I'm an Indian, too

What’s so funny about the 1491s?



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Last year, the 1491s applied for and received a grant from Humanities Montana to produce a 10-part webisode series titled “A History of Native America.” The group’s grant proposal begins, “From its inception, American history has been one-sided. That is because American history has been written from the point of view of America’s conquerors and colonizers…Our film will challenge that one-sided look,” the proposal reads. “We will subvert it and make fun of it. And, as is the way with Native American humor, we will be making fun of ourselves.”

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  • The 1491s dish out slapstick comedy and activist messaging in a single serving. Above, Wilson prepares for battle.

The grant proposal goes on to describe the 1491s’ brand of humor. The plan is to recreate moments in history like Columbus arriving in America, the Revolutionary War, the Battle of Little Big Horn and spin it from the 1491s’ perspective.

So far, the project is still in pre-production. The group is writing this spring and plans to present storyboards and a more detailed plan to Humanities Montana later this year.

The proposal, which was received by the Humanities Montana board to the tune of $5,491, concludes, “Our audience finds us on YouTube, Google, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. In essence and in fact, we have the world as an audience. So, we just want the opportunity to spread to the world a single message, while making them smile,” it reads. “We have always been here, we are still here, and we will always be here.”

In the age of the viral video, notoriety is manifested overnight. Success is measured in views, retweets and Google searches. But for the 1491s success is less quantifiable. They exist somewhere in the margin between entertainment and advocacy. They want you to laugh, but they want you to squirm a little too. Because if you’re squirming—if your laughter dissipates too suddenly and leaves you wondering where it went—then, and only then, are you getting the joke.

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