"Tribal Hunter" is worse off than "Circus Clown": 2010 Indian Legos

In Legos, noble savage, Tribal Warrior by Adrienne K.10 Comments

Time to meet the 2010 Lego “Tribal Hunter,” the smiling dude above. Note his “buckskin” outfit, beads, eagle feathers, warpaint, long hair, and bow and arrows. Pretty much every stereotypical marker that I can think of (see this post for more information about those markers). But lest you be offended, read his description below. He’s not a violent warrior, he’s not in the past–he has an ipod! And he doesn’t kill animals–just pokes them! (I’m not kidding. Read it.):

Tribal Hunter

“Nature is both beautiful and very ticklish.”

The Tribal Hunter is a skilled, wise and noble tracker who is at one with the wilderness. He lives off the land, his only possessions a hand-made bow and quiver (though some say he also has an MP3 player hidden somewhere, and that he’s secretly a great dancer). There is no better hunter alive, but he does not hunt to eat – instead, he prefers to prove his skill in a most unusual way.

If an animal is famous for being difficult to sneak up on, you can bet that the Tribal Hunter can be found creeping silently toward it, his bare feet making not a sound on the dry autumn leaves, until he suddenly jumps out to surprise the unsuspecting creature with a friendly poke. Fortunately, he is also a very fast runner, because most of the time he ends up getting chased by something with very big teeth and a very short temper. But that’s all just part of being the best hunter around!

(The full page can be found here)

I think this serves as a great example of how a “Noble Savage” stereotype can be just as damaging as a fierce-scalping-war-like character. So let’s see. “Tribal Hunter” is skilled, wise, and lives off the land–playing into the stereotypes of Natives being mystically connected to the land and nature. He has a bow and arrow and is the best hunter around–because he creeps silently through the leaves (like every “Indian scout” in every movie ever). But to make sure you still remember he’s “modern” he’s rumored to have a mp3 player, and *gasp* is a good dancer. Though it’s not confirmed. Thanks?

But don’t worry all you helicopter parents concerned about the amount of violence to which your child is exposed! This “hunter” doesn’t hunt/kill to eat animals (god forbid). He tickles them. If that isn’t infantilizing Natives, I don’t know what is. I just picture this clown-like Indian jumping out of the bushes with a lopsided grin and poking a buffalo with a maniacal laugh.

If you go to the Lego page, you can see along the side the other “characters”–there are some occupations, like deep sea diver and nurse, but most are things like Ninja, Caveman, Robot, Zombie, etc. Just like I mentioned in my post about headdresses at Yale Class Day, Indians are placed as a fantasy character, pretend, not a real group of people. To add insult to injury, these characters are given ratings for “Skills” (strength, creativity, and speed). Here are “Tribal Warrior’s” skill ratings:

3 stars for strength, 2 stars for creativity, 4 for speed. Solid ratings, I guess? But here are the “Circus Clown’s” ratings:

Circus Clown is just as strong, more creative, and faster than Tribal Warrior. Fitting, and proves my point exactly. We’re no better than a clown.

Lego “Tribal Warrior”: http://minifigures.lego.com/en-US/Bios/Tribal%20Hunter.aspx#Tribal%20Hunter


Ivy League Graduation Appropriation: http://nativeappropriations.blogspot.com/2010/05/ivy-league-graduation-appropriation.html

Treasure Madness: Time to Remove Chief Scramble: http://nativeappropriations.blogspot.com/2010/04/treasure-madness-update-time-to-remove.html

(Thanks Virtue!)
  • Rob

    Chief Illiniwek probably would be the top-rated Lego figure. He’d have both the Indian and the clown skills.

  • It’s so true, in America’s popular imagination, Indians are placed in some fictional/fantasy category.

    I always like to make the comparison to pirates, ninjas, and cowboys. All of these are rooted in history but have become so twisted and stereotyped thanks mostly to popular culture- literature, films, TV, etc.

    But as I remind everyone, when you got that questionnaire from the government a few months ago, tell me, was there a box to check off with the word pirate next to it? How about ninja or cowboy?

    Well, there is a box on the U.S. Census for American Indian. That’s the difference!

    Now imagine these toys life sized. Wait, you don’t have to. Check it out: http://drawingonindians.blogspot.com/2010/05/oversized-plastic-toy-indians-by-yoram.html

  • Stephen, the census comparison is PERFECT. I always struggle with the best way to point out that a “cowboy” or a “viking” are not the same as an Indian. love it!

  • Rob

    Putting on a clown costume and makeup probably takes more creativity than putting on the ol’ leathers and feathers. So I can see the creativity ratings. But the speed ratings should be more like Tribal Hunter 4, Circus Clown 1.

  • I hope Sherman Alexie and Nila NorthSun write poems about this. I know I will

  • Hi Adrienne,
    I’m really happy to have found your blog.

    I’m writing to see if you might consider giving permission for this piece to be cross-posted to Love Isn’t Enough (loveisntenough.com)? We’re a blog about race and parenting, and I think this piece could inspire some really important discussion.

    Please let me know what you think! Thanks so much.

  • Thanks so much Julia, go right ahead!

  • Thanks, Adrienne. It’s up now. http://loveisntenough.com/2010/06/28/tribal-hunter-is-worse-off-than-circus-clown-2010-indian-legos/

    Please join the conversation if you’d like.

    We also had a recent discussion–about a reader who was trying to convince her (white) mother that the mother should not wear a headdress–that might interest you. http://loveisntenough.com/2010/06/24/open-thread-84/ I’d welcome your voice.

  • I’m a Black Native (1/2 American Indian, 1/2 African American to be politically correct) from one of the Pueblo Nations in NM, and I have to admit, I LOVE this Lego figurine (along with other “Tribal” Lego Figures)! I find that “stereotypical” things like this are a reflection of what mainstream society deems “Native American”, “American Indian”, or “Tribal”. I know enough of our history to believe what is or isn’t truly Indigeous to/of our people. Having said that, objects like the Tribal Lego or Indian mascots do not offend me because they are, in my opinon, created exaggerations, which is something I’ve a hard time getting angry or offended about. Throughout American history, there have been numerous lines crossed by non-Indigenous folk when it comes to negative stereotyping and having Native American iconic figures as mascots, but I do not belive the Tribal Lego has the “speed” to cross the line. 😉

  • i know longer know what to think…to be represented at all in current culture…to be a stereotype that embodies the ‘mythical’ instead of the other stereotypes of drunken, poor, uneducated…oh wait! those aren’t sterotypes! those are our sad reality. unemployment, drop-out, suicide…damn…i’m glad that little lego isn’t hanging from a rope with a 40 clutched in his brown hand.