Native Stereotypes to Avoid Using

A list
by Chris Hibbard

(Author’s note: I chose to write the following based on two years’ worth of studies in Native American Studies faculty at the University of Lethbridge. Particularly in Southern Alberta, there is a very high population of First Nation peoples, and I witness or overhear these stereotypes perpetuated every day.)

Native Stereotypes to Avoid Using

Stereotype #1 – The “Noble Savage” Indian

We all know the examples of this stereotype. This Indian is stoic and silent, brave and strong. He has a fierce pride that he would protect at all costs. He may ride a horse, shoot a bow and arrow, use a tomahawk to scalp his enemies. He never reveals any emotion, nor anything about himself above and beyond what he chooses to reveal. This Indian is dangerous, yet reliable. His word is his bond.

Stereotype #2 – The “In Tune With Nature” Indian

This Indian is a great tracker and can practically speak to the natural world. He knows weather patterns before anyone else, has birds and animals as his companions, can see for miles and never gets lost. This Indian is invisible when he needs to be, and may disappear for months at a time to commune with nature and the spirits of the forest, the water, and the earth.

Stereotype #3 – The “Wise Old Elder” Indian

The wise old elder Indian does not often speak, unless it is to drop a tidbit of profound spiritual knowledge. This Indian is the epitome of moral and ethical reasoning, and is a well of information for young people and any Caucasians who wish to learn native ways. The wise old elder smokes a pipe, speaks quietly when he chooses to, and commands respect and attention with his presence alone.

Stereotype #4 – The “Sexy” Indian

This category includes the Pocohantas-type Indian princess, the beautiful long-legged short skirt wearing ‘squaw’ and the shirtless muscular warrior with his bronze skin and impeccable chest. These Indians are really only good for one thing – sex and romance. Often appearing on the cover of cheesy Harlequin romance novels, these Indians are attractive because they are ‘the other’, the ‘primitive’, the interracial sex object.

Stereotype #5 – The “Drunken Urban” Indian

While we all know of some actual Indians who might fight the following criteria, it is still a stereotype. This Indian mumbles when he speaks, always tries to panhandle change and bum cigarettes, and gets incredibly angry when he is ignored or turned down. The Drunken Urban Indian walks funny, gets tossed out of bars and pubs, and picks fights with strangers. This Indian sleeps on park benches, visits the drunk tank and prison cells frequently, and irritates everyone he encounters. This Indian is nothing but trouble, or good for nothing.

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~ by Chris Hibbard on October 31, 2008.

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