Stereotypes about Native Americans in Films

Stereotypesabout Native Americans in Films

Allindigenous inhabitants living in America are referred to as theNative Americans. Over the years there have been a lot of stereotypesabout the natives America than any other given group in the historyof America. The story of the Native American has been that been thatcharacterized by betrayal and animosity towards them. Ever since thewhite men step in their land, the Native American lost almosteverything including their dignity and culture. In order tounderstand the stereotyping of Native Americans, then one must relatetheir encounter throughout history, which includes their fight forequality, forced to move and all the efforts that wanted to eradicatetheir culture (Kilpatrick281).There have been many stereotypes and false images about the NativeAmericans that only tell one part of the story (Cooper1).

Oneof the earliest false depictions of the Native American is that ofthe red face associated with racist Indian stereotypes which wantedto ensure that the Indians are not employed. It also wanted toportray the Indians as greedy and very corrupt in that regard. Evenbefore the introduction of cameras, Native Americans were alwaysportrayed as scowls and wearing war attires (Kilpatrick281).This proved that they were ready to attack and kills anyone at anygiven time. By this time, the Native Americans were fighting fortheir farms and ability to own land something the government did notwant. People grabbed their lands and when they tried to fight backthey were attacked and brutally punished. This factor led to theirstereotyping as bad people who loved war, which was apparently nottrue.

Thelastof the Mohicans cameinto play at the beginning of the second quarter of the 19thcenturya time characterized with the acquisition of lands by false means.Native Americans were mainly used to fight for the Britain and Francesoldiers who were battling to control the northern territory ofAmerica. The novel tried to paint a new image of the Native Americansand anyone reading it, started viewing the Native Americans from anew paradigm (Cooper1).The Native Americans participating in the war were romanticized bythe author, who depicted them as resourceful and fearlessfrontiersmen as portrayed by Natty Bumpo in the novel. The red manwas now seen to be very wise and a noble character unlike previoustimes where he was barbaric and loved disrupting peace (Cooper1).

Theseevents influenced people like Edward Curtis to paint new pictures ofthe Native Americans. He started slowly and by 1930, he had thousandsof photographs of Native Americans, something that earned him therespect of many people. He was a believer that the Native Americanpeople were indeed good people and this motivated him to compilepictures that he referred to as the Northern America Indian. Curtiscaptured pictures of the Native Americans as people who are noble andvery ready to help. Anyone viewing Curtis pictures was left with theimpression that the Native Americans were indeed normal people whohad a culture to protect (Kilpatrick277).It influenced many people who started viewing the Native Americandifferently. Remember these are people who are living in harshextraordinary situations, but are ready to go out of their way tohelp other people(ReelInjun 1).

Curtishimself was born in a poor family and thus respected the hard work ofthe undermined. In this type also is when American society was cominginto shape and he felt that everyone should be treated with respectthey deserve.

Hollywoods movies have the tendency of depicting Indians with a lot ofstereotypes. Some of these stereotypes presented had a lot to do withtheir way of clothing, personality and their physical nature. TheIndians are often times presented as uncivilized savages. MostHollywood movies show their Indian characters to be having tattoosand big piercing and almost being naked (Kilpatrick280).All these presentations point to the characteristics of the NativeAmericans. Most of the clothes they wear are drawn from the veryanimals they hunt. They are also portrayed as very barbaric andanimalistic in nature killing almost anything they set their hands onwith total in humanity. Buffalo bill was one such example of a personwho fought for the Indian and was a total monster something theaudience will associate with a monster.

Thesefilms produced got away with their false stereotyping as at that timeit was a fight between the American troops and the Native Americans.The government warned their American troops to be presented as noblef them all whose main quest was to maintain peace and order, paintingthe Native Americans to be killers and savages helped them preservethat image (Kilpatrick279).People also had no knowledge of the Native Americans. In fact, manypeople flocked into film theaters to run away from their daily lives.Anything they saw on the screens, they took it to be real and thefilm producers knew his fact well and thus manage to play with theirminds.

Lateron in the early 1930s, the Native Americans began gaining some newfriends who grew tired of the American government failure to addressthe Native American problems (Kilpatrick280).People knew that the Native Americans were on the receiving end andwhat the films were showing was actually not true. The movies werecriticized from capturing the wrong staffs, we see Limerick in one ofhis writing, criticizing hilly woods and advising them to capture theeffects of real estate and not the emotions revolving around theNative Americans.

Thefilms were criticized as only wanting to pass across their ownagendas and not presenting the people with real factual information.Viewers never use to question what they were seeing in films as theyhad no reason to (Kilpatrick281).Later on we see other films being produced that painted the realimages of the Native Americans, all with the purpose of showing theAmerican people the real nature of the American people.

Overthe years there have been use of symbols and names of Native Americanmascots. From 1950, there was a change of attitude towards the NativeAmericans. The Native Americans, tribal names were more than oftenused by nicknaming Americans sport teams (Kilpatrick287).This is how there are names such as Kansas City and the rest. The useof these names had one purpose and that was to be offensive to theNative Americans. Even though the use of Native American names tonickname American team was criticized in the 1960, up to date thetrait is still in play.

Indeedthe Native Americans have undergone a lot of pressure and challengesin integrating with other over the years in the American history.They have been subject of false images and negative stereotyping thathad the sole intention of blemishing their name and cultures. Theirquest to be understood was made harder with the presence of media, avery powerful tool which was not on their side.


Cooper,James Fenimore. TheLast Of The Mohicans.[Auckland, N.Z.]: Floating Press, 2009. Print.

Kilpatrick,Jacquelyn. CelluloidIndians.Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1999. Print.

ReelInjun.Hollywood: Neil Diamond, Catherine Bainbridge, Jeremiah Hayes,

Stagecoach.United States: John Ford, 1993, Film.