Sunday, August 9, 2015

Photos of a time when the U.S. held Filipino tribesmen in zoos

Igorot men from the Philippines dance in a semi-circle at the St. Louis World's Fair.

It wasn't too long ago that thousands of Filipino tribesmen were taken from their motherland and displayed as carnival or zoo exhibits for the American people to gawk at. The year was 1904. The place was St Louis, Missouri. Filipino ethnic groups were a rarity for the American audiences in that era, and the US government decided to bring 1,300 Filipino minorities from various tribes to the tune of $1.5 million and exhibited them like animals in front of large crowds.

The St. Louis World's Fair unveiled to the world new ideas, products and technological feats that captivated thousands of visitors. But during the seven months that the fair was open, 'living exhibits' also entertained guests with their religious songs, war dances, and other tribal rituals. The biggest crowd-drawers were the Igorots, who were introduced to their colonial masters as primitive dog-eating headhunters.

These exhibits were conducted to prove that indeed, white people were at the top of civilization, and turned native peoples of darker color into objects, to be scrutinized, to be gawked at, and inevitably to be pitied and despised.

Igorots resting after performing a ritual dance.

In 1905 former Bontoc lieutenant governor Truman Hunt brought with him a group of Igorots to the United States where they travelled around and put on human exhibits. Hunt's operation came to an end after rumors broke out how he maltreated the tribesmen. The export of ethnic groups was finally banned by the Philippine government in 1914 when it passed a comprehensive anti-slavery law. With that, the concept of human zoos largely faded from public consciousness.

Filipino tribesmen at Dreamland, Coney Island, New York.

Young Filipino girl, Coney Island, New York.

This article was published in the Los Angeles Herald on December 10, 1905. Found via this blog.

[h/t: FilipiKnow]

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