Before the invention of film, a stereotypical perception of Native Americans was embodied in art, fiction, and entertainment. Stereotyping of Native Americans can be categorized under three major themes: (1) the history of Native Americans compressed and portrayed under a single period of time; (2) Native cultures interpreted through white values; and (3) the grouping of the more than 600 different Native American societies under one general category. Because of its ability to present moving images, film played a major role in perpetuating the stereotypes of the Native Americans as riding horses, screaming, killing, and scalping people. Film, like any other form of art, reflects the culture of the society and at the same time, contributes to that culture; it embodies the society's values, beliefs, and social structure and assists in transmitting culture to mass audiences. Myths and stereotypes about Native Americans are alive today because television and film, as media with mass appeal, perpetuated misconceptions. The representation of Native Americans in films was mostly restricted to one genre, the Western. As a type of American mythology, the Western profited on the myths which it perpetuated. A Senate subcommittee in 1969 conducted a survey which found that white society characterized Native Americans as lazy, drunken, and dirty, which was concluded to be based on a history created by the white man to justify his exploitation of the Native American. In order to restore the Native American's image, the myths and stereotypes on which America was built need to be confronted. (Contains 39 references.) (AEF)
In: VisionQuest: Journeys toward Visual Literacy. Selected Readings from the Annual Conference of the International Visual Literacy Association (28th, Cheyenne, Wyoming, October, 1996); see IR 018 353.