Native Americans

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Has media stereotyped the Native American identity? Why or why not?

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In helping to understand any question, the best thing to do is define the important words that will help in understanding the question. First, define Native Americans.  Native Americans  are the people who are native to North American within the boundaries of the continental United States.  These are the Indian tribes that were already here when the English settlers came in 1607 and began to try to make a village in  the wilderness.  The Indians helped the pilgrims to survive the first winter and early years.

The next word would be stereotype.  A stereotype is a belief that may be adopted about a specific type of individual or group; however, that belief may or may not accurately reflect the actual group or people.  Usually, a stereotype over accentuates some trait which is both wrong and hurtful to whichever group it refers.  In this case, the Indian stereotypes are asked to be examined. 

So the question is asking: Have there been stereotypes found in moves, advertisements, books, and television which are inaccurate?  The answer to this question would be "yes."

Western novelist Larry McMurtry believes "that there a vast gap between myth and reality in the depiction of the West in popular culture."  Because of the image that has been given to the American Indian by the white culture, the stereotypes are everywhere. 

Stereotypes cover hair, dress, demeanor worth, wealth, gender--all have been a part of the myth concerning the Native Americans.   There are usually the good Indian and the bad Indian; the Indian princess and the squaw; the brave and the chief.  Each classification with it own set of characteristics further denigrates the Indian. 

For example, the good Indian would be handsome, dignified,  at one with nature, and devoted to his family and tribe.  The bad Indian would be lazy, drunken, vengeful, and savage.  When childen play cowboys and Indians, who are the good guys and who are the bad guys?  Few kids want to be the Indians because they are always defeated by the stereotypical more clever white man.

A good topic to write about concerning the Indians,  would be a topic for which there is no controversy.  For example, the "trail of tears" has been well documented in that five civilized tribes were uprooted from their homes particularly the Cherokee and Chickasaw tribes.  These people had to walk hundreds of miles to Indian Territory now Oklahoma.  Many of the Indians died on the journey which is why it is called the "trail of tears." 

To emphasize the stereotypes in the poster, the depiction of  the Indians dressed in the white man's clothes during the late nineteenth century might be something to pursue. The Indians lived off of the land.  The white cowboys exterminated the buffalo which was a major portion of the survival of the plains Indians.  The white man killed the buffalo to sell its horns and coat.  The Indian used every part of the buffalo for survival from its teeth for jewelry to its ribs for combs.  This is an aspect of Indian culture that might be investigated. 

There have been several Indians who have been instrumental to the survival of the white man in history.  Squanto, Sequoyah, Pocahontas, Sacagawea--these  are names that are important to American history.  Notice that two of the names are Indian women. 

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