Why are Europeans, Germans perhaps most famously, obsessed with Native Americans? So many reasons: The chance to delve into a past where the bad guys are not your grandparents. A crowded continent’s longing for wide open spaces. A romantic attachment to an idealized “authentic” humanity, rooted in the anti-industrial backlash of the 1800s. And, of course, Karl May, the 19th-century writer who devoured James Fenimore Cooper while in prison and cranked out novels of the American West (and the Middle East, and the fantasy planet Sitara) that have been best-sellers for going on 125 years. May’s most enduring hero, Winnetou, wages a heroic, doomed battle against the railroad and white settlement, and the books’ juxtaposition of bareback-riding freedom and overweening state power (plus a heavy dose of Christianity), made them an underground sensation behind the Iron Curtain. Today, Indian clubs from Prague to Potsdam put on elaborate reenactments complete with acres of buckskin outfits while (mostly) waving off concerns about how redface paint and the appropriation of sacred symbols like eagle feathers might play with actual Native Americans. As one hobbyist informed Indian Country Today‘s Red Haircrow, “No people should be allowed to keep their culture just for themselves.”

German dressed as Native American, holding a gun

Outside Leipzig, Germany
Jen Osborne/Redux
 
Man dressed as Native American, riding a horse

Czech Republic
Jen Osborne/Redux
 
Girl being fitted for a dress in front of tee-pees.

Czech Republic
Jen Osborne/Redux
 
Man dressed as Native American with face paint.

Hungary
Jen Osborne/Redux
 
Man dressed as Native American with mohawk and braid.

Czech Republic
Jen Osborne/Redux
 
American flag inside tee-pee.

Czech Republic
Jen Osborne/Redux
 
Man dressed as Native American being fitted with feather headdress.

Russia
Jen Osborne/Redux
 
Baby dressed as Native American.

Czech Republic
Jen Osborne/Redux
 
Man dressed as Native America carring a flag.

Russia
Jen Osborne/Redux
 
Portrait of man dressed as Native American.

Germany
Jen Osborne/Redux
 

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