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American FatherhoodA History$
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Jürgen Martschukat

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781479892273

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479892273.001.0001

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Indigenous and Modern Fathers, 1890–1950

Indigenous and Modern Fathers, 1890–1950

(p.141) 8 Indigenous and Modern Fathers, 1890–1950
American Fatherhood

Jürgen Martschukat

NYU Press

Chapter 8 relates nuclear family and fatherhood ideals to the history of the American Indian. It takes off from the “crisis” of modern fatherhood in early twentieth-century America that was seen as the consequence of constantly weakening ties between fathers and their families, seen as dangerous for the nation. A back-to-nature movement and a temporary “going native” of fathers and sons promised to provide a solution to this problem. In the early 1900s, when almost extinguished, American Indian men among all people were presented as role models to modern Anglo-American fathers. Indian fathers were taken as embodying a “naturalness” that was described as being at the heart of the relationship between fathers and sons. The protagonist of this chapter is Joe Friday, an Ojibwe who served as front man for the YMCA Indian Guides program. This most successful program was meant to bring together “tribes” of suburban fathers and sons playing Indian. Thus, based on files at the YMCA archives, the chapter shows how a stereotypical image of “the Indian” was employed to depict a bond between fathers, sons, and the family as natural and to overcome what was perceived as a crisis of fatherhood and modern family life in general.

Keywords:   American Indian, YMCA, “naturalness”, Ojibwe

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