentieth century as a form of emancipatory self-expression.10 In an argument most germane to the foregoing discussion of Johnson, Lake contends that “American Delsartism was part of a bodily discourse of respectable womanliness, a collection of practices and images that enabled white middle-class women’s [End Page 4] performance of a respectable womanly self.”11 Situating her study within the women’s reform movements of the Progressive era, Lake persuasively documents the ways in which Delsartist physical culture regimes provided its overwhelmingly female base of practitioners with a public and semi-public bodily repertoire that could be rationalized as respectable partly because of its Christian spiritualist emphasis on the unity between body and mind—to develop the expressive capacities of one was, in fact, not contradictory but complementary to the development of the other.

While dance scholars have long noted the influence that MacKaye–and Stebbins– derived adaptations of Delsartist expressive posing had on the gestural vocabularies of canonical American modern dance figures like Isadora Duncan, Ruth St. Dennis, and Ted Shawn, more recent scholarship by Walker, Preston, and Wilson Kimber has restored American Delsartism within a history of speech, oratory, and elocution, what Preston calls “cultures of recitation” in her excavation of the impact of schools of oral interpretation on the modernist poetics of Charlotte Mew, T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, Amy Lowell.12 It is this elocutionary history of Delsartism that strikes me as the most pertinent in relation to Johnson, both because of its elucidation of a formal structure for Johnson’s dramatic poetry recitations, and because of the politicization of speech and education reform within the context of federal Indian policy in both Canada and the United States at the time. As Dwight Conquergood has noted, the primary aim of elocution—to speak well—was also, implicitly, to speak white and to speak rich; following enforced Native assimilationist policies, such as the Indian Act (1876) in Canada and the Dawes Act (1887) in the United States, as well as the increasing popular visibility and support for Native industrial/residential schools like the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania (1879) and the Qu’Appelle Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan (1884), by 1890, the very fact of Native speech was bound up with issues and debates around “Indian extermination and noneducation theory”—issues that Johnson’s poetry explicitly addressed and sought to “upset.”13

Moreover, as cultural historian Kiara Vigil has recently documented, the period between 1880 and 1930 produced a small but vibrant network of “Indigenous intellectuals” who strategically used the arts of speech and rhetoric (including the rhetoric of dress) to advocate for Indian citizenship rights and reforms amid aggressive anti-tribe and assimilation policies at the turn of the century.14 Figures like Charles Eastman, Carlos Montezuma, Gertrude Simmons Bonnin/Zitkala-Sa, and Luther Standing Bear— contemporaries of Johnson and of similar class and education—actively mobilized elocution’s “high-end . . . respectable interest in vocal quality, dignified presence, and improvement for the rising classes” to address white audiences while representing the concerns and perspectives of “the red race” for whom they spoke.15 [End Page 5]

Although preeminent Johnson biographers Veronica Strong-Boag and Carole Gerson have influentially questioned Johnson’s classification as an elocutionist, suggesting that the “quiet, serious, genteel, academic” genre of entertainment did not fully encompass some of the more ribald, physical aspects of Johnson’s performance style,16 such a broad characterization of elocutionary practice fails to acknowledge the breadth and diversity of late-nineteenth-century cultures of recitation and expression, including that of a vibrant, transnational women’s culture of amateur Delsartism, located around the Northeastern intellectual and artistic corridors of Boston, New York, Washington, D.C., Toronto, and Montreal.17 Formalized and popularized not only in schools of elocution and expression but in widely circulated popular manuals such as Genevieve Stebbins’s Delsarte System of Expression (1885), Anna Morgan’s An Hour with Delsarte: A Study of Expression (1889), and on the pages of the elocutionists’ trade magazine Werner’s Magazine (1879–1902), the MacKaye– and Stebbins–influenced Delsartist System of Expression shifted focus from the development of vocal to gestural expression in ways that were divisive and controversial even within elocutionary communities.18

In one of the few studies to link the histories of American Delsartism to Native American popular performance, dance historian Jacqueline Shea Murphy’s The People Have Never Stopped Dancing dedicates a chapter to outlining the way in which the popularity of the Delsarte–MacKaye System of Expression during the 1890s contributed to the “theatricalizing” of Native American dance reception, which in turn authorized non-Native viewers “as experts in judging Indian authenticity.”19 Situating her study within the context of the Dawes Act, the land-allotment decree that inspired “a heightened fervor among federal employees for policing what a real Indian was,”20 and within the actual event of preeminent Delsartist interpreter MacKaye’s 1886 collaboration with Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show in Madison Square Garden, Shea Murphy argues that MacKaye’s training of Native Buffalo Bill performers in Delsarte’s expressive vocabulary of an “interior-real” simultaneously contained the potential threat of Native bodies dancing within “real” ritual and religious contexts and enabled Native performers’ ongoing performative agency through collective dance.

Importantly, her chapter positions Delsartism in terms of spectatorship. By proposing that popular Delsartist conventions of reception helped frame MacKaye’s Delsartian-inspired stagings of Indian walking, talking, and dancing as “real” and “natural,” Shea Murphy suggests that Delsartism’s ideology of an outwardly expressive, legible body effectively produced a recognizable kinesthetic idiom for “Indianness”—a discursive trans-historical, racial construct linking diverse nations, tribes, cultures, and traditions of Indigenous peoples together. Thus her chapter is especially helpful in its elucidation of Delsartism not only as a kinesthetic technique, but as a visual repertoire of viewing and interpreting embodied performances of racialized Indianness as real. [End Page 6]

What Shea Murphy’s situated analysis does not account for, however, are the ways in which the protocols of Delsartian spectatorship may have addressed a “real” body that was still in the making—that is, a body simultaneously racialized “Indian,” gendered “feminine,” and temporalized gesturally as expressively “modern.” Throughout her chapter, she firmly distinguishes between the ways that Delsartism’s rhetoric of a legible body worked for the predominantly male Native Buffalo Bill performers and the white female progenitors of American modern dance. However, in the case of Pauline Johnson, such tidy separations across gender and race, performer and auteur fall apart. As a headlining solo female recitalist and literary figure who performed on mixed-concert bills of music and “entertainment” at the height of the Delsartist craze in the 1890s, Johnson and her act were clearly shaped by the new expressive agencies associated with bourgeois women’s elocutionary cultures, including Delsartism’s bodily rhetoric of respectable womanliness. Performing the standard “pathetic, humourous, dramatic, and patriotic” poetic repertoire of the nineteenth-century female elocutionist in places like church basements, community halls, and Chautauqua platforms, Johnson’s professional identity as a New Woman recitalist would have been legible to her contemporaneous audiences in ways that Johnson scholars to date have not yet fully articulated.21 At the same time, as a Native recitalist performing for white audiences, Johnson’s onstage representations of literary dramatic personae were still subject to the same surveillance regimes of “real” Native speech, literacy, and bodily comportment by which the Buffalo Bill performers were constrained under the preconceived terms of colonial and anthropological discourses of Native primitivism.

In what follows, I expand upon Shea Murphy’s positioning of Delsartism as a mode of theatrical spectatorship to propose that Johnson mobilized Delsartism’s ideology of a “legible body” to produce her own contrasting and contestatory meanings of real (gendered) Indianness. In contrast to the predominant anthropological image of the silent, stoic, and photographically stilled figure of the vanishing Indian (often figured as masculine), Delsartism’s feminized idiom of dynamic, expressive posing may have provided Johnson with the means to make Indian (and specifically Haudenosaunee) culture, civility, respectability, and even modernity legible to her white viewing audience.

Becoming a Picture: Longfellow, Catlin, and the Tableau Vivant Tradition

A substantial body of scholarship on Johnson has already established her as a poet and literary celebrity. My purpose here is not to debunk that scholarship, but rather to point to its incompleteness in light of the fact that 1) literary, visual, and performance cultures importantly overlapped during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; and 2) Johnson’s recognition as a poet was, from its inception, predicated upon public readings of her poetry that, among other things, complemented her literary voice [End Page 7] with a specifically enfleshed one. In January 1892, two full years before Johnson’s first collection of poetry, The White Wampum, was published, she gave a dramatic recitation of her poem “A Cry from an Indian Wife” to great acclaim to a crowd of 400 at Association Hall in Toronto. The appearance was so successful, it launched what would be the first season of Johnson’s concert recitation tours.

Importantly, this first season would also introduce the explicitly theatrical and visual device of costuming to Johnson’s public readings. In the fall of that year, she wrote to her friend, fellow-writer, and patron W. D. Lighthall, requesting aid to put together “an Indian dress to recite in”:

This season I am going to make a feature of costuming for recitals—always an interesting topic with ladies, but I am beset with difficulties on all hands. For my Indian poems I am trying to get an Indian dress to recite in, and it is the most difficult thing in the world. Now I know you know what is feminine, so can you tell me if the “Indian stores” in Montreal are real Indian stores, or is there [sic] stuff manufactured? I want a pair of moccasins, worked either in colored moose hair, porcupine quills, or very heavily with fine colored beads, have you ever seen any such there? I have written to Chief [Jack’s?] about getting some bead work done on my dress, and to several N.W. Reserves, for bears teeth necklaces, etc., but if you see anything in Montreal that would assist me in getting up a costume, be it beads, quills, sashes, shoes, brooches or indeed anything at all, I will be more than obliged to know of it. My season begins Oct 20th, so I must have my costume by that date, but I want one that is made up of feminine work.22

There are several myths of origin when it comes to the creation of this Indian Maiden costume: according to Johnson’s sister, Evelyn, most of the “costume and silver brooches were copied from a picture which we had of Minnehaha.”23 Minnehaha was the creation of US poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who invented her as the wife of Hiawatha in his 1855 epic narrative poem The Song of Hiawatha. In Johnson’s own handwritten bequest, she tells a similar story, describing the costume she would eventually will to the Vancouver City Museum in these terms: “Indian tanned Buckskin bodice and skirt made by herself on lines of Catlin’s Minnehaha costume” (fig. 1).24 Here, she states plainly enough that her costume was “made by herself,” but her reference to Catlin’s Minnehaha illustration is puzzling. George Catlin (1796–1872) was a US painter and entrepreneur who, during 1839–46, famously toured an “Indian Gallery” of ethnological portraits of Native Americans across Europe (London, Paris, and Belgium). The exhibit featured more than 500 painted portraits of Native North Americans in addition to a cast of “living Indians” that Catlin posed beside his paintings to confirm and augment the quality of mimetic likeness that his portraits supposedly accomplished.25 To my knowledge, there is no evidence that the notorious Native exhibitor and portraitist ever depicted Longfellow’s heroine, yet the mere mention of both Minnehaha’s and Catlin’s names alert us to an important fact: that by design, Johnson’s Indian Maiden [End Page 8]

Figure 1. E. Pauline Johnson’s bequest (or codicil to will), 1913. (Source: City of Vancouver Archives, Museum of Vancouver fonds, E. Pauline Johnson collection, ref. AM1102-S3.)
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Figure 1.

E. Pauline Johnson’s bequest (or codicil to will), 1913. (Source: City of Vancouver Archives, Museum of Vancouver fonds, E. Pauline Johnson collection, ref. AM1102-S3.)

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costume explicitly entangled with the white imagination’s graphic renderings of Indian corporeality captured in a stilled pose.26

Upon closer consideration, her curious linking of Longfellow’s character and Catlin suggests something else also: the extent to which Johnson’s costume design must be understood in relation to the overlapping literary, visual, and paratheatrical cultures of the nineteenth century. Parlor tableaux and stage tableaux were widely incorporated into nineteenth-century bourgeois households as forms of popular entertainment. Tableaux vivants—living pictures—recreated well-known scenes from mythology, allegory, history, and literature through the use of posed bodies.27 Simultaneously a popular pastime (like charades) and a genre of amateur theatrical practice, tableaux vivants posing relied heavily upon codes of familiarity and shared cultural references between audience and performer, such as the recognition of well-known scenes from the popular literature of the day.

In fact, Longfellow’s Song of Hiawatha was one of the most popular performed texts of the long nineteenth century, spanning tableaux vivants parlor performances, platform elocution circuits, and the Delsartist recitation stage.28 In James Head’s much-circulated how-to manual on tableaux vivants, Home Pastime, Or Tableaux Vivants (1864), the author recommends two scenes for tableaux vivants recreation drawn from Longfellow’s poem. The first scene, “Hiawatha and His Bride’s Arrival Home—for One Male and Two Female Figures,” contains striking descriptions of both Hiawatha’s and Minnehaha’s costuming that bear considerable resemblance to Johnson’s self-designed, two-piece buckskin costume, from the crimson and ermine touches to the styling of her hair. Hiawatha’s costume is described as a two-piece affair, consisting of a light brown cambric frock coat and a skirt “ornamented with two rows of fringe three inches wide.” Fringe is also to be “placed on the seams and bottom of the sleeves and around the collar,” and “round pieces of brass should be fastened on various parts of the coat and around the belt.” Minnehaha’s dress is described as a snug one-piece affair made out of red-and-flesh-colored cloth, including “[a] scarf of ermine [that] is worn over the shoulders, and tied at the left side.” The skirt of the dress has an overskirt that is “scalloped at the bottom, and ornamented with yellow fringe and beads outside of [End Page 10] the ermine.” Whereas Hiawatha’s accessories consist of things like a small knife and a tomahawk, Minnehaha wears a large necklace of white beads and a gold headband ornamented with beads and showy plumes; meanwhile, “the hair should be left flowing over the shoulders.” Fringed leggings and beaded velvet shoes completed the look.29

Although it remains difficult to tie definitively Johnson’s Indian maiden costume to a single specific pictorial representation (whether in Head’s Home Pastimes or otherwise),30 the similarities between the manual’s costume description and her buckskin attire, in combination with Johnson’s mention of Catlin and Longfellow in her will, goes quite far in provisionally explaining why her costumed performances were repeatedly referred to as “picturesque” in reviews. In addition to the “picturesque Indian costume” mentioned in the 1897 Winnipeg Free Press review with which this essay opens, well-known writer and editor Hector Charlesworth similarly spoke admiringly of her “strikingly picturesque Indian dress” and the “highly poetical illusion” it enabled.31 An 1896 review of the Johnson–Smiley double-bill in Grand Rapids, Michigan, cites Johnson’s “most picturesque personality” alongside of her “lithe, graceful figure, her glossy black hair, and her face, which is of the highest type of the American Indian.”32 A second review from the same performance similarly fixates on Johnson’s appearance in buckskin, noting that “she presented a picture seldom seen outside the imagination conjured in descriptive accounts of Indian princesses.”33

The picturesque (from the Italian, pittoresco, “as if in a picture”) is an aesthetic category that falls in-between—most notably, in-between Edmund Burke’s nineteenth-century theories of the beautiful and the sublime. As Vigil notes in her chapter on Santee Dakota lecturer and physician Charles Eastman, when applied to the figure of the romantic Indian, the discourse of the picturesque served the particular social function of locating Indianness in-between nature’s sublimity and civilization’s mannered beauty.34 That Johnson in buckskin was described by so many critics as picturesque not only suggests the proliferation of visual images of North American Indigenous peoples at the turn of twentieth century, but also her awareness of and mutual consumption of [End Page 11] such images.35 Indeed, Johnson’s will implies a correspondence between the picturesque effect of her buckskin costume and her self-professed source for its inspiration: if Johnson in-costume looked like a picture, it is because she fashioned herself after one—or more precisely, after a composite image, as the dual reference to Catlin and Longfellow indicates.

Johnson did not merely appear to her audiences as if in a picture, but more importantly, as a picture come to life. Indeed, reviews repeatedly reference the “rhythmic” and “graceful” qualities of Johnson’s speech and motions that mark her as dynamically animated and alive. Within turn-of-the-century Delsartism’s lexicon of mythic references, to be a picture come to life was to embody the Galatean ideal, with Galatea referring to the name of the statue that the sculptor Pygmalion constructs in Ovid’s myth. Later adapted by Jean-Jacques Rousseau into an operatic monodrama in 1762, Galatea would also become one of the favorite mythic heroines of American Delsartists, for whom statue-posing and decomposition exercises were emancipatory gestures of feminine self-construction, following the teachings of Delsarte interpreter Genevieve Stebbins.36

It does not require a great stretch of the imagination to understand how Catlin and Longfellow could be positioned as Pygmalion figures relative to Johnson’s Galatea/Minnehaha, nor to understand the significance of Johnson in her authorial role usurping Catlin and Longfellow by adopting both Pygmalion (artist) and Galatea (artistic ideal) roles, especially within the context of the day’s visual culture, in which “pictures” of Native Americans by figures like Catlin, Longfellow, Edward Curtis, Adam Vroman, and Karl Moon continued to standardize the Indian appearance for white mainstream audiences along the lines of primitivism, noble savagery, and vanishing race theories. However, it is important to note that within a late-nineteenth-century Delsartian spectatorial frame, Johnson’s Catlin/Longfellow-derived buckskin costume would not have been grasped in terms of parodic citation, but rather mythic self-actualization.37 According to the proto-feminist tenets of Delsartist posing, the work of literary or art historical posing was sincere work that demonstrated the disciplined self-cultivation of mental, emotional, and physical expressive faculties.

Portrait Photography and Delsartism’s Legible Body

Between 1893 and 1902, Johnson posed for a series of promotional photographs at the Charles Schriber Cochran Studio in Hamilton, Ontario, which specialized in commercial and family portraiture from 1886 until its demise by fire in 1934.38 Johnson’s portraits were likely taken either by Cochran or his assistant, Alexander McKenzie Cunningham. Today, a number of the Studio’s portraits of Johnson can be found in the archival holdings at the Brantford Historical Society’s Woodlands Interpretation [End Page 12] Center.39 Taken in the conventional style of nineteenth-century cabinet-card portraits of popular actresses, Cochran’s images are striking for the way in which they invite a kinesthetic reading of Johnson’s postures (fig. 2). This is especially evident in a poster-sized reproduction of five of Cochran’s portraits prominently on display inside the Chiefswood Museum in Ohsweken, Six Nations of the Grand River Territory. Centrally positioned on a wall full of other publicity ephemera is a five-panel poster featuring a digital assemblage of studio portrait shots of Johnson in her buckskin costume. She assumes a different pose across all five images. In the first, Johnson is shown from the torso up. Her right arm is raised and bent, her hand resting near her head; the other is clasped loosely to her chest. She is at a slight angle to the camera and her gaze follows the open lines of her body. The next three images are standing full-length portraits: Johnson appears shielding her eyes with one hand and looking off into the distance; in the next, she crosses both arms, chin tilted slightly down; the last shows her looking up at her raised right arm, which is slightly bent at the elbow. Across all three standing portraits, Johnson’s foot positioning changes only slightly, the concentration of gestural labor located instead in the placement of her arms and hands. The last photo is the least integrated of the grouping, showing her with both hands clasped behind her head; her bear claw necklace suggests a slightly later studio sitting than the previous four (fig. 3).

The five different poses are remarkable both for their variety and specificity of choreographic composition. Suggesting specific, dramatic gestures (that is, scanning, waiting, and declaiming) as well as distinct emotional states (wonder/curiosity, defiance, excitement), Johnson’s photographed postures come across as highly stylized. While one could attribute her bodily arrangements to the directives of the studio photographer, the repetition of some of these poses across Johnson’s publicity materials over the course of her career evidences the likelihood that these poses were drawn, at least in part, from her choreographed recital repertoire. Gestures like scanning and listening recall in pantomime the dramatic action described in The Pilot of the Plains (1891):

As she scanned the rolling prairieWhere the foothills fall and riseTill the autumn came and vanished, till the season of the rainsTill the western world lay fettered in midwinter’s crystal chainsStill she listened for his comingStill she watched the distant plains.40

At least one other Cochran image implies the link between Johnson’s photographic performances and stage performances directly. On the back of a photo of her dressed in a light-colored skirt, blouse, and hat ensemble is a hand-written inscription that reads, “In ‘The Song My Paddle Sings’”—the title of Johnson’s well-known 1892 poem that was written especially for dramatic recitation.41 With its bowed cravat, tucked blouse, and tam, Johnson’s outfit resembles a more formal version of the canoeing outfit in which she was occasionally photographed, both in formal portraits and in candid shots. She poses with both arms raised and placed lightly on her hat; her front foot steps out from beneath her skirt, revealing a heeled slipper. Johnson smiles and looks directly at the [End Page 13]

Figure 2. E. Pauline Johnson, Charles S. Cochran Studio, ca.1896. (Source: Vancouver Public Library, Cochran of Ontario collection, ref. 9429.)
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Figure 2.

E. Pauline Johnson, Charles S. Cochran Studio, ca.1896. (Source: Vancouver Public Library, Cochran of Ontario collection, ref. 9429.)

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Figure 3. Composite poster display of Cochran studio portraits of Johnson, ca.1893–96. (Source: “Takahionwake: The Career and Celebrity of E. Pauline Johnson” exhibit at Chiefswood Museum, Six Nations of the Grand River Territory.) (Photo: Author.)
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Figure 3.

Composite poster display of Cochran studio portraits of Johnson, ca.1893–96. (Source: “Takahionwake: The Career and Celebrity of E. Pauline Johnson” exhibit at Chiefswood Museum, Six Nations of the Grand River Territory.) (Photo: Author.)

camera, although her face and body are angled to the left of the photographic frame. Her open mouth and extended foot imbue the photo with a sense of kinetic immediacy, as if she has been captured mid-recitation, while the placement of her hands atop her head evoke the blowing winds of the poem’s opening exhortation, “West wind, blow from your prairies nest / Blow from the mountains, blow from the west”42 (fig. 4).

What can be gleaned from the Cochran portraits? First, the photos belie the tendency in reviews to write Johnson out of a rhetorical history of dramatic elocution by repeatedly emphasizing her “naturalness” and seeming lack of oratorical training. The 1896 Evening Press review, cited previously, declared, “Her acting and reciting were natural expressions of her own emotions, as she had never received professional training.”43 Similarly, a 1897 review in the Carberry News states that “[a]s a reciter, Miss Johnson is governed by but few of the principles bowed down to by the professional elocutionist. She throws herself into her work with complete abandon.”44 And yet, other reviews attest to the centrality of bodily movement, gesture, and pose to Johnson’s act while still insisting on the “naturalness” of such motions: “So natural are the motions to [End Page 15]

Figure 4. E. Pauline Johnson, Charles S. Cochran Studio, ca.1893. (Source: Brant Museum and Archives, E. Pauline Johnson collection, ref. 624.)
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Figure 4.

E. Pauline Johnson, Charles S. Cochran Studio, ca.1893. (Source: Brant Museum and Archives, E. Pauline Johnson collection, ref. 624.)

[End Page 16]

the act that they are scarcely noticed.”45 Read against the Cochran images, what these reviews uniformly reveal is an insistence on viewing Johnson through the lens of primitivized, bodily naturalism and spontaneous, unstudied expression regardless of her actual activities onstage.

Second, the photos evidence precise placements of the limbs, torso, and head that correspond to Delsartism’s tripartite system of expressive posing. In figures 23, we clearly see what Preston identifies as the three central poses, or “attitudes,” in Delsartism at work: the excentric (extending away from the body), the normal (relaxed and upright), and the concentric (inclining toward the body) positioning of body parts ranging from the eyes to the feet are meant to reflect and express a bodily, spiritual, and mental state of emotion.46 Moreover, each of Johnson’s poses follow the Delsartist Law of Opposition, wherein, for example, “the forward inclination of the torso corresponds to the movement of the leg in the opposite direction” to ensure harmony and equilibrium of gesture, the utmost Delsartian aesthetic ideal.47

Theatre historian David Mayer warns that studio photographs of actors in performance are incomplete records: “What we see in the portrait is, at best, a reenactment,” one that refers to but does not document a performance as it happens.48 While for him, the theatrical portrait is a mere approximation of an actor’s presumably dynamic stance or gesture in performance, constrained by the limitations of both photographic technology and the directives of the photographer, what Mayer’s article does not account for are styles of theatrical performance, like Delsartism, that actively incorporate stilled posing alongside of dynamic dramatic action. So, while Cochran’s photographs do not offer a complete visual record of Johnson’s performances, they do suggest a general Delsartian gestural technique as a visual code for deciphering her stilled poses, both in the photographic studio and onstage. In fact, the title of Mayer’s article, “‘Quote the Words to Prompt the Attitudes’: The Victorian Performer, the Photographer, and the Photograph,” unwittingly helps us here: in nineteenth-century parlance, an “attitude” is the physical realization of an interior mental or emotional state expressed outwardly through the body.49 Such a code offers new meaning to reviews that single out Johnson’s ability to express “in action as well as by word the attitudes of the Mohawk race.”50

There is one more studio portrait that, for me, cements Johnson’s inculcation with Delsartist iconographies. In an Esson studio portrait dated circa 1906, she poses with her back facing the camera, showing off to good effect the red blanket she has draped over her right shoulder. This blanket, as Johnson noted in her will, is the same blanket that Arthur, Duke of Connaught (Queen Victoria’s son) stood on when he was ceremonially inducted as an honorary chief of the Six Nations of the Grand River in 1869.51 The draping of the blanket, along with Johnson’s contrapposto pose, recalls the [End Page 17] neoclassical statuary aesthetic of the American Delsarte craze, as evidenced in an 1895 illustration from Anna Morgan’s An Hour with Delsarte (fig. 5).

Figure 5. Left: E. Pauline Johnson, “Tekahionwake.” Promotional bill for the American Chautauqua tour. Photo by the James Henry Esson Studio, ca.1906. (Source: Cornell University Library, Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Huntington Free Library Collection, ref. 9184.) Right: Delsartean diagram from Anna Morgan’s 1890 instructional manual An Hour with Delsarte: A Study of Expression (Boston: Lee and Shephard). (Source: Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Americana Collection, ref. 12005359.)
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Figure 5.

Left: E. Pauline Johnson, “Tekahionwake.” Promotional bill for the American Chautauqua tour. Photo by the James Henry Esson Studio, ca.1906. (Source: Cornell University Library, Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Huntington Free Library Collection, ref. 9184.) Right: Delsartean diagram from Anna Morgan’s 1890 instructional manual An Hour with Delsarte: A Study of Expression (Boston: Lee and Shephard). (Source: Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Americana Collection, ref. 12005359.)

In an article titled “The Arguments They Wore: The Role of the Neoclassical Toga in American Delsartism,” historian of rhetoric Lisa Suter argues that “the neoclassical toga served as a form of semiotic shorthand signifying a multitude of things, ranging from material evidence of the women’s oratorical training (thus evincing bodily their right to speak and be heard) to the nascent desire of some members of the movement to be recognized as full citizens of the state, complete with voting privileges.”52 Importantly, she notes that women recitalists, not men, wore togas on the elocutionary stage, and that women elocutionary students, trained in the classical rhetorical texts of Cicero and Quintillian, would have known that a toga was the sign of a Roman male’s citizenship and consequently his right to vote.53 Suter furthermore contends that despite the number of elocutionary articles written on how to execute the Greek costume between the years 1891 and 1894 in Werner’s Magazine, authentic reproduction did not seem to be the primary concern; rather, “an imagistic evocation of the classical era” seemed to suffice.54

The potential link between the American Delsartists’ rhetorical use of toga costuming and Johnson’s buckskin dress on the elocutionary stage is compelling for a number [End Page 18] of reasons. By appropriating what would have been the then-familiar visual trope of progressive white women recitalists appearing in Greek neoclassical garb and superimposing it upon the equally familiar image of Minnehaha, Johnson would have (indirectly, perhaps) established a civilizational equivalence between Greek and Roman “high” culture and Native North American (specifically Haudenosaunee) popular culture, even if filtered through the garbled ethno-mythic translations of Longfellow. Within the context of a broader Victorian Hellenism that was very much about empire and an evolutionary discourse of race and culture, such an equivocation would have been subversive, to say the least. In one possible reading of dramaturgical signs, Johnson’s costume relocates the sartorial trappings of masculine political oratory, which are closely tied to the history of political democracy, from Greek antiquity to the Haudenosaunee Confederacy.

Furthermore, situating Johnson within gendered iconographies and cultural practices of late-nineteenth-century Delsartism sheds light on the allegorical nature of Johnson’s costuming. Much has been made of her “two-part act,” which typically involved a costume change from buckskin dress to Victorian evening dress. For critics like Anne Collett and Daniel Francis, this costume change suggested a racial change, denoting when Johnson-in-dramatic-personae was speaking as an Indian and when she was speaking as a white woman—the two identity categories that have been frequently attributed to Johnson based on her mixed-blood heritage.55 What such analysis fails to take into account, however, is the temporal rather than strictly racial signification of her attire. As Johnson herself wrote about and practiced in her own everyday dress, the modern “Miss Iroquois” of her own class and generation wore stuff gowns, gloves, and prettily decorated hats “made in modern style.”56 In other words, there is no necessary correlation between Indigenous subjects wearing contemporary European clothes and the expressive performance of whiteness. And as art historian Elizabeth Hutchinson has written in relation to the photographic portraits of Gertrude Simmons Bonnin, the assumption of such a correlation “perpetuate[s] the idea that authentic Native American identity is incompatible with modernity,”57 thus circumscribing Indigenous appearance within the false and delimiting binary of either primitive or white.

Rather than a straightforward rendering of Indianness and whiteness positioned in opposition to each other, it is far more likely, within a Delsartian archetypal frame, that Johnson’s costumes dramatized a temporal shift from mythic Indian femininity to modern Indian femininity. And again, let us recall that Delsartian philosophy was predicated upon Christian-mystic notions of “continuity and similarity rather than difference.”58 As Preston and art historian Robin Veder have convincingly argued, Delsartism’s embrace of the mythic past was not incompatible with ideas of aesthetic and social modernity, but part of its very makeup.59 Thus through the prism of Delsartian [End Page 19] principles of synthesis and correspondence, we can better understand Johnson’s costumed recitations as expressing a unified vision of self, not a contradictory or fractured one. By appearing both as a mythic figure of Indian literary romance (Minnehaha) and a literate, female Mohawk elocutionist dressed according to the conventions of the modern concert-hall performer, she effectively staged what so many of her fellow Delsartian recitalists did: a symbolic reconciliation between gender’s mythic ideal and the modern real. Employing a logic of reversibility, not sequentiality, Delsartist kinesthetics invited its audience members to read the expressive body both backwards and forwards and inside-out. Whether or not her viewing audience was able to successfully grasp such a sophisticated picture of contemporary feminine Indianness in-the-making is, however, an altogether separate question.

Conclusion: Looking Again

Throughout this essay, I have argued that Mohawk poet-performer E. Pauline Johnson’s visual and material performance archive places her within a tradition of turn-of-the-century American Delsartism, a philosophical, aesthetic, and physical culture movement combining poetic recitation with expressive posing that was especially popular among white middle-class, college-educated women during 1890–1910. The implications of this argument are wide: not only does it reformulate working assumptions about the ethnic and racial homogeneity of Delsartism as a practice, but it also reconfigures Delsartist preoccupations with gender reform, bodily discipline/autonomy, and the public performance of social respectability around questions of racialized Indigeneity. In light of recent scholarship positioning Delsartism as part of an overlooked genealogy of transnational kinesthetic modernism,60 interrogating how discourses of modernity/modernism, themselves shaped by notions of race and Indigeneity, remain crucial to the historiographic task at hand.

Throughout Johnson’s lifetime, Indian education, assimilation, and other “civilizing” projects meant to integrate Indigenous peoples into North American settler-colonial society and tear them away from tribal life and land were framed in terms of “modernization.” However violent and coercive these colonial projects of modernization were, we cannot continue to imagine that people like Johnson somehow existed outside of social, aesthetic, or technological modernity in the first place. Indigenous peoples actively participated in and shaped the modernizing movements and discourses of the early twentieth century, despite a concerted effort to write them out of this history. By looking again at Johnson through the prism of Delsartism’s modernist and mythic poses, I hope to have shown that “seeing” the past of Indigenous performance necessitates a kind of vision that does not exempt its practices from modernity, but instead sufficiently grapples with the latter’s contradictions, ellipses, and cracks. [End Page 20]

Colleen Kim Daniher

Colleen Kim Daniher is an assistant professor in the Department of Communication Studies at San Francisco State University. She is a cultural historian of race and performance in the Americas, and her research utilizes transnational empire, colonialism, and settler colonialism as analytics to investigate racialized perception, embodiment, and aesthetics across a broad range of performance genres. She is currently completing a book manuscript that positions the “mixed-race” femme performer as a fruitful interpretive problem of twentieth-century US performance historiography. She holds a PhD in performance studies from Northwestern University.

The research in this essay was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Doctoral Fellowship, the ASTR Helen Krich Chinoy Dissertation Fellowship, and grants from Northwestern University’s Graduate School and School of Communication. The author further acknowledges the following institutions for additional research support: Chiefswood National Historic Site, Brant Museum and Archives, the William Ready Division of Archives and Research Collections at McMaster University, Brown University, and the Center for Humanistic Inquiry at Amherst College.


1. Unnamed reviewer, “Music and Drama,” Winnipeg Free Press, December 1897. Box 4, file 4, McMaster University Archives, Hamilton, Ontario (hereafter MU Archives) (emphasis added).

2. Descriptions culled from newspaper performance reviews, 1892–96. Series 7, box 4, files 1–3, MU Archives. See also footnote 31 for specific reference.

3. Beginning in 1894, Johnson also began using the Kanien’kéha (Mohawk) name Tekahionwake (meaning “double wampum”), borrowed from her great-grandfather, Jacob Johnson Tekahionwake. For consistency, however, I use E. Pauline Johnson and variations thereof throughout this essay.

4. While the two-part costume structure seemed to be generally the case for Johnson’s recitals, there is also documentation of other costumes and production formats that deviate from this formula. Most critics agree that Johnson typically appeared in buckskin first and evening wear second, with some variation depending on the program content. See Alexandra Kovacs, “Beyond Shame and Blame in Pauline Johnson’s Performance Histories,” in Canadian Performance Histories and Historiographies, ed. Heather Davis-Fisch (Toronto: Playwright’s Canada Press, 2017), 31–51, esp. 35–44.

5. On Johnson’s status within canons of Canadian Literature, see Carole Gerson, “’The Most Canadian of All Canadian Poets’: Pauline Johnson and the Construction of a National Literature,” Canadian Literature 158 (1998): 90–107. For more recent assessments of Johnson’s cultural labor within historiographies of performance practice, see Carla Taunton, “Performing Resistance/Negotiating Sovereignty: Indigenous Women’s Performance Art in Canada” (PhD diss., Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, 2011), 112–29; and Linda M. Morra, “The Archive of Embodiment: Pauline Johnson’s ‘A Cry from an Indian Wife,’” in Unarrested Archives: Case Studies in Twentieth-Century Canadian Women’s Authorship (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2014), 17–43.

6. By racial project, I draw on Michael Omi and Howard Winant’s use of the term: “A racial project is simultaneously an interpretation, representation, or explanation of racial dynamics, and an effort to reorganize and redistribute resources along particular lines” (56). Here, I understand North American settler colonialism to be a racial project insofar as it has actively deployed the representation of discrete groups of Indigenous peoples and nations as Indians in order to reorganize and redistribute resources of land and property along the lines of white colonial hegemony. See Omi and Winant, Racial Formation in the United States: From the 1960s to the 1990s (New York: Routledge, 1994).

7. Carrie J. Preston, “Posing Modernism: Delsartism in Modern Dance and Silent Film,” Theatre Journal 61, no. 2 (2009): 213–33, quote on 215.

8. Carrie J. Preston, Modernism’s Mythic Pose (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011).

9. Ibid., 68.

10. Nancy Lee Chalfa Ruyter, Reformers and Visionaries: The Americanization of the Art of Dance (New York: Dance Horizons: 1979) and The Cultivation of Mind and Body in Nineteenth-Century American Delsartism (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1999); Julia Walker, Expressionism and Modernism in the American Theatre: Bodies, Voices, Words (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005); Taylor Susan Lake, “American Delsartism and the Bodily Discourse of Respectable Womanliness” (PhD diss., University of Iowa, 2002); Marian Wilson Kimber, The Elocutionists: Women, Music, and the Spoken Word (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2017).

11. Lake, “American Delsartism and the Bodily Discourse of Respectable Womanliness,” 2–3.

12. Preston, Modernism’s Mythic Pose, 100.

13. See Dwight Conquergood, “Rethinking Elocution: The Trope of the Talking Book and Other Figures of Speech,” in Opening Acts: Performance in/as Communication and Cultural Studies, ed. Judith Hamera (London: Sage, 2006), 141–63; and Veronica Strong-Boag and Carole Gerson, eds., “Introduction,” in E. Pauline Johnson, Tekahionwake: Collected Poems and Selected Prose (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2002), xiii–xliv, quote on xvi. For more on overlaps between US and Canadian residential school systems, see appendix D in Margery Fee and Dory Nason, eds., Tekahionwake: E. Pauline Johnson’s Writings on Native North America (Peterborough, ON: Broadview Press, 2016), 333–53.

14. Kiara M. Vigil, Indigenous Intellectuals: Sovereignty, Citizenship, and the American Imagination, 1880–1930 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015).

15. Conquergood, “Rethinking Elocution,” 149.

16. Veronica Strong-Boag and Carole Gerson, eds., Paddling Her Own Canoe: The Times and Texts of E. Pauline Johnson, Tekahionwake (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2000), 105.

17. Ruyter identifies at least two Canadian teacher-interpreters of Delsartism: English cleric Joe Edgar, and French teacher Alfred Giraudet. Moreover, she notes the relationship between Canadian Confederate poet and Johnson contemporary Bliss Carman and American Delsartist interpreter Henrietta Hovey. See Ruyter, The Cultivation of Mind and Body in Nineteenth-Century American Delsartism, 31–44, 58–60.

18. Wilson Kimber, The Elocutionists, 91.

19. Jacqueline Shea Murphy, The People Have Never Stopped Dancing: Native American Modern Dance Histories (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007), 59.

20. Ibid., 57.

21. Wilson Kimber’s The Elocutionists documents the wide circulation of illustrated elocution anthologies marketed to women, which prescribed generic groupings of poems appropriate for female recitation: “Pathetic, humorous, dramatic, patriotic, and religious recitations were the most common groupings; temperance, dialect selections, or musical readings were sometimes included as specialized types” (63). In a performance program from 1894, the words “Pathetic, Dramatic, Patriotic” appear in bold underneath a Cochran publicity image of Johnson. Meanwhile, Johnson’s male touring partners, who acted as foils for her act, also complied with standardized gendered and generic elocutionary tropes: both Owen Smily, Johnson’s tour partner from 1892 to ’97, and Walter McRaye (partnered from 1901–09) were well-known for their dialect recitations, which were “more closely associated with male than female performers” (110).

22. Pauline Johnson, “Letter to Lighthall,” 18 September and 2 October 1892, in Strong-Boag and Gerson, eds., Paddling Her Own Canoe, 110 (emphasis in original).

23. Evelyn Johnson, 1936 interview manuscript, in Sheila M. F. Johnston, Buckskin and Broadcloth: A Celebration of E. Pauline Johnson—Takahionwake, 1861–1913 (Toronto: Natural Heritage Books, 1997), 113.

24. “Pauline Johnson’s Bequest,” or Codicil to Will, ca.1913. E. Pauline Johnson Collection, file 1, box 579-G-04, City of Vancouver Archives, Vancouver Museum fonds.

25. Jessica L. Horton, “Ojibwa Tableaux Vivants: George Catlin, Robert Houle, and Transcultural Materialism,” Art History 39, no. 1 (2016): 124–51, esp. 129–36.

26. Just a few months earlier, Johnson voiced her awareness of Indian representational politics in “A Strong Race Opinion: On the Indian Girl in Modern Fiction,” first published in the Toronto Sunday Globe on May 22, 1892: “The Indian girl we meet in cold type, however, is rarely distressed by having to belong to any tribe, or to reflect any tribal characteristics.” See Margaret Fee and Dorothy Nason, eds., in Tekahionwake: E. Pauline Johnson’s Writings on Native North America (Peterborough, ON: Broadview Press, 2016), 155–63.

27. Kirsten Gram Holmström, Monodrama, Attitudes, Tableaux Vivants: Studies on Some Trends of Theatrical Fashion, 1770–1815 (Stockholm: Almqvist and Wiksell, 1967); Monika M. Elbert, “Striking a Historical Pose: Antebellum Tableaux Vivants, ‘Godey’s’ Illustrations, and Margaret Fuller’s Heroines,” New England Quarterly 75, no. 2 (2002): 235–75; Robert M. Lewis, “Tableaux Vivants: Parlor Theatrical in Victorian American,” Revue française d’études américaines 36, no. 8 (1988): 288–91; Martin Meisel, Realizations: Narrative, Pictorial, and Theatrical Arts in Nineteenth-Century England (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1983).

28. In an essay on African American platform elocutionist Mary Webb, Tavia Nyong’o writes of the convergences between Uncle Tom’s Cabin and The Song of Hiawatha as popular-culture phenomena exceeding the literary realm, noting that they were, respectively, “the best-selling US novel and poem . . . of the nineteenth century” (88). See “Hiawatha’s Black Atlantic Itineraries,” in The Traffic in Poems: Nineteenth-Century Poetry and Transatlantic Exchange, ed. Meredith L. McGill (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2008), 81–96.

29. James Head, “Hiawatha and His Bride’s Arrival Home,” in Home Pastimes, Or Tableaux Vivants (Boston: J. E. Tilton and Company, 1864), 83–86.

30. Kovacs has suggested that Johnson’s search for a “correct” Indian costume might be linked to fancy dress ball expert Ardern Holt’s description of the prescribed dress of an “American Indian Queen North,” in Fancy Dresses Described; or, What to Wear at Fancy Balls (1887), but I find it equally plausible that correctness here refers back to standardized descriptions and illustrations of Minnehaha within a parlor theatrical tradition.

31. “She stands an unique figure upon the border-land between the worlds of ancient tradition and modern art. . . . It was unfortunate, to my mind, that the exigencies of a popular performance should have necessitated a change from the strikingly picturesque Indian dress in which she appeared during the first part of the evening to modern evening costume, for the effect was destructive of a highly poetical illusion.” See Hector Charlesworth, “Baton and Buckskin” (1894), qtd. in Strong-Boag and Gerson, eds., Paddling Her Own Canoe, 113.

32. “Appearing as she did last evening in her native costume, Miss Johnson depicted personally and in her poems, which were of her own composition, the Indian girl of romance and literature. Her lithe, graceful figure, her glossy black hair, and her face, which is of the highest type of the American Indian, all combine to form a most picturesque personality.” See anonymous reviewer, “Pretty Indian Poetess,” Evening Press, Grand Rapids, Michigan, November 18, 1896. Box 4, file 3, MU Archives (emphasis added).

33. Unnamed reviewer, “Mohawk Princess,” untitled publication, Grand Rapids, Michigan, November, 18, 1896. Box 4, file 3, MU Archives (emphasis added).

34. Vigil, Indigenous Intellectuals, 43.

35. Here, I echo art historian Elizabeth Hutchinson’s argument about the visual awareness of Sioux writer, activist, and musician Gertrude Simmons Bonnin/Zitkala-Sa, in “Native American Identity in the Making: Gertrude Käsebier’s ‘Girl with the Violin.’” Exposure 33, nos. 1–2 (2000): 21–32.

36. Preston, Modernism’s Mythic Pose, 28–32; Ruyter, “Genevieve Stebbins on Stage,” in The Cultivation of Body and Mind in Nineteenth-Century American Delsartism, 115–28.

37. Janet Neigh’s recent work on Longfellow’s influence on Johnson supports this claim; see “E. Pauline Johnson (Tekahionwake) and Her ‘Dear Dead Longfellow,’” in Recalling Recitation in the Americas: Borderless Curriculum, Performance Poetry, and Reading (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2017), 28–60.

38. “The Heart of the City: Charles Schriber Cochran Studio,” Hamilton Public Library, n.d., formerly available at (link no longer active).

39. Cochran’s cabinet-card images of Johnson are scattered across archives, including McMaster University’s William Ready Division of Archives and Special Collections; Brant Museum and Archives; Chiefswood Museum, Chiefswood National Historic Site; Library and Archives Canada and the Vancouver Public Library.

40. E. Pauline Johnson, “The Pilot of the Plains,” in Fee and Nason, eds., Tekahionwake, 188–89, lines 11–12, 13–16.

41. See Photographic Collection box 1, 2002.01.34, Chiefswood Museum, Ohsweken.

42. E. Pauline Johnson, “The Song My Paddle Sings,” in Fee and Nason, eds., Tekahionwake, 148–49, lines 1–2.

43. Anonymous reviewer, “Pretty Indian Poetess.”

44. Anonymous reviewer, “Johnson-Smily Entertainment,” Carberry News, 1897. Box 4, file 4, in MU Archives.

45. Anonymous reviewer, “Elocutionary Entertainment by Miss E. Pauline Johnson,” Emerson Journal, December 17, 1897. Box 4, file 4, MU Archives.

46. Preston, “Posing Modernism,” 219.

47. Abbé Delaumosne, Delsarte System of Oratory (New York: Werner, 1894), 55.

48. David Mayer, “‘Quote the Words to Prompt the Attitudes’: The Victorian Performer, the Photographer, and the Photograph,” Theatre Survey 43, no. 2 (2002): 223–51, quote on 227.

49. Preston, Modernism’s Mythic Pose, 43.

50. Anonymous reviewer, “An Evening of Female Entertainment,” untitled publication, April 6, 1892. Box 4, file 4, MU Archives (emphasis added).

51. For an account of this event, see Charlotte Gray, Flint and Feather: The Life and Times of E. Pauline Johnson, Tekahionwake (Toronto: Harper Flamingo Canada, 2002), 58.

52. Lisa Suter, “The Arguments They Wore: The Role of the Neoclassical Toga in American Delsartism,” in Rhetoric, History, and Women’s Oratorical Education: American Women Learn to Speak, ed. David Gold and Catherine L. Hobbs (New York: Routledge, 2013), 134–53, quote on 136.

53. Ibid., 146, 148–50.

54. Ibid., 146.

55. Anne Collett, “Red and White: Miss E. Pauline Johnson, Tekahionwake, and the Other Woman,” Women’s Writing 8, no. 3 (2001): 359–74; Daniel Francis, The Imaginary Indian: The Image of the Indian in Canadian Culture (Vancouver, BC: Arsenal Pulp Press, 1992).

56. E. Pauline Johnson, “The Iroquois Women of Canada,” in E. Pauline Johnson Tekahionwake: Collected Poems and Selected Prose, ed. Carole Gerson and Veronica Strong-Boag (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2002), 204.

57. Hutchinson, “Native American Identity in the Making,” 30.

58. Preston, Modernism’s Mythic Pose, 27 (emphasis in original).

59. Robin Veder, “The Expressive Efficiencies of American Delsarte and Mensendieck Body Culture,” Modernism/Modernity 17, no. 4 (2011): 819–38.

60. Such as Preston’s Modernism’s Mythic Pose.

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