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[Readings]

No Reservations

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From “The ‘Noble Indian’: A Godsend for the Extreme Right,” published in Le Monde last July. Translated from the French by John Cullen.

Sitting Bull was a Sioux chief who saw his people slaughtered, despoiled, and dispossessed before he himself was killed. There’s now a local branch of the far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) political party claiming that, if Sitting Bull were alive today, he “would vote for AfD” and take a stand “against immigration without borders.” The AfD went on to declare, “Today, the original inhabitants of North America live on reservations. If mass immigration continues unchecked, a similar situation could arise in Germany!” Many examples of such images are circulating in Germany, diffused by neo-Nazis and by members of the anti-immigration movement Pegida. The AfD isn’t the first party to use American Indians for its propaganda. In 2007, a small Italian-speaking party in Switzerland, the Ticino League, published the first political illustration featuring an American Indian as a warning against immigration. This effort was swiftly imitated in neighboring Italy by the Northern League, which produced its own poster. Matteo Salvini reissued the poster in 2017. He wasn’t yet Italy’s minister of the interior, but as the leader of the Lega, the new name adopted by his party, he posed in front of the poster portraying an Indian chief in a headdress with the slogan: “They couldn’t regulate immigration. Now they live on reservations!”

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