A Chatroom
is Worth
a Thousand Words




Marilyn Burgess

Marilyn Burgess is a videographer, curator and academic who course of study found her researching Native American and First Nations cowgirls. When she began asking questions about Indian women, she was surprised at how much resistance she got. One of the reasons that some people were not willing to share their knowledge with her was because she was White. She had crossed some invisible line where her right to that knowledge was being questioned. Many Native people are suspicious of White people doing research. We have seen such misuse of our stories, language, artwork and culture. But for someone who is open-minded, interested and well-intentioned, like Marilyn, it can be bewildering, frustrating and feel very unfair. I asked her to write about it. Overachiever that she is, she hired a small web design firm to bundle her words together with a few of the images from her now sizeable collection of cowgirls images from dime novels, archival photographs, movie posters, advertisements and ephemera of all kinds. Plus she created a room in the palace called "Git yer cowgirl avatar here!"

Marilyn’s one room is simple and perfectly exemplifies the point of her essay: that "cowgirl" is a performance. Not so much child-like as newbie, it is a simple line drawing of a western scene, with two mountains on the horizon, a few blades of grass to one side in the foreground, and a loose (and I do mean that!) pile of rocks on the other. A speech balloon that seems to be emanating from the grass says: "Click on me to choose your cowgirl avatar". From her pile of cowgirl pictures, Marilyn created ten avatars for use by visitors to CyberPowWow. As you try on different personas (hmmm, Princess Redbird or the bra ad?), animated smoke signals beckon from one mountaintop. Click there (or here) to read her hypertext essay, Indian Cowgirls; or, a Tale of Some White Sioux Queens, and find Marilyn’s story within the story of a few other White women who were interested in Native women.

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Marilyn Burgess

Jason Lewis

Ahasiw Maskegon-Iskwew

Michelle Nahanee

Travis Neel


Sheila Urbanoski

Trevor Van Weeren