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Discovering Native Americans Essay, Research Paper

Ever since 1492 when Christopher Columbus first discovered the America’s, society has always held a fascination for the Native American Indian culture. Fear of the unknown established early a view of the American natives that was negative and misrepresentative. The western “white” man contrived a perception of the Native Americans as being inferior and savage. Not much has changed since the fourteen hundreds. Today we still hold a perception of Native American Indians that is misrepresentative and for the most part false. Modern day society has been influenced by traditional stereotypes that portray Native American Indians as being the classic Hollywood movie Indians. Stereotypes have robbed the Native American tribes of their individual identities and have clumped the many diverse Native American Indian cultures into one commonly held view of Native Americans.

Since the fifteenth century and still today, American Indians have suffered a false stereotype forced upon them due to society’s unwillingness to learn more about the traditions and cultures of the different Native American nations. Historically, society has educated itself with the names and locations of the different Indian nations, but has remained blinded by the ignorance of not knowing the diversity of the different tribal cultures. Western society has never cared whether a Native American was Iroquois or Creek, in society’s eye they were all simply Indians and were viewed the same. The view that was held was of a ruthless and heartless savage. The Indian was an individual to be feared, an individual who was inferior to the “white” man, and an individual who due to his difference in color and traditions was viewed more of as a beast than a man. The “white” man feared what he did not comprehend, and his fears would establish a long lasting stereotype that would for centuries misrepresent the Native American Indians.

In modern society the Native American Indian is still viewed as it was in the fifteenth century. John Wayne movies and professional sports’ mascots have strengthened western society’s stereotypical perception of Native American Indians. The Hollywood movies have always given the American public a very vivid portrayal of the stereotypical American Indian. He is a “red-skinned” man atop a horse, wearing a war bonnet of bright feathers, his face is adorned with vivid war paint, and across is back is slung a bow and some arrows. His home is a teepee on the plains of the Midwest, he hunts buffalo and fish, and he is a menace to western society. This vision of Native American Indians has reached far into American Society. No more is this stereotype more evident than in the mascots of America’s professional and collegiate sports teams.

The Washington Redskins, the Kansas City Chiefs, the Cleveland Indians, the Atlanta Braves, the Chicago Blackhawks, and of course the Florida State Seminoles are all sports teams whose mascots portray the traditional stereotype of an American Indian. At home games Chief Osceola rides out onto the field atop his horse, wearing war paint, feathers in his hair, and carrying a flaming spear. The vision that this portrays is that of a fearless warrior, which Chief Osceola rightfully was. However, to watching fans the view that they have of the Seminole Indians is the stereotype provided by Florida State University’s mascot. The majority of society knows little about the culture and traditions of the Seminole Indians that sets them apart from other Native American Indian tribes. In the professional and collegiate sports arenas the Indian mascots used do little more than further societies stereotype of Native American Indians.

Today there is little that American Indian tribes can do in order to maintain their existence and preserve their cultures. They are faced with an overwhelming stereotype that hampers their attempts to portray their individual tribal identities to the world. Unfortunately society cares little about the heritage and traditions of the different Native American tribes. American Indian tribes are finding themselves in situations where the only way for them to further their existence and heritage is to adapt toe the traditional stereotype. In order to save their tribes they have to revert to selling themselves to society’s demand for the stereotypical Indian. As in 1492 society is still fascinated by the American natives. Where as back then we feared them, today we want to get our picture taken with them. However, it is not the Cherokee, Potawatomi, or Modoc Indians that we want our picture with. It is the stereotypical Indian with the war bonnet and war paint that we want our picture with. In order so that they can maintain their heritage American Indian tribes find that they have to adapt to modern day society’s stereotype. They are starting to wear war bonnets and war paint when historically their tribes may have never done so before. Commonly one can drive through the states of Oklahoma or Nevada and see signs that read “Come see real American Indians.” Its sad that these proud cultures have to revert to selling themselves off as a tourist attraction just so they can maintain the existence of their heritage.

Ever since the discovery of the America’s in 1492, the “white” man has always had a fascination with the American natives. Unfortunately, history has established a negative stereotype that has haunted the Native American Indian tribes for centuries. They have historically been mistreated and misrepresented by the western society, and continue to be treated so today. Hollywood movies and athletic mascots impede Native American Indian’s attempts to maintain their individual cultures by strengthening the traditional stereotype. As the future continues to look more dismal for Native American tribes, they do what they can to maintain their existence and preserve their cultures.


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