Stereotypes of Native Americans

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Cited as a document by Marshall (2013) who wrote about the Oka Crisis, there is an article that mentions the fact that the Indigenous people’s claims went unheard for decades and that even though the Federal government bought the golf course (that was on a land presumably deemed a possession of a tribe nearby) to stop its expansion as planned or the building of the luxurious condominiums, the Mohawk protesters still have not been remitted their land yet.


Images of Indigenous people that I recall from my childhood always would be of the same type whether from movies, films, or books. They would depict people who wear close to nothing, with arches in hands, feathers on the head, showing their face with scars and a look that I can now interpret as not trusting anyone who is not any of theirs.  


The three comfortable stereotypes that the media takes refuge about Indigenous people are to portray them as:

a) villains, as one can see in clips posted by Framesinmotion2007 in 2007 on YouTube referenced below. Hollywood Western movies show Indigenous people as creatures that are harmful to the white man, mainly because they do not want to change this image from what they have always publicized to their white movie theatre audience;

b) victims, sarcastically, so they do not really be taken seriously by those who could advocate for them as the victims they really are;

c) noble environmentalists, by making such myth like the one numbered three in TopTenz’s video (2017) according to which many First Nations (as called in Canada) or Native Americans (as called in the US) would worship nature whereas in fact they respect it as everyone should but does not.

Why does the media do this? Orsini explains why the media does that on page 252 when he writes that journalists cover aboriginal matters as any other topic on journalists’ long lists. News outlets do not have journalists specialized in this kind of topic as one would have to be in politics before covering Parliament Hill, for instance, Orsini continues. Add pressure deadlines, the practical characteristics of stereotypes when writing articles, and the fact that the Indigenous people were never the ones telling their own story anyway.


Michael Orsini, before he started covering the Oka conflict for The Montreal Gazette, did not have any experience with Indigenous issues at all. He explains (Ladner 253) that he was surprised to find himself “covering one of the defining moments of Canadian-Aboriginal  relations.” There are many reasons it must have been so: Orsini’s niche interest in journalism was in healthcare; he was not of aboriginal origin and was hardly exposed to those types of issues when he was growing up in the “disadvantaged southwest region of the city (of Montreal)” (255); The Gazette was covering aboriginal issues only because those were touching non-aboriginal people; and scholars in college never put any emphasis on the importance of that niche.


            When Michael Orsini argues that Canada’s media suffers from a bad case of “Johnny come lately,” he points out that Tom Flanagan (Ladner 256) is right when he affirms that the “Aboriginal pathology” is the way that mainstream media always portrays the Indigenous to readers as though there is something inherently wrong with the First Nations. Orsini (Ladner 256), therefore, is quite right when he says that Canada suffers from a bad case of “Johnny come lately,” because he is referring to the coverage that takes place especially when “communities are at their most vulnerable” (Ladner 256).

Works Cited

Framesinmotion2007. "How Hollywood stereotyped the Native Americans." 31 October 2007. 8 November 2018.

Ladner, Kiera L. This is an honour song: twenty years since the blockades. Ed. Kiera Ladner and Leanne Betasamosake Simpson. New Edition. Winnipeg: Arbeiter Ring Publishing, 2010. Paperback. 8 November 2018. .

Marshall, Tabitha. "Oka Crisis." 15 July 2013. The Canadian Encyclopedia. 8 November 2018.

TopTenz. "Top 10 Common MISCONCEPTIONS about NATIVE AMERICANS." 7 April 2017. 8 November 2018.

August 14, 2023




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