Native American
Stereotypes and Realities
Introduction to Native American
Cultures
Religious Studies 283 A
Stereotype and Reality


Indians are all alike.
In American alone, there are approximately
2,752,158 Indians, belonging to 562 culturally
distinct federally recognized tribes or additional
200 or so unrecognized tribes. They live in a
variety of environments, either on 286 US
reservations, or off reservation in rural areas or
cities.

2000 U.S. Census Report
Stereotype and Reality


Indians were conquered because they were
inferior.
Indians were conquered because of their lack of
immunity to European diseases as well as other
factors—none of which reflected cultural or
genetic inferiority.
Stereotype and Reality


If Indians had united, they could have
prevented the European invasion.
Tribes were too different culturally and lived too
far apart to fight together as a cohesive unit.
Further, there was no singular event known as
the “European Invasion.” European migration
occurred over a period of 500 years (and
counting)
Stereotype and Reality


Indians had no civilization until Europeans
brought it to them.
Indians were civilized. Their cultures were
different from those of Europeans—and in
some ways more advanced (e.g.; agriculture,
medicine, architecture)
Stereotype and Reality


Indians arrived in this hemisphere via the
Siberian Land Bridge.
Indians believe that they were created in this
hemisphere. “Siberian Land Bridge” myth
viewed as a racist Anglo-European construction
to impose Asian stereotypes on Native persons
and to dismiss cosmological myth of Native
communities as mere fictions.
Stereotype and Reality


Indians were warlike and treacherous.
Indians fought to defend their lands, sovereignty
and way of life from invaders, both domestic
and international. In this regard, one would be
hard pressed to describe Native Americans as
either more or less violent than other human
collectivities.
Stereotype and Reality


Indians had nothing to contribute to
Europeans or to the growth of America.
The contributions of American Indians have
changed and enriched the world. 15% of the
“first settlers” from Spain, France and England
actually became part of native communities.
Further, the “new settlers” would have probably
died the first winter without assistance from
Natives.
Stereotype and Reality


Indians did not value or empower women.
Indian women often wielded considerable power
within their tribes. (Gender and sexuality often
viewed differently than Anglo-Europeans; often
based on something other than
productive/reproductive roles)
Stereotype and Reality


lndians have no religion.
Indians are deeply religious. Each tribe has its
own religion. There is not such thing as the
“Native American Religion.” Again, a
destructive stereotype promoted by oftentimes
well-meaning Anglos who wish to legitimize
their own ecological and political positions at
the expense of other human beings.
Stereotype and Reality


Indians welcome outsiders to study and
participate in their religious ceremonies.
Indians often practice their religions secretly and
want outsiders to respect their desire for privacy.
What possible motivation would indigenous
persons have to “share” with an outsider? Most
persons who proclaim such “adoption”
narratives, sadly, fabricate their experiences.
Stereotype and Reality


Indians are a vanished race.
Again, another racist myth generated in the early
19th century: Native Americans began to
“vanish” because of their evolutionary
inferiority to the “White Man.” Could it have
anything to do with massive genocide?
Currently, there are 2.7 million United States
Indians today, representing more than 562
federally recognized tribes and over 200 nonrecognized traditions.
Stereotype and Reality


Indians are confined to reservations, live in
tipis, wear braids, and ride horses.
A handful may live in tipis for part of the year
because they want to, but tipis are not the norm.
The Native American Church use tipis for
religious ceremonies. And while some Indians
do use horses to herd cattle and sheep, or ride
for recreation, most Indians do not own horses.
Stereotype and Reality


Indians are confined to reservations, live in
tipis, wear braids, and ride horses.
There are approximately 950,000 Indians and
non-Indians living on 286 reservations. A good
number of Indians, at least one million, do not
live on a reservation and never have.
Today, some individuals on reservations live in
houses of different sizes with all the amenities
of modern living while others live in poverty.
Stereotype and Reality


Indians have no reason to be unpatriotic.
Most American patriotism is the celebration of
Euro-American history and interest. EuroAmericans' behavior and policies towards
Indians have been brutal throughout American
history.
Stereotype and Reality


Indians have no reason to be unpatriotic.
This said, Native Americans have fought in
every Anglo-American since the American
Revolutionary War. More than 12,000 American
Indians served in the United States military in
World War I. More than 44,000 American
Indians served with distinction between 1941
and 1945 in both European and Pacific theaters
of war while 4,000 served in Desert Storm. One
in four Indian males are veterans.
Stereotype and Reality


Indians get a free ride from the government.
The benefits Indians receive from the
government derive from treaty agreements,
which purport to compensate them for the
surrender of some or all of their lands. An
examination of these documents—and the
United States’ lack of adherence to many of
these treaties—stands as a major area of
contention.
Stereotype and Reality


Indians' affairs are managed for them by the
B.I.A. (Bureau of Indian Affairs)
Each tribe has its own governmental structure
possessing a variety of self-governing powers.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA)
responsibility is the administration and
management of 55.7 million acres of land held
in trust by the United States for American
Indians, Indian tribes, and Alaska Natives.
Stereotype and Reality


Indians' affairs are managed for them by the B.I.A.
(Bureau of Indian Affairs)
There are 562 federal recognized tribal governments in
the United States. Developing forestlands, leasing assets
on these lands, directing agricultural programs,
protecting water and land rights, developing and
maintaining infrastructure and economic development
are all part of the agency's responsibility. In addition,
the Bureau of Indian Affairs provides education
services to approximately 48,000 Indian students.
Stereotype and Reality


Indians are not capable of completing
school.
Hundreds of Indians graduate from universities
every year.
Stereotype and Reality


Indians cannot vote or hold office.
Indians represent a powerful voting bloc in elections;
numerous Indians hold tribal, state and national offices.
The Native electorate rises above 5% in Districts 1 and
7 in Nevada; Districts 1,2, and 3 in New Mexico;
Districts 2, 3, and 4 in Oklahoma; and in the At Large
Districts in South Dakota, Montana, North Dakota and
Alaska. In selected districts, eligible American Indian
voters account for more than 20% of the voting
population, making them a valuable asset as a voting
bloc to politicians in the area.
Stereotype and Reality


Indians have a tendency toward alcoholism.
Indians are no more predisposed to alcoholism
than members of any other ethnic group.
Alcoholic consumption may have a greater
positive correlation to joblessness, poverty and
poor living conditions than ethnicity.
Stereotype and Reality


"My great grandmother was a Cherokee
Princess.”
So wrong on so many counts. Cherokees have
never functioned as a monarchy, so no royalty.
When was the last time you heard, “My great
grandfather was a Cherokee Prince?” Never.
Stereotype and Reality


"My great grandmother was a Cherokee Princess.”
Probably this myth generated when Anglos overheard
men calling their wives, daughters and lovers a term of
endearment that vaguely translates into English as
“Princess.” Actually this phrase quite the joke among
Native Americans (just not Cherokee). Perhaps—in the
kindest of terms—such claims by Anglos represent a
combination of historical White guilt and a
disenfranchisement with ones own life within dominant
culture.
Stereotype and Reality


Indians are all full bloods or “I am 1/8
Cherokee”
The majority of Indians—like most human
collectivities—are mixed blood. Few
communities in the world practice tribal or linear
endogamy (to marry as close to the blood line as
possible). Again, the stereotype appears clearly:
how many Cherokee announce “I am 1/8
Anglo?”
Stereotype and Reality


Indians are all full bloods or “I am 1/8
Cherokee”
Further, how much “blood” does it take to be
considered “Native American?” Recent court
cases have rules such measures non-scientific
and meaningless. Whatever it means to be
“Native American” [and “Anglo” for that
matter] must be based on something other than
these mythological “mixes.”
Stereotype and Reality


All Indians have an "Indian name."
Most Indians have only a Euro-American name;
a minority of Indians also have "Indian names“;
their name pronounced in their indigenous
language.
Stereotype and Reality


Indians know the histories, languages, and
cultural aspects of their own tribe and all
other tribes.
Few Indians know all cultural aspects of their
own tribe, much less those of the other 561
officially recognized tribes and 200 nonrecognized communities. 19-20th century
practices of genocide and assimilation has
destroyed much of these cultures.
Stereotype and Reality


Indians are stoic and have no sense of
humor.
Indians are as endowed with as rich a sense of
humor as anyone else—probably more.
Stereotype and Reality


Indians like having their picture taken.
Indians find photographers intrusive. How
would you like somebody shove a video camera
in your face—or the faces of your offspring—
make sounds of “Ah” and “Oooh” and behave
as if they had just recorded the missing link of
humankind? Worse still: persons who want to
have their picture taken with “Indians.”
Stereotype and Reality

This presentation
adapted from American
Indians: Stereotypes and
Realities by Devon
Mihesuah, 1996, Clarity
Press.
Descargar

Native American Stereotypes and Realities