This paper traces the shift into performative interactions by European scholars and artists as they sought or feigned interaction with the spirits and objects of Native American culture. I discuss the postwar artworks of Max Ernst, Joseph Beuys, and Steven Yazzie. I argue that each of these artists’ use of Native American objects goes beyond earlier surrealist appropriative and mimetic strategies. From a postcolonial position, these artworks address personal trauma as well as the collective trauma of colonialism. Aby Warburg’s late nineteenth-century travel to the American Southwest, and his resulting notion of an aesthetics of empathy, or of “mimesis through communion with/entering into the object,” becomes very relevant for Beuys’ work in particular. Furthermore these postwar artworks by Ernst, Beuys and Yazzie contain a comic element that invites laughter, a critical/therapeutic element that Pierre Clastres describes as a distinctly political act.