American Indians

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American Indians

Commonly referred to as Native Americans in the United States and as First Nations in Canada, American Indians are actually a variety of different tribes that form an indigenous race that occupied the American supercontinent long before the European settlement. There have been many stereotypes of the Native American in American and Canadian cultures that have persisted since the early 1800s up to the present time. The inferior depiction of the American Indians can be traced back to around 1820s in areas where they had been conquered by the white settlers and considered to be powerless. Two major types of Native American stereotypes emerged at this time in which they were perceived as either noble or ignoble savages. The noble savage was considered to be a spiritual and peaceful guardian of the land and a dedicated conservationist while the ignoble savage was an untamable marauding demon who scalped settlers (Berkhofer, 1979). After being conquered the ignoble savage was perceived as a drunken thief who was unwilling to work and relied on government handouts. These two perceptions of the American Indian later gave rise to all the present day stereotypes largely portrayed by the media and the movie industry.

Native Indian stereotypes depict them as primitive and childlike. However, the historical realities of American Indians present a completely different picture from what is shown in the media and Hollywood productions. From their physiology, culture, and economic activities, the common portrayal of Native Indians is very different from the reality. A physiological stereotype describes them as having black hair, red skin, brown eyes and big noses. The reality however is that a majority of Natives have dark brown hair while others have a dirty blonde, auburn, and various shades of brown hair. They have either broad or straight noses. Natives have never had a red skin complexion in as much as they were called Red Indians. The stereotype of red skin probably arose from the fact that the first Pilgrims came across Pequot tribe who normally painted their bodies in red color. Another common stereotype is the belief that Native Americans never grow body or facial hair and that their men never go bald. The truth is that many American Indians do grow body and facial ha.............


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