Rice Lake Pageant 1920: Roots, Uprooting, Racism

James P. Leary (University of Wisconsin, Madison, emeritus)

In 1920 my Wisconsin hometown—named for wild rice beds destroyed by a dam—produced an extravagant Pageant of Rice Lake juxtaposing the arduous arrival of white settlers with the murderous expulsion of Ojibwes. Sponsored by the American Legion, incorporating lumberjack folklore, involving 500 local performers, and coinciding with a repressive assimilationist Christian white nationalist surge paralleling present reality, the Pageant expressed an enduring master narrative that, with few exceptions, has remained unquestioned. This presentation reveals the Pageant’s dramatic distortions of historical reality, together with possibilities for replacing propaganda with a clearer portrayal of a community’s deeply fraught roots.

Part of 04-06 Representations in Immigrant Settlement and Interethnic Engagement in the Upper Midwest, Friday, November 03, 8:30 am–10:00 am