Native American Identity and Treatment
Throughout history, Native Americans have been the focus of many stereotypes and relocation in the 18th and 19th centuries. These factors have had an imminent impact on the history and culture of many Native American tribes, like the Choctaws, Chickasaws, Creeks, and many other tribes in North America. From this time and onwards to the 20th century and beyond, Indians were exposed and exploited with the use of the media, mascots, and propaganda. This put a negative image on their identity and they were perceived as inferior race.
In the book A Different Mirror, the author describes and illustrates how the U.S. government planned to control and ultimately remove Native Americans from their current territories. President Thomas Jefferson initiated the land-allotment program as a “principal strategy for taking territory away from the Creeks, Chickasaws, and Choctaws”. After the Choctaw treaty of 1805, Jefferson’s initiative was to transform “the Choctaws into farmers”. This marks the beginning of Indian exploitation by the federal government. Even after become integrated into society like becoming “property owners and producers for the market”, they were still not well perceived by the white Mississippians in the area. Eventually in early 1830, the Choctaw Nation was abolished and negotiations began to remove the tribe west of the Mississippi River. At first the Choctaws rejected the agreement issuing that they did not want “to sell the land of their forefathers”. Despite the rejection of the deal, the Choctaws were forced in signing a treaty with the U.S. or “be governed by Mississippi state law or … If they resisted, they would be destroyed in a few weeks”. Their culture and identity were broken after they’re forced to move from their homeland and not given proper compensation.
In the article I hated Tonto (Still Do), the author gives his own experiences on Indian stereotypes and how the film and media industries manipulated Native Americans into looking like savages and antagonists. He even mentions how the films he has watched over the years has affected his perspective on Indians, “I’ve seen so many Indian movies that I feel like I’m constantly accompanied by ominous music. I always feel that something bad is about to happen”. The author goes on to list how cinematic Indians differed from Indians in real life society, such as “cinematic Indians never had jobs”, “cinematic Indians were rarely played by Indian actors”, and “cinematic Indians were deadly serious”.
Finally, in the movie In Whose Honor, the main focus on Indian mascotry and its effect on Indian culture and society. Charlene Teters, one of the main characters of the documentary, is a first against ‘The Chief’, the mascot of the University of Illinois, but she then refocused her efforts towards offensive mascots in different sports teams around the U.S. Although immediate change did not come, institutions such as the University of Illinois justified the use of ‘The Chief’, saying it represented Indian history and culture, but it was viewed as a stereotype and misrepresentation by Teters and others. This misrepresentation can affect identity and treatment because it can suggest a state of embarrassment in a person, which affects the
m mentally and emotionally.