The stereotypes associated with Native Americans in film and the irony that arises from those stereotypes.
A Good Indian is a Dead Indian: The Stereotypes
The movie Indians are always portrayed as free spirited people with a deep connection to nature in a religious sense. All the Indians come from a tribe of great hunters and horsemen. All Indians live in teepees and wear feathers, headbands, and human body parts. Finally, and most importantly, all Indians can be found in the deserts of the southwest, crawling over every rock in war makeup and skimpy loin cloths. Of course, all of these stereotypes were made up by white men or taken from a short encounter with someone who thought they were an Indian.
Before Indians were forced to live on reservations, there weren’t any fences that separated them from any land, and there weren’t any white people suppressing their religion. Before colonization, Indians were free spirited and connected to nature in a deep way, but not in such extreme ways shown in film. Not all Indians smoked pipes to have visions of their spirit animal and to rename themselves. Although, Indians were nomadic, and they roamed and hunted all over America before they were corralled into unwanted lands and forced to accept Christianity. This drastic change ceased all hunting as well as fishing. Not all Native Americans tribes were strictly hunters. Most Indians gathered food as well as hunted or fished. Not all Native Americans are great horsemen either. Only the Crow tribe exhibits a deep passion for horses. To them, a horse is a member of the family. At the burial of a horse, the Crow people will cry. They rode their horses everywhere and back, from the mountains to their homes, which weren’t always teepees. Indians dwelled in huts or lean-tos made of natural animal hide or tree wood. Their clothes were also made of animal hide, and never human skin, hair, teeth, or fingers. All of the apparel Indians wore in the movies was introduced by white men. Headdresses of feathers were used to distinguish cowboys from Indians in fight scenes, and headbands were worn by actors to hold on their wigs. The cowboys spread these concepts across the entire United States, and not just the southwest. Fact: not all Indians are from the deserts of the southwest. Indians originated from plains and mountains more often that deserts!
Iron Eyes Cody = Ironized Cody: The Irony
Crazy Horse, one of the greatest and most famous warriors in Native American history, will soon be honored with a colossal statue etched into the side of a mountain. The only issue with this monument is that an actual photograph of Crazy Horse doesn’t exist. All experts who have studied Crazy Horse agree that all pictures taken of “Crazy Horse” are phony because Crazy Horse never allowed himself to be photographed. He believed that his image was not as important as his actions or the legacy he left. The carved statue can only be a representation of a great Native American.
At least the Crazy Horse monument will be a more accurate representation of an Indian than the white men in the movies. Because the white men in the film business didn’t trust Indians, they spray painted white people and gave them black braided wigs. The way they walked, spoke, and behaved was completely inaccurate. The only thing the director captured on tape was a white man pretending to understand how a red man carries himself.
The most infamous of these white man/red man fakers was Iron Eyes Cody. He was an Italian man who repressed his identity because of the hatred of immigrants. To be accepted by society, Iron Eyes Cody played a Native American on film. Everyone immediately accepted him as the role he played, and Cody further convinced himself that he really was an Indian. He married a Native American woman and adopted two Indian boys. By this time, Iron Eyes Cody had completely rejected his heritage and believed that he was Native American. To his dying day he tried to persuade the public of his false background. I honestly can’t blame him. The Indians are like the energizer bunny; whatever happens, they keep on going to the steady drum beats of a pink rabbit. Besides, I’m completely convinced that all white people believe they are related to an Indian princess…“Pocahontas herself!”