Week in the life of a Stereotypical Indian: Native Approps Style

In n8vstereotype, reader participation, stereotyping, week in the life of a stereotypical Indian by Adrienne K.15 Comments

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.

In summary:

This week (January 30th-Feb 3rd)–“Week in the life of a Stereotypical Indian”
Document every instance of Indian/Native stereotyping
…and I’ll share it all next week!

For background, here’s Vincent’s experience:

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.

I’m excited–I think this could be really cool. I think it’s important (on a personal level, as well as a public level) to start to be aware of just how prevalent these images are. It really is incredible, when you start to open your eyes to it all.

Share any questions/concerns in the comments below!
  • this is such an interesting and creative idea!

  • Anjel Craig

    I plan on taking part in this. I live in Flagstaff which has one of the by proportion largest Native communities of any city in the US. Native people including Hopi, Navajo and Zuni are still very much a part of the community and we celebrate cultural holidays here in town. I will try to document instances of stereotypes and appropriations and get phone pics. Thanks for the idea for this

  • Very interesting blog. Cute that you took the Japanese haiku form!

  • Rose Kern

    It’s the annual stock show & rodeo here in Rapid City,SD, already this Monday.. What is that noise (pow wow music playing in the overhead)? An old white man looking at flute display “you people smoke dope with these?”… aahhh cowboy week!

  • Rosa

    Hi, after stumbling upon some quotes from you on an article on the site ‘collectors weekly’, I was very put off by your comments on Pendleton and all the “Manhattan hipsters” wearing the collaborations as a trend. While I can see this is annoying, I think that you ought to be more aware of what stereotypes you throw around. If ignorance and stereotypes anger you, you should be less inclined to stereotype others. You can’t point a finger without three more pointing back at you.

    • koipond

      Wait, wait. Talking about a collection of people who view “the irony” of appropriating cultural artifacts as a fashion trend and commenting on their racism is stereotyping rather than say … I dunno … pointing out the cultural appropriation?

      Just asking.

    • Dawn_mckenna

      Seriously, rich white people having their assholery pointed out is not the same as negatively stereotyping a minority that suffered and still suffers from mass racism and other bigotry inflicted on them.

      That you need to get this “offended” on white hipsters behalf just proves the whole point as to why their behaviour is not cool, because it is widely accepted and fuels racism.

    • Susan

      Does anyone know how to take a “like” off. I accidentally hit that button when I was trying to hit Reply. My bigger dog jumped on the bed and bumped me. Now I can’t figure out how to change it. There is no way I would like this post. I was trying to say that this was like the pot calling the kettle black in my opinion. We all have different experiences that color the way we see things. I am Eastern Cherokee and Choctaw. and my husband is Ojibwe. I’ve been told by a guy that I should like being called a squaw (wanted to ask can I call your mama or girlfriend a whore? but I was too polite for that.) That I should “just get over it” and many other things. Many of which Adrienne has written about on this blog.

      A lot of the stereotypes about us come from old movies and tv shows that were made during a time when we weren’t allowed to even drink at the same water fountains as most of “society”. Most native people during that time, not all but many, were trying to fit in and not stand out. My mom’s generation weren’t as likely to speak about such things as we are today. I know people who survived the boarding schools and people whose aunties were forcibly sterilized without their permission. It wasn’t likely back then that anyone would even listen to us if we were to say “hey, that headdress is sacred and not worn by women” or “we don’t all live in tipis”, or it’s sacrilegious to have those things near alcohol, That last one would probably have been less likely, since we didn’t even get the legal right to practice our own religions until the early nineteen nineties.

      Nowadays, we CAN say what we think and what we feel about these things. I gave a workshop a couple times to preschool teachers, giving them some of my background, in the process. Afterwards one of them came up to me and said “It IS ok if we sing “Ten Little Indians in the Classroom, Isn’t it?” Her tone and body language clearly told me the answer she wanted but I was honest with her. I said “Well, actually.. no it isn’t?” Then I asked her if she would sing “Ten Little Jews” in her classroom after she asked me why not. She made sure I saw where she put her evaluation form, after she filled it out. Hers was the only really negative one I had.

      I totally support Adrienne and this blog. Many of us are used to being stereotyped and disrespected but that doesn’t mean we have to like it or that we can’t call it out when we see it. Just my opinion which may not amount to much but at least it’s mine lol.

  • Molly

    your HTML faield in your links between “email me” and “twitter.” It only links to twitter, no email.

  • So after I read the column in ICT, I did a search for storage wars and “Native American”, looking for the clip. I found a message forum about the show. They were talking about the native “artifacts” and apparently they appeared cheesy to the trained eye. When someone stated that he knew about native craftmanship, another poster replied calling him Tonto… Made me sigh.


  • “Saturday Night Live” just featured not one but TWO sketches with Native American stereotypes. I’m sure it’ll be up on Hulu in the morning if you missed it.

    • Susan W

      I saw that too. I was still unhappy with the Secret Word skit when the Strip Club skit started. I found links to the clips of those two scenes on Youtube.

      In the Secret Word skit, that part is after the 4:36 mark, so it’s close to the end.

      The Strip Club skit was even more offensive. That part starts at about the 3:31 mark.

      If that last link doesn’t work because it says related in the URL, it can be found in the side menu of the first and its called Channing Tatum in a Strip club SNL Feb 4th 2012

  • nails three

    Thrift stores are full of that stuff, and “black americana” (old fashioned racial stereotype hummels, salt and peper shakers, etc). The stores put it out because someone collects that stuff, and I wonder what kind of people do that. If these things are collected so that they can be learned from (like showing how stereotypes can be converted into a commodity and oppressors will readily purchase it, or the kinds of images oppressors make of the people they abuse) I can kind of see the merit, but I bet that most people buy it to resell it or for another non-wholesome reason.

  • j

    how about something positively productive now? like a week in the life of an Indian? Documenting the real and legitimate images of Indigenous-ness that we come across? The woven baskets in our living rooms. Public art by indigenous artists? Us going about our daily lives?

    Deconstructing appropriation is all well and good, but it feels like this component of the dialogue was really missing [in this project that I didn’t take part in].

  • I wish I had seen this when posted, but I’ve been swamped with school. I think my response would be skewed, anyway, as I am currently taking two classes on Native art and am therefore swamped with racism from my classmates, all the time.

    I will say that I moved to AZ from Texas, for school, and I see a LOT more racist stereotypes of Indians here than I did in TX. They are so blatant here, which seems weird to me as Native culture is also so much more visible here.