Fiktion oder Wirklichkeit? Das Karl May Museum von außen
Any German interested in Indians cannot get around him. Karl May shaped our image of the Wild West and the Indians like no other. To date, the Karl May Festival n Radebeul draws the masses. Germans have an exceptionally high interest in First Nations, Indians and Native Americans.Numerous clubs, groups, publishers, museums and even two huge Western cities deal with fact and fiction surrounding the Indigenous Peoples of North America. Discussions take place in internet forums, there are specific magazines, films and performances, even powwows and sweat lodges. Not everything which comes across the Atlantic would be approved as “real” by First Nations – after all, their already threatened cultural identity should not simply be a good time for others. But the sincere interest and enthusiasm of many who sponsor foundations and volunteer in programmes has lead to numerous trips and friendships and is a sign of an international understanding of a special kind: between Germans and Indians.
So it is even more important to better explore the common history of the meeting of cultures. Many Germans settled in the 18th century in Pennsylvania and had contact with Lenape; Not only so-called “Captivity Narratives” testify to this. At the same time, Moravian missionaries headed from Germany to America and lived one-and-a-half centuries with the Lenape. Their letters and reports are often the only ethnographic source for to the Delaware. For a long time, the traditional lifestyle of the Delaware and their indigenous identity was suppressed. Much was forgotten. But in recent years, there has been a cultural renaissance: Using ethnographic sources, and oral stories, traditions are being reconstructed and revived, dances are being relearned and the language is being spoken once again. The Lenape Language Project in Oklahoma is one of those success stories. Lenape language immersion classes are also in full swing in Moraviantown, in an effort to teach young adults who want to become language teachers for future generations.
The missionaries were often the driving force behind replacing indigenous traditions with Christian values. Now, it is the archival records of the missionaries which may help in the revitalization of many of those lost traditions.
All the more surprising is that there has been no interaction between the Delaware and Moravians until the present time.
Winnetou and Old Shatterhand, the story of a fictional friendship between a white man and an Indian can symbolically represent the great attraction that the indigenous North American culture has in Germany. At the same time, there is a danger in romanticizing a foreign cultural identity for your own imagination and entertainment. In our collective perception, there are still racist stereotypes about Indigenous North America.
Indigenous North America is diverse and largely unknown to us. Only those who read James Feminore Cooper ever heard about the Woodland Indians, which included the Delaware. But there is so much more to tell, stories that have so far remained untold; loose ends of a common history that lead to profound changes for the Indians; questions to which there have been no answers.