Five Myths about American Indians

Thanksgiving recalls for many people a meal between European colonists and indigenous Americans that we have invested with all the symbolism we can muster. But the new arrivals who sat down to share venison with some of America’s original inhabitants relied on a raft of misconceptions that began as early as the 1500s, when Europeans produced fanciful depictions of the “New World.” In the centuries that followed, captivity narratives, novels, short stories, textbooks, newspapers, art, photography, movies and television perpetuated old stereotypes or created new ones — particularly ones that cast indigenous peoples as obstacles to, rather than actors in, the creation of the modern world. I hear those concepts repeated in questions from visitors to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian every day. Here are five of the most intransigent.

Myth No. 1
There is a Native American culture

 

This concept really took hold when Christopher Columbus dubbed the diverse indigenous inhabitants of the Western Hemisphere “Indians.” Lumping all Native Americans into an indiscriminate, and threatening, mass continued during the era of western expansion, as settlers pushed into tribal territories in pursuit of new lands on the frontier. In his 1830 “Message to Congress,” President Andrew Jackson justified forced Indian removal and ethnic cleansing by painting Indian lands as “ranged by a few thousand savages.” But it was Hollywood that established our monolithic modern vision of American Indians, in blockbuster westerns — such as “Stagecoach” (1939), “Red River” (1948) and “The Searchers” (1956) — that depict all Indians, all the time, as horse-riding; tipi-dwelling; bow-, arrow- and rifle-wielding; buckskin-, feather- and fringe-wearing warriors.

Yet vast differences — in culture, ethnicity and language — exist among the 567 federally recognized Indian nations across the United States. It’s true that the buffalo-hunting peoples of the Great Plains and prairie, such as the Lakota, once lived in tipis. But other native people lived in hogans (the Navajo of the Southwest), bark wigwams (the Algonquian-speaking peoples of the Great Lakes), wood longhouses in the Northeast (Haudenosaunee, the Iroquois peoples’ name for themselves, means “they made the house”), iglus and on and on. Nowadays, most Native Americans live in contemporary houses, apartments, condos and co-ops just like everyone else.

There is similar diversity in how native people traditionally dressed; whether they farmed, fished or hunted; and what they ate. Something as simple as food ranged from game (everywhere); to seafood along the coasts; to saguaro, prickly pear and cholla cactus in the Southwest; to acorns and pine nuts in California and the Great Basin.

Myth No. 2
American Indians get a free ride from the U.S. government

 

The notion that indigenous people benefit from the government’s largesse is widespread, according to “American Indians: Stereotypes and Realities,” by Choctaw historian Devon Mihesuah. Staff and volunteers at our Washington and New York museums hear daily about how Washington “gave” Native Americans their reservations and how the Bureau of Indian Affairs manages their lives for them.

In 1879, a landmark case asked the question: Are Native Americans considered human beings under the U.S. Constitution? This is Chief Standing Bear’s story.

But Native Americans are subject to income taxes just like all other Americans and, at best, have the same access to government services — though often worse. In 2013, the Indian Health Service (IHS) spent just $2,849 per capita for patient health services, well below the national average of $7,717. And IHS clinics can be difficult to access, not only on reservations but in urban areas, where the majority of Native Americans live today.

As for reservations, most were created when tribes relinquished enormous portions of their original landholdings in treaties with the federal government. They are what remained after the United States expropriated the bulk of the native estate. And even these tenuous holdings were often confiscated and sold to white settlers. The Dawes Allotment Act, passed by Congress in 1887, broke up communally held reservation lands and allotted them to native households in 160-acre parcels of individually owned property, many of which were sold off. Between 1887, when the allotment act was passed, and 1934, when allotment was repealed, the Native American land base diminished from approximately 138 million acres to 48 million acres.

Myth No. 3
‘Native American’ is the proper term

 

Commentaries and corporate guidelines address the notion that “Native American” is preferred or that “American Indian” is impolite. During the 1492 quincentennial, Oprah Winfrey devoted an hour of her show to the subject. At the museums and on social media, people ask at least once per day when we are going to take “American Indian” out of our name.

The term Native American grew out of the political movements of the 1960s and ’70s and is commonly used in legislation covering the indigenous people of the lower 48 states and U.S. territories. But Native Americans use a range of words to describe themselves, and all are appropriate. Some people refer to themselves as Native or Indian; most prefer to be known by their tribal affiliation — Cherokee, Pawnee, Seneca, etc. — if the context doesn’t demand a more encompassing description. Some natives and nonnatives, including scholars, insist on using the word Indigenous, with a capital I. In Canada, terms such as First Nations and First Peoples are preferred. Ditto in Central and South America, where the word indio has a history of use as a racial slur. There, Spanish speakers tend to use the collective word indígenas, as well as specific national names.

Myth No. 4
Indians sold Manhattan for $24 worth of trinkets

 

This myth — repeated in textbooks and made vivid in illustrations — casts Native Americans as gullible provincials who traded valuable lands and beaver pelts for colorful European-made beads and baubles. According to a letter to Dutch officials, the settlers offered representatives of local Lenape groups 60 guilders, about $24, in trade goods for their homeland, Manahatta. The best insight we have into what the Lenape received comes from a later 17th-century deed for the Dutch purchase of Staten Island, also for 60 guilders, which lists goods “to be brought from Holland and delivered” to the Indians, including shirts, socks, cloth, muskets, bars of lead, powder, kettles, axes, awls, adzes and knives. The Dutch recognized the mouth of the Hudson River as a gateway to valuable fur-trapping territories farther north and west.

But it is unlikely that the Lenape saw the original transaction as a sale. Although land could be designated for the exclusive use of prominent native individuals and families, the idea of selling land in perpetuity, to be regarded as property, was alien to native societies. Historians who try now to reconstruct early transactions between Europeans and Native Americans differ over whether the Lenape considered it an agreement for the Dutch to use, but not own, Manahatta (the majority view), or whether even as early as 1626, Indians had engaged in enough trade to understand European economic ideas.

Myth No. 5
Mascots honor Native Americans

 

Many people, including some American Indians , hold that naming sports teams after Native American caricatures, such as the Redskins and the Braves, recognizes the strength and fortitude of native peoples. “It represents honor, represents respect, represents pride,” Redskins owner Dan Snyder told ESPN.

A little history: The use of Native Americans as mascots arose during the allotment period, a time when U.S. policy sought to eradicate native sovereignty and Wild West shows cemented the image of Indians as plains warriors. (No wonder all of these mascots resemble plains Indians, even when they represent teams in Washington, Florida and Ohio.)

What’s more, social science research suggests not only that some native people recognize the word “Redskins” as a racial slur and are offended by it, but that exposure to mascots and other stereotypes of Native Americans has a negative impact on American Indian young people. According to a study by Tulalip psychologist Stephanie Fryberg, such mascots “remind American Indians of the limited ways others see them and, in this way, constrain how they can see themselves.” Likewise, in 2005, the American Psychological Association called for the retirement of all Indian mascots, symbols and images, citing the harmful effects of racial stereotyping on the social identity and self-esteem of American Indian youth.


Originally published on 2017-11-22

About the author: Kevin Gover, a citizen of the Pawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, is the director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian.

Source: The Washington Post

Read our Disclaimer/Legal Statement!

Donate to Support Us

We would like to ask you to consider a small donation to help our team keep working. We accept no advertising and rely only on you, our readers, to keep us digging the truth on history, global politics and international relations.

Save

Save 

READ MORE!
What’s Behind Time Magazine’s Putin Demonizing?
“Russia Wants to Undermine Faith in the U.S. Election. Don’t Fall For It.” Thus reads the cover ofTime magazine with a photo of Vladimir Putin on the cover staring at me from shelves as I sit in an airport. Genuinely curious, I check out Massimo Calabresi’s article online. Of course, U.S. elections are almost completely unverifiable and do not even pretend to meet international standards. Jimmy Carter doesn’t even try to monitor them because there’s no way to do it. Much voting is done on machines that simply must be trusted on faith. Whether they accurately count the votes entered is ...
READ MORE
Lawyers Serve Indictment on NATO Leaders for War Crimes
“This is an historic opportunity to demonstrate the even-handedness of international justice” – Michael Mandel, law professor, York University, Toronto, Canada, 1999 NATO leaders found guilty of war crimes in Yugoslavia “NATO leaders acted in open violation of the Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12th August 1949, and the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol I), 8th June 1977 . . .” Dr Will Podmore, The Lancet (June 26th 1999) In the District Court of Belgrade on September 22, 2000, the President of the court, Veroljub Raketic, handed down guilty verdicts against government leaders of NATO countries for ...
READ MORE
America’s Myth of a Peaceful Nation
"We are a peaceful nation," claimed Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson in an interview with Katie Couric late last year. Carson voiced a view that is held by many in our society. Like most people around the world, we naturally like to think of ourselves as a peace loving country. Unfortunately, the record does not bear this out. It, in fact, indicates something quite opposite: The United States has had a long and bloody history of aggression and war making. A survey of history shows that America has either been involved in armed conflict or conducted some form of military operations during 223 ...
READ MORE
“Making America Great Again” by Reducing the World to Ashes?
“In the event of a nuclear war, there will be no chances, there will be no survivors – all will be obliterated… nuclear devastation is not science fiction – it is a matter of fact. The world now stands on the brink of the final abyss. Let us all resolve to take all possible practical steps to ensure that we do not, through our own folly, go over the edge.” Former First Sea Lord, Lord Louis Mountbatten (1900-1979) Strasbourg, 11 May 1979.” As US threats ratchet up towards North Korea, the latest hinging on the accusation that the country attempted a ...
READ MORE
Kosovo and the Jihadist Green Corridor in the Balkans
The Green Corridor[1] is a geopolitical concept with two meanings: (a) The Islamists’ goal of creating a contiguous chain of Muslim-dominated polities from Istanbul in the southeast to northwestern Bosnia, a mere 120 miles from Austria [2]; and (b) The process of increasing ethno-religious assertiveness among the Muslim communities along that route. The process entails four key elements: Expanding the area of those communities’ demographic dominance; Establishing and/or expanding various entities under Muslim political control with actual or potential claim to sovereign statehood; Enhancing the dominant community’s Islamic character and identity within those entities, with the parallel decrease of presence and power of non-Muslim groups; and Prompting Muslim communities’ ambitions for ever bolder ...
READ MORE
Bipartisan Neocons Infesting Washington: What Prospects for America?
US duopoly power replaced the eras of Jefferson, Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt. No JFKs exist, President Kennedy as we recall was a peacemaker assassinated for opposing war, urging nuclear disarmament and the normalization of relations  with the Soviet Union.    New Deal, Fair Deal and Great Society programs are heading for history’s dust bin.  Bipartisan neocons infesting Washington want social justice ended, neoliberal enslavement replacing it, fascist police state harshness enforcing it. America is a gangster state, criminals running it – beginning in the 1990s under Bill Clinton, hardened under George W. Bush, institutionalized under Obama, certain to worsen no matter who succeeds him. US ...
READ MORE
McCain Against the World
In his militarist lust he was near lunacy; his ignorance: profound; he was, in many respects, conventional—numbingly conventional—on Washington’s global role. That was John McCain. This was a man who, post-9/11, promoted measures expected to boost foreign terrorism. “Within hours” of that morning’s carnage, he made himself “leading advocate of taking the American retaliation against Al Qaeda far beyond Afghanistan,” to countries—like Iraq—with no Qaeda ties, where revenge, really, would be aggression. On CNN, aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt, on “Face the Nation” he pushed for assaulting Iraq, stressing the “need to keep telling the American people” about Saddam’s menace, to ...
READ MORE
As the Election Turns: Trump the Anti-Neocon, Hillary the New Darling of the Neocons
Just as the Republican convention demonized Hillary (“Lock Her Up”), so the Democrats are demonizing Donald Trump. They refuse to support any policy that he backs, even when he says something progressive. One might think that at least Bernie’s supporters would applaud Trump’s left-wing transformation of the old conservative, pro-corporate neocon Cheney-Bush core of the Republican Party. But nobody had a single good word to say about Trump’s assertions that he would wind down confrontation with Russia, reduce military spending on the grounds that NATO is obsolete, and oppose the TPP and TTIP as well as rewrite NAFTA’s terms. The Democrats are ...
READ MORE
Establishment Struggles to Maintain Anti-Russian Narrative as the Ice Starts to Crack Under Them
As I have noted before in Strategic Culture Foundation, the infant Trump Administration is engaged in a life and death struggle with the Deep State, the mainstream media (MSM), all of the Democrats in Congress, and a lot of the Republicans too. One issue lies at the heart of the struggle: the determination of Trump’s enemies not to allow any sort of warming of ties between Washington and Moscow. Day after day the MSM run story after story alleging, with no evidence whatsoever, that Trump is a puppet of Vladimir Putin, who stole our election to put Trump in the White House. ...
READ MORE
The Real Reason America Used Nuclear Weapons against Japan
Like all Americans, I was taught that the U.S. dropped nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in order to end WWII and save both American and Japanese lives. But most of the top American military officials at the time said otherwise. The U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey group, assigned by President Truman to study the air attacks on Japan, produced a report in July of 1946 that concluded (52-56): Based on a detailed investigation of all the facts and supported by the testimony of the surviving Japanese leaders involved, it is the Survey’s opinion that certainly prior to 31 December 1945 and in all ...
READ MORE
US Elections: Neither Free nor Fair
Media across the world are literally transfixed by the spectacle of US elections. The Donald Trump-Hillary Clinton, Republicans vs. Democrats battle is captivating enough to distract public attention from other issues. Democracy promotion has been a centerpiece of US foreign policy for over half a century since the days when President Woodrow Wilson crafted a new foreign policy that involved active democracy promotion. The implementation of the «beacon on the hill» concept presupposes that the United States would act as a model of excellence for others to follow is analogous to contemporary soft-power democracy promotion efforts. Lecturing on democracy is a ...
READ MORE
“Unlimited Imperialism”: History of American Militarism
It is the Unlimited Imperialists along the line of Alexander, Rome, Napoleon and Hitler who are now in charge of conducting American foreign policy…Historically this latest eruption of American militarism at the start of the 21st Century is akin to that of America opening the 20th Century by means of the U.S.-instigated Spanish-American War in 1898. Then the Republican administration of President William McKinley stole their colonial empire from Spain in Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines; inflicted a near genocidal war against the Filipino people; while at the same time illegally annexing the Kingdom of Hawaii and subjecting ...
READ MORE
Air Strikes against Syria: Who are the War Criminals?
America is coming to the rescue of Al Qaeda under a humanitarian mandate. The unspoken agenda is to undermine the Liberation of Aleppo.  The pretext and justification for these actions are based on America’s “responsibility to protect” (R2P) the “moderates” in Aleppo from Syrian and Russian attacks and bombing raids. On October 3, the US State Department announced the suspension of bilateral relations with Russia pertaining to Syria (see document below), in response to which, France’s foreign Minister Jean Marc Ayrault was called upon to intermediate at the diplomatic level.  Pointing his finger at Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Jean Marc Ayrault casually accused Moscow ...
READ MORE
The Cold War and Its Origins: History of the Soviet Union (1950-1960)
The Russian Revolution of 1917 terrified the capitalist world. In my last article based on the first volume of D.F. Fleming’s classic “The Cold War and It’s Origins 1917-1960” I traced the story of the attempt to destroy the world’s first communist revolution. 14 Nations attacked the Soviet Union attempting to carve out territory and crush the revolution. They also launched a massive wave of repression at home. Then they attempted to isolate the USSR while they built up Hitler’s Germany as a bulwark against Communism. This lead to World War 2 and an alliance between the USSR, Britain and ...
READ MORE
Paving the Road to the End of NATO
It's no secret that President Trump believes NATO is an anachronism. It's also no secret that French President Emmanuel Macron wants a Grand Army of the EU and a single EU Finance Minister to further integration of the EU into the United States of Europe. He and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have been championing these two things since the day after Macron took office. They are both pushing hard for the EU to conduct independent foreign policy, framing Trump's belligerence as the catalyst for its need now. So, I’m not surprised in the wake of Merkel’s garden summit with Russian President Vladimir ...
READ MORE
Khashoggi vs. 50,000 Slaughtered Yemeni Children: Europe has no Morals, no Ethics no Nothing
The European Parliament has asked yesterday (25 October) for an immediate embargo on the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia, hence sanctioning the Kingdom of rogue Saudi Arabia which is joining the United States and Israel as the main purveyor of crime throughout the Middle East and the world. France still said they will apply sanctions only if it is proven that Riyadh was indeed involved in the killing of the controversial Saudi journalist. Madame Merkel at least days ago said that Germany would no longer supply the Saudis with arms – as a result of the heinous crime committed ...
READ MORE
“Democracy is Pure Fantasy”: Trump vs. Clinton
It’s all over but the postmortems. Trump and Clinton are their parties’ presumptive nominees. Choice for voters in November amounts to death by hanging or firing squad. Democracy is pure fantasy. None whatever exists. Trump was the last GOP aspirant left standing after all others dropped out, an unlikely choice, a surprise winner, prevailing despite party bosses opposing him. Democrat power brokers chose Clinton before primary/caucus season began. The race was over before it started. Voters in November get to choose between a dirty business as usual billionaire racist, demagogue and a recklessly dangerous neocon racketeer, war criminal, Wall Street tool she ...
READ MORE
The Complete History of Monsanto, “The World’s Most Evil Corporation”
First published by Waking Times, posted by Global Research in May 2014, this article provides a historical viewpoint. It is of particular relevance in relation to the Monsanto-Bayer merger. Of all the mega-corps running amok, Monsanto has consistently outperformed its rivals, earning the crown as “most evil corporation on Earth!” Not content to simply rest upon its throne of destruction, it remains focused on newer, more scientifically innovative ways to harm the planet and its people. 1901: The company is founded by John Francis Queeny, a member of the Knights of Malta, a thirty year pharmaceutical veteran married to Olga Mendez Monsanto, for which Monsanto Chemical Works ...
READ MORE
The CIA and the Media: 50 Facts the World Needs to Know
This article  by Professor James Tracy first published in August 2015 is of particular relevance in relation to the “fake news” campaign directed against the alternative and independent media. In a bitter irony, the media coverup of  the CIA’s covert support to Al Qaeda and the ISIS is instrumented by the CIA which also oversees the mainstream media. Since the end of World War Two the Central Intelligence Agency has been a major force in US and foreign news media, exerting considerable influence over what the public sees, hears and reads on a regular basis. CIA publicists and journalists alike will assert they have few, ...
READ MORE
“Mafia State”: Kosovo’s PM Accused of Running Human Organ, Drug Trafficking Cartel
In another grim milestone for the United States and NATO, the Council of Europe (COE) released an explosive report last week, “Inhuman treatment of people and illicit trafficking in human organs in Kosovo.”The report charged that former Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) boss and current Prime Minister, Hashim Thaçi, “is the head of a ‘mafia-like’ Albanian group responsible for smuggling weapons, drugs and human organs through eastern Europe,” The Guardian disclosed.According to a draft resolution unanimously approved December 16 in Paris, the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights found compelling evidence of forced disappearances, organ trafficking, corruption and collusion between ...
READ MORE
What’s Behind Time Magazine’s Putin Demonizing?
Lawyers Serve Indictment on NATO Leaders for War Crimes
America’s Myth of a Peaceful Nation
“Making America Great Again” by Reducing the World to Ashes?
Kosovo and the Jihadist Green Corridor in the Balkans
Bipartisan Neocons Infesting Washington: What Prospects for America?
McCain Against the World
As the Election Turns: Trump the Anti-Neocon, Hillary the New Darling of the Neocons
Establishment Struggles to Maintain Anti-Russian Narrative as the Ice Starts to Crack Under Them
The Real Reason America Used Nuclear Weapons against Japan
US Elections: Neither Free nor Fair
“Unlimited Imperialism”: History of American Militarism
Air Strikes against Syria: Who are the War Criminals?
The Cold War and Its Origins: History of the Soviet Union (1950-1960)
Paving the Road to the End of NATO
Khashoggi vs. 50,000 Slaughtered Yemeni Children: Europe has no Morals, no Ethics no Nothing
“Democracy is Pure Fantasy”: Trump vs. Clinton
The Complete History of Monsanto, “The World’s Most Evil Corporation”
The CIA and the Media: 50 Facts the World Needs to Know
“Mafia State”: Kosovo’s PM Accused of Running Human Organ, Drug Trafficking Cartel

Policraticus

Written by Policraticus

SHORT LEGAL DISCLAIMER: The website’s owner & editor-in-chief has no official position on any issue published at this website. The views of the authors presented at this website do not necessarily coincide with the opinion of the owner & editor-in-chief of the website. The contents of all material (articles, books, photos, videos…) are of sole responsibility of the authors. The owner & editor-in-chief of this website is not morally, scientifically or legally responsible for any inaccurate or incorrect statement in the contents of all material found on this website. The owner & editor-in-chief of this website is not responsible for the content of external internet sites. No advertising, government or corporate funding for the functioning of this website. The owner & editor-in-chief and authors are not morally, scientifically or legally responsible for any inaccurate or incorrect statement in the text and material found on the website www.global-politics.eu

Website: http://www.global-politics.eu