Stereotypes and Stereotyping of Native Americans

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The Stereotyping of Native Americans

Until fairly recently the popular culture of American literature and film did not attempt to study the true representations of Indians in North America. Instead they chose to concentrate on the romanticized/savage version of Native people: which is an idealistic view of a Native with long, beautiful flowing hair riding on a horse obsessed with chanting and praying to the savageness of a rowdy, wild Native causing unnecessary mayhem to the white people. This portrayal of Native people in mass media had led to the stereotyping of Natives, which in turn had ricocheted into real life. Not only do non-natives succumb to these ideals, but Natives do as well.

For the last century these representations of the romanticized/savage Indian has been limited to a non-natives perspective such as the novel Pigs In Heaven, written by Barbara Kingsolver and Dances with Wolves, directed by Kevin Costner. These representations, although done with sincerity, lack the authenticity of being projected by a Native person. As Sherman Alexie, author, director, and producer, states: "Only Indians can write about Indians"(Egan 18). The truth in this quote is that a writer expresses their views with compassion from the heart and talent in their blood. That heart and blood of a Native person is authentic. One cannot duplicate the heartache and negativity that a Native person has endured such as alcoholism and poverty. A Native writer such as Alexie understands this concept because he has lived on the Reservation and has dealt with such issues and the negative ideals that a Native sometimes represents. In response to Alexie's work, Shadowcatcher Entertainment producer, Scott Rosenfelt, states: "What f...

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.... The contribution of these Native writers shatters the barrier of placing Native people in a particular mold, a mold that represents the "cookie-cutter" Native. They are responding positively to the modernistic Native and negatively to the "cookie-cutter" version that Hollywood portrays.


Alexie, Sherman. Reservation Blues. New York, NY. Atlantic Monthly Press.

1995. 306.

Egan, Timothy. "An Indian Without Reservations: An Interview with Sherman Alexie." New York Times Magazine. 1998.

Eyre, Chris. Smoke Signals. Shadowcatcher Entertainment. Enit Inc. 1998.

Morris, Irvin. From The Glittering World. Norman, Oklahoma. University of Oklahoma Press. 1997.257.

Morris, Irvin. "Reference: From The Glittering World." E-mail Interview. 2000.

Welch, James. The Indian Lawyer. New York. Penguin Books. 1990. 349.
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