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Popular Media & Culture

Popular Media & Culture Native Indians Legacies of the past, Misrepresentations of the now Melanie Moncrieffe

Native

Indians

Popular Media & Culture Native Indians Legacies of the past, Misrepresentations of the now Melanie Moncrieffe

Legacies of the past, Misrepresentations of the now

Melanie Moncrieffe

Table of contents 3-4. Introduction : Misrepresentation of the Native Indian 6-8. Teach the children,
Table of contents
3-4. Introduction : Misrepresentation of the Native Indian
6-8. Teach the children, Let the children teach
10. Is the Fantasy at it’s end, or will the epic live on?
12. What’s to come?
13. Works Cited

Mis(s)representation of the Native Indian

Mis (s) representation of the Native Indian The dialogue of cultural representation within the media is

The dialogue of cultural representation within the media is one wherein scholars and those who advocate against cultural

assimilation attempt to bring awareness to the issue.

scrutinizes the Westernized view of minority cultures what is seen? A “melting pot” of homogeneity. Portrayals of visual minorities are often seen as negative, or as the “other”. Other representations of minority culture mock their values in through the process of cultural appropriation. Cultural appropriation is deeply rooted in the veins of popular culture. So, it is problem that is reoccurring over the centuries, and is being naturalized through Western homogenization.

If one

Many people who take part in cultural appropriation have been taught to do so. Blackface was extremely popular and accepted during the early 19th century; yet as we transgress

accepted during the early 19th century; yet as we transgress Tannis Nielson, MDS, 2008. culturally these

Tannis Nielson, MDS, 2008.

culturally these racist practices begin to disappear. Blackface is now seen for what is does: perpetuate racist ideologies about blacks. There is a thorough education about the negative effects of practices like Blackface, however “darky” iconography is still seen in traditions like that of Zwarte Piet, wherein the character, in English “Black Pete”, plays a blackface servant to Santa Klaus. This tradition is popular in the Netherlands and Flanders, which are mainly ho- mogenized nations.

Why is this practice accepted still accepted in a nation like the Netherlands and yet is shunned in North America? For the same reasons that Americans still accept the cultural appropriation of the Native American culture. Issues concerning Native American portrayals date back to early colonization. This is proof that Eurocentric diffusion remains to spread through the media like a colonial contagion. It is taught that dressing up like a Native for Halloween is okay through the portrayal of Indians on television. People continue to support sports teams such as the Washington Redskins, or the Cleveland Indians. Would there be the same support for a team entitled the Washington Mexicans or the Cleveland Niggers?

What of Hollywood? Is it not wrong that “redface” is still practiced in main- stream media? Hollywood continues to cast non-Natives in Native roles.

In the movie version of Stephanie Meyer’s popular “Twilight”books, Taylor Lautner (“The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl 3-D”) plays Jacob Black, a Quileute Indian werewolf. Except for his tan skin, he looks like a typical teen heartthrob. After being cast, Lautner conveniently discovered he has a smidgen of Potawatomi and Ottawa ancestry. That doesn’t change the fact that the producers thought he was non-Native and hired him on that basis. (Schmidt, 2009)

Now imagine a non-Asian actor playing an Asian character. A non-Caucasian playing a Caucasian? Cultural appropriation in terms of the Native American culture becomes extremely problematic because it continually denies the real indigenous context surrounding the Native people. The stereotype is not perpetuated in just the name of a sporting team, as the name is simply made up of arbitrary signs, but in the context in which the name is used. By perpetuating these images mainstream

the name is used. By perpetuating these images mainstream Film Still: “, Tannis Nielson, MDS, 2008.

Film Still: “, Tannis Nielson, MDS, 2008.

media, as journalist Keith Wood’s says, they freeze“…Native Americans in an all-encompassing, one-dimensional pose: the raging, spear-wielding, bareback-riding, cowboy-killing, woo-woo-wooing warriors this country has caricatured, demonized, and tried mightily to exterminate.” (Woods, 2005) This “freeze-frame” of Native culture is true to most minority cultures.

The misrepresented in popular media remembers Natives only at their most popular moment, a lost time where the “Noble Savage” is seen making amends with the foreign colonizers. For the Arabs it is the terrorists the terrorists the media remembers, Blacks are remembered as outspoken and silly, Asians as not proficient in the English language and stuttering for words, Mexicans are shown cleaning houses and tending to children, Jewish as wealthy and stingy shop keepers, and Whites as all of the above. These depictions, when broken down, are nothing but racial propaganda in that they perpetuate negative stereotypes of what the West sees as the “other”.

are nothing but racial propaganda in that they perpetuate negative stereotypes of what the West sees
“Prince of the Prairies”--Gabriel Dumont, Tannis Nielson, MDS, 2004.

“Prince of the Prairies”--Gabriel Dumont, Tannis Nielson, MDS, 2004.

Teach the children, Let the children teach

Teach the children , Let the children teach Although we live in what appears to be

Although we live in what appears to be a culturally advanced society, we lag behind when it comes to certain cultures and ethnicity. Yes, there are thousands who advocate against the misrepresentation of cultures and yet, it is still a predominant issue. A deeper education needs to be implemented in the banishment of these images. I believe that negative stereotypes are perpetuated through generations and naturalized through visual media. People do not understand the damage they do when they dress up as an Indian for Halloween. Why? Because the general public allows for sporting teams to called the Redskins. These images are destroying the Native community. If we want to progress collectively it is im- perative that stereotypes cease to perpetuate in popu- lar media.

I have witnessed a person patting their mouth and waving their hands while chanting at a Halloween party. I had to leave the room I was so ashamed.

a Halloween party. I had to leave the room I was so ashamed. Un-named Tannis Nielson,
a Halloween party. I had to leave the room I was so ashamed. Un-named Tannis Nielson,

Un-named Tannis Nielson, MDS, 2002

I have also attended an authentic Tsuu’ T’ina Pow Wow where

I saw a proud community practicing traditions that are deeply

rooted in their hearts and soul. This awareness is important for the survival and livelihood of Native Americans, whose cultural has become a tool to sell and is mindlessly disrespected.

“How to Feel”, Tannis Nielson, MDS,200

Elizabeth Delacruz who has recently received two national awards for her contributions within art education writes about the mascot issue. Delacruz explains the fallowing:

“Authenticity and history are forsaken in favor of commercial and entertainment interests. But in reality, most Anglo-Americans actually know little if anything about the beliefs, values, cosmology, or cultural practices of Native Americans, past or present.” (Delacruz, 18)

This statement is made true when an American city names their team the Indians and no public outcry is made. Or, when one is made, immediate action is not taken. The only Indian that is viewed as important is from a lost era.

Delacruz also sheds light on the Western adoption of seeing Indianness in the media as normal. She says it begins in childhood and is learned through Western practice such as trading Indian artifacts as a Brownie or Boy Scout. Another example would be the popular use of Indian dioramas in the classroom. In the past, few Westerners had a relevant and true perception of what it is to be Native Indian, so the dioramas often portrayed stereotypes. Action in the classroom needs to be taken. If we cannot rely on the parents of our country to teach our young ones to be culturally tolerable, than it should be brought up at school where these children are bound to have interactions with other ethnicities. Not only should children be taught about prejudice at a younger age, they should be exposed to the multicultural range of art and media that exists.

Native art is excluded in most art history classe as they focus on Eurocentric ideals. When an art student learns about indigenous art, they are exposed to the cave paintings of Lascaux. Why is indigenous art not studied as an important art movement? Why when scholars and officials know and understand that the Native American race is misrepresented do they continue to ignore the emergence to act on it? The issue is being neglected because the Native American voice has taken time to evaluate their rights and re-group themselves after five centuries of colonial oppression.

themselves after five centuries of colonial oppression. Film Still from: “Not Forgotten!”Tannis Nielson, MDS,

Film Still from: “Not Forgotten!”Tannis Nielson, MDS, 2006.

Delacruz also quotes Pewewardy, a Native American scholar, who assigns the term “dysconnscious racism” (Delacruz, 19) to the privileged whites that ignore the perpetuations of these stereotypes. Delacruz says that by allowing this cultural and symbolic violence to continue, those who do not involve themselves in the fight against it are committing the act of “dysconscious racism” and in turn adding to the low-esteem of the Native Youth who harbour feelings of inferiority.

of the Native Youth who harbour feelings of inferiority. Tannis Nielson, MDS, 2002. The Native community

Tannis Nielson, MDS, 2002.

The Native community will continue to break down the stereotypical walls that hold their culture at a standstill, but they need the help. Native Indian teachers will tell the real stories of their people in hopes that their stories are not tainted by the negative images of the Native in the media. This “dysconncious racism” must be dealt with. Yes, there are teachings about Native Indians within in the classroom, and in history and art history classes, but they are narrow and do not represent of the Natives living today. Eurocentric teachings follow this paradigm according to Bat- tiste:

“As such they do not think of Aboriginal peoples as having anything more than anthropological “culture” in its limited sense of concrete objects like beads, buffalo, and bannock. The negative innuendoes in the identification of the peculiarities of Indigenous knowledge are the result of European ethnocentrism based on the theory of diffusionism (Blaut, 1993) in which knowledge is thought to be diffused from a European center to its periphery. “ (Battiste)

If we continue to use Eurocentric and solely Western teachings, are we not perpetu- ating the diffusion of colonial ideals? Our North America is visibly multicultural, and should not follow the same European ethnocentrism that has been taught for thou- sands of years. It is time that we step up as a nation enriched with talent from all races, and acknowledge the contributions made. Native studies should be taught in our schools. Native art should be recognized. The artwork displayed throughout this edition belongs to Tannis Nielson. She is a Metis artist, and all of the subjects in her work depict Native Indians within the last centaury.

Tannis paints old family photographs. She also makes short films, and is a talented photographer. If an outsider were to look at Tannis’ work, they would not notice anything particularly Indian about it. What can be seen is a collection of art. Her art is recognized for it’s artist, Tannis, and not solely because an Indigenous person made it.

Tannis Nielson, MDS, 2001.

Tannis Nielson, MDS, 2001.

Is the fantasy at it’s end? Or will the “epic” live on? There is an

Is the fantasy at it’s end? Or will the “epic” live on?

the fantasy at it’s end? Or will the “epic” live on? There is an obsession with

There is an obsession with exoticism within Western and Eurocentric cultures. There is a long history of having what is considered exotic displayed for all to observe. What is being observed? Is it not the difference between the exotic and themselves? This intrigue is still prominent and active in our society. Westerners have a fantasy constructed around the indigenous people of North America. This fantasy comes to life through the film industry.

We are beginning to see a transgression to what is considered reality in terms

of Indianness. Native Indians are simply being portrayed as normal people instead of exotic or different. In One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1977) we are introduced to

a character who all in the ward call Chief. According to O’Connor and Rollins when

the mute character doesn’t howl, and utters the word “juicyfruit” “a new generation of hope is heralded among Native American moviegoers.” (O’Connor & Rollins, 12) Chief “fools” them all and proves himself not to be deaf and dumb, he is in fact quite bright. Chief represents a movement for Native Indians. It demonstrates the ability to

cast a Native person in a role that is not stereotypically Indian.

Because of the social constraints within the Native community, there was a

lack of Native actors in Hollywood. “So, in spite of Hollywood’s attempts to “correct the record” the movies of this period basically all had one thing in common—“Indians” in the leading role were played by non-Indians.” (Rollins, O’Connoor, 14) There was also the pres- sure of the American filmmaker to cast the “stars” of those times as a pose to casting

a Native that holds little to no name recognition in Hollywood.

that holds little to no name recognition in Hollywood. The need for Native entertainment procured by

The need for Native entertainment procured by Native Indians has never been more important than now. In today’s world, communication and messages are held more valuable than even money. The stereotypical image which is being communicated through popular culture continues to eat away at what is realistically representative of Native culture. There is a wealth of Native artists in film, acting, and art who are ready to show the world who they really are. So, in tern it should be the obligation of Hollywood to accept these ideologies with open arms to aid the fight against stereotypes. In this world popular culture is an extremely powerful tool. It has been used for years to propagate systemic racism.

“Pain of Being”Tannis Nielson, MDS, 2004.

“Pain of Being”Tannis Nielson, MDS, 2004.

What’s to come?

What’s to come ? If we can combine the rich education Native Americans have, and utilize

If we can combine the rich education Native Americans have, and utilize it within the popular media we can destroy these stereotypical views. I find that there is a real lack of determination when it comes to matters of racism. Many people have opted to adapt to the prejudices they experience. We can change the world and strive for humane causes. The Civil Rights Movement was epic. It rid America of segregation and pushed leaders to strive against racist ideologies. We need to act as a community and help the Native community fight prejudice.

a community and help the Native community fight prejudice. “Film Still from film I have Recovered-Nimim

“Film Still from film I have Recovered-Nimim O Ayan” Tannis Nielson, MDS, 2006.

Works Cited

Davies, Wade, and Peter Iverson. “American-Indian Identities in the Twentieth Century.” Magazine of History 9.4, Native Americans (1995): 15-21.

Delacruz, Elizabeth M. “Racism American Style and Resistance to Change: Art Education’s Role in the Indian Mascot Issue.” Art Education 56.3 (2003): 13-20.

Fleming, Walter C. “Myths and Stereotypes about Native Americans.” The Phi Delta Kappan 88.3 (2006): 213-7.

Green, Michael K. “Images of Native Americans in Advertising: Some Moral Issues.” Journal of Business Ethics 12.4 (1993): 323-30.

Rollins, Peter C., and John E. O’Connor. Hollywood’s Indian the portrayal of the Native American in film. Lexington: University of Kentucky, 2003. Print.

Schmidt, Rob. “The ‘redface’ era returns | Indian Country Today | Entertainment.” Indian Country Today. 18 Feb. 2009. Web. 111 Nov. 2009.

<http://www.indiancountrytoday.com/living/artsandentertainment/39793537.html>.

Shanley, Kathryn W. “The Indians America Loves to Love and Read: American Indian Identity and Cultural Appropriation.” American Indian Quarterly 21.4 (1997): 675-702.

“Toward a Decolonized Approach to Aboriginal Knowledge, Language, and Education.” Mi’kmaq Resource Centre - Repository of Documents Related to Mi’kmaq History, Culture, Language. Web. 24 Nov. 2009. <http://mikmawey.uccb.ns.ca/battiste.html>.

All the images used in this issue are peices belong to Tannis Nielson.

<http://mikmawey.uccb.ns.ca/battiste.html>. All the images used in this issue are peices belong to Tannis Nielson.
Harvest--Moissoner,Tannis Nielson, MDS, 2000. 14

Harvest--Moissoner,Tannis Nielson, MDS, 2000.