Today on Indian Country Today, columnist Vincent Schilling wrote a column detailing his numerous encounters with the “stereotypical Indian” over the course of one week, demonstrating how inundated we are with these images on a daily basis (the purpose of my blog!). I absolutely LOVE the idea, and I want to get a bunch of us to do it as well!
So, this week, I want you to document every instance of Indian stereotyping you come across. Include the things you would normally dismiss as “not a big deal”–The girl wearing a shirt with a stereotypical Indian design, the use of terms like “sitting Indian style” or “Let’s have a powwow about this”, the man wearing a Redskins jersey on the bus, the newspaper article that characterizes Indians as extinct, a bumper sticker, an old western on TV, etc. Write it all down, email it to me at the end of the week, and I’ll share the experiences on the blog. When possible, snap a picture! You can email me, or if you’re on Twitter, you can tweet things to me as they happen, use the hashtag #n8vStereotype (kinda long, any better ideas?).
I’ll document my own encounters as well, though admittedly mine are way more prevalent than normal because I have google alerts and reader emails sending me constant images–but I’ll hone in on the everyday experiences to share with you.
So over the course of one week – I decide to pay very close attention to the stimulus that entered my brain regarding the definition of an American Indian person. I don’t know if it was coincidence – much like if you have ever ridden in a VW bug and you suddenly notice all of the other VW Bugs on the freeway – but I was absolutely amazed at what I experienced from all visceral fronts.
It started with television, of course. I was watching an episode of Storage Wars, when the auctioneer is talking with the other guy that has purchased a unit of Native American artifacts. I was frustrated that ancestral property was being sold for a few hundred bucks but then fuel was added to the fire; unsurprisingly within 30 seconds the comments about scalping started. And so began a telling week.
In my car driving all over Hampton Roads in Virginia, the NFL team adopted by the region is the Washington Redskins. Bumper stickers, T-shirts, jackets, sweatpants, window decals all made their way into my brain for what seemed a hundred times a day. I have been tempted many times to hire a graphic artist to create a giant decal of other “skin-color”-Skins characters alongside the Redskins logo – but then I fear coming across as racist. Truth be told I don’t want to offend another ethnicity – but why is it okay that we are still portrayed this way?
The week continued, I went to a local thrift store – admittedly a guilty pleasure of my wife Delores and myself – and once again I was surprised at the amount of American Indian “education.” In the first glass case sat a large plastic Indian chief next to Mickey Mouse and Santa Claus and a few aisles over was a cheap dream catcher in a plastic bag with a 99 cent tag. I also saw a lunch bag with Indian markings and found in a stack of comic books daffy duck with an Indian headdress standing next to a tipi on the front cover.