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.