Children of the Circle


160 pages
Contains Photos
ISBN 0-920698-37-9
DDC 306'.08997078




Reviewed by Ronald N. Harpelle

Ronald N. Harpelle is an assistant professor of history at the
University of Manitoba.


As a photographic history, this book fails to live up to its promise. It
is filled with photographs taken through the myopic lenses of European
cameramen. The irony of the book is captured in one photograph whose
caption reads, “One white man, seen through another white man’s
eyes, while the first white man is busy filming ‘a couple of little
Indians.’” Indeed, this book consists of nothing more than pictures
of “little Indians,” and the authors fail to explain or appreciate
their contexts.

All of the photos—except one of the author and her
grandmothers—date from 1890 to 1920. They show traditions, forms of
dress, and people on the verge of annihilation—people who were
“survivors” of the westward expansion of the United States and
Canada; people who went on display for audiences in New York, Toronto,
and Europe. The authors tend to assume that the photographers just
happened to be on hand to record important events in Native people’s
lives; they fail to consider that the photos may have been staged at the
request of the conquerors. Moreover, the authors presume to tell readers
what the subjects were thinking, but their observations are superficial
at best. Children of the Circle is much less than the sum of its
component parts.


Hungry Wolf, Adolf., “Children of the Circle,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 12, 2024,