Searching for Winnetou explores the controversy surrounding cultural appropriation of Indigenous culture in an innovative, hilarious, unnerving, yet inspiring way.
For years Drew Hayden Taylor, prolific playwright and author of dozens of Canadian-Indigenous books, has noticed a high proportion of German tourists visiting Canada, many who have come looking for a real “Indianer” experience (what Germans call the North American Native lifestyle). Inevitably, almost every one of these Germans will relate stories of Winnetou: Germany’s most famous, but mythical, Apache warrior. Winnetou was their childhood hero. As one museum curator explained: “Winnetou is like Superman for the German people”.
Fascinated with this phenomenon Taylor spent last summer in Germany trying to uncover the over 100-year roots of its Winnetou obsession. There Taylor revealed camps where thousands of Germans dress and attempt to live like Indigenous people. This discovery kicks off a mind-bending journey through history, art, politics, and controversy.
Even Adolf Hitler and much of the Nazi elite were bizarrely obsessed with North American Native warriors.
“I did not expect to see thousands of Germans dressed in traditional Native outfits, nor reveal that even Hitler himself was obsessed with the Lakota people for years”, says director Drew Hayden Taylor.
The film is a fascinating exploration of “cultural appreciation vs appropriation” from the perspective of one of Canada’s most beloved Native writers.