Native Americans

Pamela Wilson

in Cinema and Media Studies

ISBN: 9780199791286
Published online December 2012 | | DOI:
Native Americans

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What role have fictionalized American “Indians”—and real, living, breathing Native Americans—played in America’s story about itself? Bataille 2001 (cited under Early, Colonial, and Exhibition Images of American Indians) notes that Native Americans have been mythologized by anthropologists, the tourist industry, and popular culture, which have created the “Indian that never was.” As Brian Klopotek has remarked, “The Indian—distinguished here from Native American people—is a stock character in the non-Native psyche, a metaphor rather than a fully functioning human” (Klopotek 2001, cited under Gendered Representations of Native Americans). One of the dominant, mythicized periods of American history inscribed into legend has been the frontier era and the conquest of the American West. The cultural genocide, colonization, and geographical displacement of Native tribes and peoples during America’s westward expansion was repeatedly reinterpreted and reconstructed in popular culture to create new master narratives that painted America’s indigenous peoples as noble primitives, vestiges of an earlier era whose culture was destined to die, or as bloodthirsty and amoral savages whose coexistence with the expanding American nation was not possible. In addition, as Deloria 1998, Bird 1996, Huhndorf 2001, and Chavez 2005 (all cited under Indigenous Peoples in the American Imagination) illustrate, from children’s games of “playing Indian,” Halloween costumes and Boy Scout rituals to New Age pseudo-shamans, media-constructed representations and performances of Indianness still permeate mainstream American cultural practices. In recent years, attention has been focused on new approaches, with the addition of Native American scholars adding their own perspective as well as increased attention to films, journalism, and other media written, produced, and/or directed by Native Americans—narratives that are generally not about the mythic American West but more often about contemporary lifestyles as well as issues of culture, heritage, politics, and identity. These self-inscribed representations are the subject of the second half of this bibliography. Beverly Singer emphasizes that Native Americans today are seeking to intervene in this “running narrative of conquest” and to “rectify and balance the one-sided, stock image of Indians as ignorant, distrustful, and undesirable through continued work in the film industry.” Native artists and activists have taken up the pen, the microphone, and the camera to craft both nonfiction media pieces (to inform, arouse, and persuade a larger public through journalism, broadcasting, and documentary) and fictional narrative media such as literature, feature films, television series, and video games. (For similar issues on a global scale, please see the Oxford Bibliographies article on Indigenous Media.)

Article.  18803 words. 

Subjects: Media Studies ; Film ; Radio ; Television

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