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By Arlene Hirschfelder and Paulette F. Molin Published February 22, A common belief in the contemporary United States, often unspoken and unconscious, implies that everyone has a right to use Indians as they see fit; everyone owns them. Indianness is a national heritage; it is a fount for commercial enterprise; it is a costume one can put on for a party, a youth activity, or a sporting event. This sense of entitlement, this expression of white privilege, has a long history, manifesting itself in national narratives, popular entertainments, marketing schemes, sporting worlds, and self-improvement regimes.
From the earliest period of European colonization, images of Indians found expression in early drawings, engravings, portraiture, political prints, maps and cartouches, tobacconist figures, weather vanes, coins and medals, and books and prints.
Initially, depictions of Native males and females were used to symbolize the North American continent in the international iconography of the day, representations that proliferated. The Indian Queen, an emblematic figure in use by the end of the sixteenth century, symbolized the Western Hemisphere. Her successor, the Indian Princess, became representative of the American colonies.
During the Revolutionary period, America was portrayed as a feathered Indian defying British tyranny in printed materials of the day. As the United States grew, it developed a mythology that helped provide Americans with a laudable national heritage while serving to rationalize the dispossession and conquest of indigenous peoples. Institutionalized throughout the nation and exported to other countries, these images and others include dual portrayals of the good Indian those who help Europeans and the bad Indian those who resist Europeansnostalgic vanishing, brave warriors, romantic princesses, and countless ignoble images of brutality and degradation.
Such representations obliterate or mask the realities of tribal nations struggling to maintain their populations, lands, resources, and sovereignty. Questions about indigenous people often begin with terminology. Some people refer to themselves as Native or Indian; most prefer to be known by their tribal affiliation.
Approximately of these ethnically, culturally and linguistically diverse nations are located in Alaska; the other federally recognized tribes are located in 35 other states. It is illustrated with images from the Jim Crow Museum, drawn from its collection of objects depicting Native Americans and consistent with its goal to tell stories of injustice towards all groups.
Almost any portrait that we see of an Indian, he is represented with tomahawk and scalping knife in hand, as if they possessed no other but a barbarous nature. Christian nations might with equal justice be always represented with cannon and ball, swords and pistols. Throughout U. Such acts include extermination or genocide, theft of Indian lands and resources, captivity and enslavement, forced removals from homelands, and schooling aimed at destroying Native cultures. Violence continues today. A study by the U. Nonetheless, as Tuscarora Chief Elias Johnson has pointed out, American Indians are represented as barbarous, with tomahawk and scalping knife in hand.
In contrast, Euro-Americans are depicted as innocent victims of savagery, especially from Indian males. Increasingly lurid details of Indian savagery also appeared in captivity narratives, published from the s to the s, s of non-Indians captured and held prisoner by Indians. Dime novels, inexpensive booklets first marketed inbecame popular as well. This bestselling fiction portrayed Indians as savages preying on defenseless Euro-Americans.
Wild West shows, performed across North America and Europe from the late s into the 20 th century, dramatized Indian attacks on stagecoaches and cabins as well as mock battles between cavalry and Indians. These shows, and related influences, inspired filmmakers to produce Westerns depicting hordes of Indians attacking Euro-Americans.
As a matter of fact, many American Indians were taken captive by non-Indians, tortured, incarcerated, murdered, and expelled into slavery. Because Europeans and Euro-Americans colonists threatened Native peoples, many resisted mightily to defend their families and homelands. The ongoing perception of Indians as dangerous contributes to negative expectations, interactions, and consequences. Thus, Indians are incarcerated at high rates, encounter discrimination and hate crimes, and experience other negative impacts. Stereotyped Indian violence also le non-Indians to fear Native people.
Such representations prevent others from seeing Native people realistically, including in a range of roles, settings, and occupations. In contrast to the inane stereotype of the Indian as soundless, we know from the vast storehouse of our oral traditions that Aboriginal peoples were peoples of words. Many words. Amazing words. Cultivated words. They were neither wordless nor illiterate in the context Looking for my native queen their linguistic and cultural roots.
Such measures included the establishment of mission and government boarding schools to implement English-only and other harsh policies. With English, a lexicon of words and phrases became entrenched, a shorthand way to refer to all Native people, language reflecting stereotypical attitudes and behaviors. Savage, pagan, injun, brave, buck, chief, redskin, squaw, papoose, and other terms became commonplace. The negative impact was heightened with the addition of adjectives such as wild, dirty, pesky, sneaky, and worse.
Other terms may have been benign, but have been weaponized over time, also by context. Even Pocahontas, the name of a historical figure, is misused as a slur. Compounding slurs, media such as Hollywood films and Wild West shows contributed to the notion that American Indians, regardless of linguistic background, speak a fictional, substandard version of English.
This language became entrenched, endlessly repeated across time and place. Stereotypes sell.
For hundreds of years, merchants have used images of American Indians to advertise and market merchandise. Products include tobacco, associated with Native Americans, advertised via tobacconist figures, or cigar store Indians, and more. The tobacconist figures, made from wood or cast iron, soon became popular across North America. Marketers also invoked Native associations with herbs and plants to sell medicinal concoctions. Popular during the s, Indian medicine shows, a featuring Indian or Indian-impersonator performers, pitched a range of patent or proprietary across the counter nostrums or remedies as cure-alls, among them Kickapoo Indian Salve, Big Chief Liniment, and Indian Stomach Bitters.
The burgeoning advertising industry was patently instrumental to the rise of medicine shows during the period. Native food associations, too, contributed to companies promoting a range of products using Indian names, titles, and images. While minstrel shows have long been criticized as racist, American children are still socialized into playing Indian. Columbus Day celebrations, Halloween costumes and Thanksgiving reenactments stereotype Indigenous Peoples as one big distorted culture. We are relegated to racist stereotypes and cultural caricatures. Being American Indian Looking for my native queen not a profession or vocation.
It is a human identity, tribally specific and integral to Native personhood and nationhood. Actually, the practice has a long history. Sounding war whoops and masquerading as Mohawks, colonial men boarded ships in Boston Harbor and threw chests of tea overboard to protest British tea taxes. White males such as these were the first of many participants to engage in Indian play.
Playing Indian cuts across race, class, gender, age, and group affiliations.
Playing Indian also extends to depictions of animals dressed as Indians in a variety of products, including books and toys. These portrayals are dehumanizing, suggesting that Native people are creatures of fantasy and not fully human. Playing Indian with one-size-fits-all images of American Indians is contrary to actual Native peoples, past or present. Such practices prevent other people from learning about, or understanding, Native America.
As Philip J. Native American mascots have very little to do with Native Americans. They do not, nay, cannot, represent indigenous men and women. Much like blackface, such inventions and imaginings, meant to represent a racial other, tell us much more about Euro-Americans…. They reflect and reinforce the fundamental features of racial and gendered privilege in a settler society, particularly a sense of entitlement to take and remake without consent and to do so without the burden of history, the challenges of knowing, or the risk of penalty.
A popular version of playing Indian arose in the early part of the twentieth century in organized sports, with team names such as Braves, Chiefs, Indians, Savages, Redskins, and Warriors. These monikers, evoking masculine ideals of bravery and aggression, became widespread at a range of institutions, including K schools, colleges and universities, and amateur and professional athletic leagues and franchises.
Such representations have become normalized, a familiar part of everyday America. Audiences, fans or not, are bombarded with radio, television, newspaper, and electronic media coverage. Teams, especially franchises worth billions of dollars, market an astonishing array of commercial products, such as pennants, caps, mugs, plates, notebooks, mascot figures, bobble Looking for my native queen, and even toilet paper.
Starting with infant apparel and other merchandise, marketing is aimed at all age groups, the better to groom fans and keep revenue flowing into team coffers. Hail to the Redskins. Hail Victory! Braves on the warpath. Fight for old D. Although some teams have denied or sanitized racist versions of fight songs and other representations, the historical record reveals the truth.
Through efforts by opponents of Indian mascots, a of institutions, especially at the K and college levels, have changed a range of practices, including team names. Professional teams such as the Redskins and the Cleveland Indians have been the most resistant to change. But I am hurt and often outraged by how my children experience their Indianness in mainstream America. As educator Jim E. Native people are also treated as objects in counting songs, books, and toys. Clinical psychologists report that constant encounters with false images result in Native children internalizing stereotypes that interfere with their developing positive self-images and racial identities.
Likewise, researchers have studied the development of racial awareness, attitudes, and feelings in young children.Looking for my native queen
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