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This article discusses the various stereotypes of Native Americans present in Western societies. American Indians are indigenous peoples native to the supercontinent of America prior to European settlement, often referred to as Native Americans (in the US) or First Nations (in Canada). This article primarily discusses stereotypes present in Canadian and American culture, but the same or similar stereotypes are present in many other Western societies as well.[citation needed]

In North America

The discontinued mascot of the Atlanta Braves baseball team, Chief Noc-A-Homa ("knock a homah" --a homer, home run).

Excessive focus on one of the most serious problems some Indians and reservations have, American Indian alcoholism can result in application of an ethnic stereotype to all American Indians. This is unfortunate as American Indians are often less likely to drink than the general population.[1]

Native Americans were also portrayed as all-bring fierce warrior braves ---often appearing in school sports teams' names until such team names fell into disfavor in the later 20th Century. Many school team names have been revised to reflect current sensibilities, though professional teams like the Kansas City Chiefs, the Atlanta Braves, the Cleveland Indians, and the Washington Redskins continue. Some controversial upper-level Native American team mascots such as Chief Noc-A-Homa and Chief Illiniwek have been discontinued; others like Chief Wahoo and Chief Osceola and Renegade remain.

The Media Awareness Network of Canada (MNet) has prepared a number of statements about the portrayals of American Indians, First Nations of Canada and Alaskan Natives in the media:

  • Westerns and documentaries have tended to portray Natives as stereotypes: the wise elder, the aggressive drunk, the Indian princess, the loyal sidekick, obese and impoverished. These images have become known across North America.
  • Native Americans have been stereotyped as nature lovers or devoted environmentalists who believe that all people must respect it. This is shown in TV, comics, and even games. An example of this is Nightwolf from Mortal Kombat.
  • Hollywood's portrayal of the American West essentially used Native tribes as a malignant presence to be wiped out or reined in, or depicted as a form of local "wildlife".
  • Portrayals of Native characters as primitive, criminal, violent, rapists, deceptive, lower intellect, or as passive and full of childlike obedience, extended to TV, movies, novels, radio talk shows and comics.
  • In the 1980s and 1990s, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) made efforts to improve the portrayals of Aboriginal people in its television dramas. Spirit Bay, The Beachcombers, North of 60 and The Rez used Native actors to portray their own people, living real lives and earning believable livelihoods in identifiable parts of the country.
  • U.S. television has been slower to respond to criticisms of native American stereotyping, although there have been a few efforts to change the situation.
  • Stereotyped issues include simplistic characterizations, romanticization of Native culture and stereotyping by omission—showing American Indians in a historical rather than modern context.[2]
  • Native Americans are perceived as rich per gaming revenues. Not all tribes own tribal gaming operations/establishments and many tribal groups have issues on not everyone of their tribal ancestry can't obtain paychecks if they can't prove their tribal membership roll.
  • The claim that all Native Americans have a vast amount of knowledge about medicine, even surpassing modern medicine using items they find in nature.
  • The claim that Native Americans cannot grow facial hair is a common misconception and stereotype. Some tribes have possessed genetic traits to grow beards and most Native Americans can grow facial hair. The Pacifid type Native Americans have the most facial hair. Pacifid can be found on the West Canadian coast, eastern Alaska, and in outskirts of northwestern U.S.A. and in enclaves on the Rio Grande.[3][4][5]

Historical images of Native Americans with facial hair (see last list item, above):

See also


  1. ^ *"American Indians and Alcohol"
  2. ^ Media Awareness Network. "Common Portrayals of Aboriginal People"
  3. ^ "Amerindian Pictures Painted by Those Who Were There". Hutchison Research Center. Retrieved 2008-05-08. 
  4. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions - Page 2". WWW Virtual Library - American Indians, Index of Native American Resources on the Internet. Retrieved 2008-05-08. 
  5. ^ "Iroquois History". Jordan S. Dill. Retrieved 2008-05-08. 


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