An #OwnVoices Discussion on Native American Representation // stereotypes & lack of seeing my culture in the media

Today’s post is going to be a personal one. Probably the most personal one I’ve ever written. Truly, I don’t quite know how I’m going to write this post because only recently have I been thinking about my identity.

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If y’all didn’t know, I am a Native American, but not fully, since I’m at least half-white, but I have a lot of Native American in my blood and only recently have I realized what this means.

I’m a minority.

I’m a person of color. Or, well, biracial.

And I didn’t even realize it.

You’re probably sitting there wondering “Savannah, how come you are just now realizing this now?” Well. Here’s the thing. I was never properly educated on the gray undertones of ethnicity and race and all of that.

I knew about my Native American-ish all of my life and I always felt something in my heart twist when Native Americans appeared on television or were mentioned in books. The thing is. I never saw myself as one of them. Why? It’s simple. I blend in.

There have been times where people at school have called me Indian or would always turn my way/ask me questions when we learned about Christopher Columbus and Pocahontas in school, but I still never felt like I could call myself a person of color because I could blend in as white.
by some twisted logic, i guess i assumed that i was white?? hahah this is why educating is important, my friend

But it’s not just that. My people. The Native Americans, the true original inhibitors of this country we call the United States were here before anybody else. We are the original Americans and yet… we are barely ever talked about. It’s almost like we don’t even exist. Like we only existed in the past.
omg so all native americans in the 21st century are time-travelers, me included o.O

nativeamerican2

When Indigenous help i need to use my spell corrector every time i use this word people are mentioned in books, TV shows, movies – anywhere in the media – we are talked about as if we are a thing of the past. Like we no longer exist. This is so wrong. This is why I never felt like I could identify myself as a minority or anything other than white.

I am nearly 18 years old. I’ll ‘officially’ be an adult in just shy of 1 month (yay!) and I just realized this only a couple of months weeks ago. I see myself as a pretty self-aware individual. I know my strengths and weaknesses. I know that I’m not perfect or always right. I’m an advocate for diversity and equal rights, but I never quite knew my own identity – and I’m honestly still trying to figure it out.

The reason I am writing this post is… I don’t know… to make this ‘new’ discovery about myself somehow official? Or maybe I’m trying to spread awareness about something I care about. Something that is never talked about, not even in the book community where diversity has been the number one priority as of late.
haha yes i am exposing everybody

I guess this post is kind of here to share a little piece of myself with y’all, a piece of myself that I only just recently accepted and am now ready to start exploring. I’m lucky to already have the support of almost 1,000 people (i still can’t believe i’m almost there) that follow me so now I feel like I am bringing all of you on this journey with me of self-discovery.

Enough of that. Let’s get to the meat of this post! Because, boy do I have a lot to talk about today.

I’m going to talk about the way the media portrays Native Americans, and frankly, just how I’ve observed others acting towards my people (this makes me so happy to be able to say you have no idea i am nearly in tears writing this post)

Common Stereotypes and Misconceptions:

  • abuse of substances (alcoholism, drugs, etc.)
  • the Indian princess is often compared to Disney’s Pocahontas, appears to look more ‘American’ (ie: WHITE), with lighter skin, a small waist, small feet, long hair and big almond shaped eyes. She is youthful, energetic, innocent and usually a martyr willing to sacrifice herself for others.
  • The squaw is looked upon negatively and more dark. She is usually the ugly sister to the Indian princess and is the opposite of innocent. She has probably had many sexual relationships and thus has many children. This term has been used in negative ways, so it’s considered highly offensive.
  • red skin to reflect their ‘explosive’ and ‘violent’ nature *eye-roll*
  • violent, short-tempered, dirty, and basically barbaric.
  • live in teepees. okay. maybe that was true in… 1812?? and teepees are SO COOL so i don’t take offensive to this. give me wifi and a mini-fridge and i’m all set on living in a teepee!
  • but seriously, don’t assume that we still live in teepees. i bet there are some indigenous tribes out there that still do, but immediately assuming is kind of stereotyping actually, it’s really stereotyping
  • we know the secret ways of natural healing passed down from our ancestors. hahaha, please do not assume that we (or, well, i) know this because if you come to me asking to cleanse your soul i’ll splash cold water on you and call it a day and maybe charge you a hundred bucks what? how else do you expect me to pay for books

whendoigetpaid

There are honestly so many more I could mention, but I think you get the general idea.

A few things you should never do:

  • wear a headpiece  as an accessory. it’s disrespectful, period.

headpiece

  • dress up in traditional native american garments as a costume. it’s like if i … wore a hanbok, put my hair up in a bun held together with a pair of chopsticks, and told everyone that i’m dressed up as an empress from the [insert name here] empire/dynasty (lol sorry i don’t know the correct term). it’d be like i’m either a) claiming to be of korean descent which i am obviously not or b) stripping them of their culture and identity.

native_american_costume

  • believe any of the misconceptions i mentioned above. or give into the stereotypes because although they can be true, most of the time they aren’t.

A few things you SHOULD do:

  • advocate for pro-native american rep in the media. it’s so scarce to the point where i feel like we’re trying to be cut out from existence.
  • support indigenous-led organizations and schools as much as possible.
  • call out people when you notice them saying/doing something that could potentially be classified under stereotyping or racism-ing?
  • support me, your friendly, non-aggressive, slightly too-white (and NOT RED!!!), native american friend 😀

one way you could do this is by checking out my #ownvoices wip here. wow my self-promo game is strong today

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This post was a lot of fun to write. I educated myself by researching and I honestly have never felt more connected to my true self. This feels cheesy to say, but it’s the truth haha. I wrote a lot so most of y’all probably ended up skimming, but I hope that you had at least a small amount of fun that I had 🙂

Are you Native American/Indigenous? What are your thoughts on the representation of Native Americans in the media? Let me know!

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36 thoughts on “An #OwnVoices Discussion on Native American Representation // stereotypes & lack of seeing my culture in the media

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  4. Thank you for this. My partner is Native American (half white) and encounters these issues. I love that at such a young age you are representing something very important. I agree with Annie–what books do you like? I really enjoy Joy Harjo and Winona LaDuke . . .

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Thank you for writing this post! Have you read any good ya books with Native American rep? I read and enjoyed An Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, but I 1) obviously should read more than just one book about a Native American and 2) am hesitant to support this author what with the recent sexual harassment stuff? I honestly can’t think of any other books I’ve read with Native American rep, which sucks.

    Liked by 2 people

    • thebookprophet

      I haven’t read that book, actually. I honestly thought by the title that it meant Indian as in Asian Indian o.O. Ah that’s really unfortunate 😦 I have only read one book with native american rep that i can think of

      Liked by 1 person

  6. AHHHH congrats on realizing that you’re not white!!! ❤ that's so great!!

    I completely AGREE. There is such a lack of Native American representation in the media, which just completely SUCKS? And then people also call Native Americans INDIANS, which is so annoying and completely unfair to BOTH CULTURES. It's not that hard to correctly label. :/ Anyways, this post was great! I liked the stereotypes that you've listed because unfortunately I've seen them many times in popular media…

    Liked by 2 people

    • thebookprophet

      Thank you ❤ I mean we are sometimes referred to as Indians, which I do also think is weird but also I've seen online that some Natives find the term Native Americans offensive?? But this is what I call myself and I don't see how it's offensive? Indian is worse cause that term is kinda already taken?? And it just confuses people even further (me included haha).

      Liked by 1 person

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  9. It’s so great you realized you are a POC! I read a ton about the American Indians when I was a kid. I loved those books! ❤️ Its a rough period in American History because yeah, a bunch of white people displaced the indigenous group. I guess “young people” don’t much enjoy this type of history or at least want out there only what they want. Because many of the younger generations are saying the Holocaust didn’t even happen. *shocked face* But slavery is brought up all the time. Asians are discriminated against all across America, specifically in colleges, where they only want a certain percentage to be Asian. I don’t hear a lot about this either.

    So I really hope you keep sharing ideas like this! We need to keep educating, especially the young, who are starting to pick and choose what’s important from history. 😀

    Liked by 2 people

    • thebookprophet

      I never learned about Native American history in school – just about Christopher Columbus. It’s almost like everything I was taught just glossed over the Europeans coming in and basically wiping out an entire race of people 😦 Lmao seriously?? People actually think the holocaust never happened?? WHAT EVEN?!?! And gosh ~ I *kind of* know about the Asian discrimination college-wise but not much. I believe it was touched on a bit in Genie Lo but I can’t quite remember. Like… just because a large percentage of college enrollments are Asians doesn’t mean that a) they’re just another stereotype/statistic and b) can’t bring anything valuable to the university! I do plan on writing more posts about my Native American side in the future for sure (maybe around thanksgiving hahaha i have a lot to say there)

      Like

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  11. This was awesome! I loved Native American history as a kid, I read so many books about Native Americans. And my dad is from New Mexico, so I had several Navajo friends. I think it’s so cool that you’re Native American! I read books about white kids being adopted into Native tribes in history, and as a kid in foster care, I really, really wanted to be adopted into a Native American tribe.

    Have you ever heard of Mary Jemison? She was taken into an Iroquois tribe as a child and chose to remain with the tribe her entire life.

    Anyway, that’s my small tangent about wanting to be Native American growing up. I’m kind of embarrassed now, because I definitely dressed up in traditional Native clothes a lot (and no one told me it was racist?) it’s a good thing we can all grow and learn!

    Also, I am very excited for your #ownvoices WIP! There’s several books featuring Native Americans that I’d recommend.

    Julie of the Wolves is about an Alaskan Native and her journey across Alaska. This book is intense and SO GOOD. Published in 1972, so probs has problematic stuff, too. But an AMAZING story.

    There’s also the book about Mary Jamison, but it was published in 1942, so it might be problematic? I just remember falling in love with the way the Iroquois cared for the earth and each other.

    The Girl Who Chased Away Sorrow: The Diary of Sarah Nita, a Navajo Girl
    One of the Dear America books about the Navajo Long Walk. I cried. It’s really moving and heartbreaking.

    Wow, that’s a long comment. 😳 I hope my excited ramblings makes sense? Also, thanks for sharing your thoughts and such personal feelings. It’s really beautiful. 💕

    Liked by 2 people

    • thebookprophet

      Thank you for the long comment!! I know that I have probably done some stuff when I was younger that could’ve been seen as racist as well, it’s all about growing and learning from it 🙂 And it also always depends on why you are wearing the outfit (like, for halloween, it’s a big no-no, or to wear a ceremonial headpiece because it ‘looks cool’) I added those books to my tbr to maybe check out some time! Thanks for the rec’s, I’ll have to read them 😀

      Liked by 1 person

        • thebookprophet

          Yes! Like, people dress as native americans for halloween and honestly it’s kinda disrespectful?? that’s what thanksgiving is for (lmao i forgot that holiday even existed, this itself makes me angry but that’s for another day).

          Liked by 1 person

  12. I love this post! It makes me so sad because we are getting a lot better with POC rep in media, but hardly any of it includes indigenous people, and if it does, it’s done badly. I’m so glad that you are now coming to terms with your identity, that’s amazing! (Also I think a term that might help is “white-passing”, if you haven’t heard of it? 💕) And this is not really related to representation in media, but I found out recently that Native Americans/Indigenous people get discriminated A LOT, and sometimes more than black people (which surprised me because I always thought that black people got the worst discrimination/hate crimes against them — showing that media really doesn’t talk a lot about indigenous people). Anyways, I need to educate myself more on what indigenous people have and are going through. But I’m so happy that you have accepted and are exploring your identity now! I really really hope you find media with good rep 💞

    Liked by 2 people

    • thebookprophet

      I might have to use white-passing! Because a lot of people mistake me as white all of the time (even myself once upon a time #yikes) Yeah, to this day the few Indigenous tribes/Native Americans that are still living on plantations are constantly being forced to sell their land by the government in order to build housing developments and such on. It’s honestly disgusting because it’s never talked about (though the topic has been touched on a bit in some TV shows, but it’s never properly explored). Thank you so much May ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I do feel like Native Americans are talked about as if they’re a thing of the past, which just SUCKS. And those stereotypes are just… gah. I mean, okay, they’re stereotypes for a reason–meaning there ARE people like that. But people shouldn’t assume that EVERYONE in your culture is the same!!! We’re all unique people and shouldn’t be tied down to certain stigma. I’m not Native American; I’m Asian, though, and therefore also POC, so I could relate to a lot of this. :/

    – Aimee @ Aimee, Always

    Liked by 2 people

    • thebookprophet

      Yeah, unfortunately. Like, we still exist!! Assuming everyone in a group of individuals is the same is not just stereotyping but it’s also generalizing which is therefore by extension a form of racism ~ it’s tiring, I bet you can understand the struggle *sigh*

      Like

  14. Okay, I should’ve realized when you used the #OwnVoices for the WIP in the latest tag you did.
    I’ve always wondered though if you’re mixed, but I can’t pinpoint it and I don’t know if it would be rude if I asked -__-;;

    Hmmm…I think (not counting Peter Pan, and Pocahontas), I think I’ve only encountered Native Amercian rep in Heroes of Olympus series & Trials of Apollo (Piper McLean, she has Cherokee blood from her father’s side), and in an episode of Dr. Bull, where one of his client is from the Indian Reservation. (Oh, and Twilight LOL My friends used to drag me to the cinema, against my will, when the movies came out).

    Liked by 2 people

    • Accidentally sent this before I finished.

      Anyways, continuing from above, I’m not sure if the Native American rep is good or not, because I’ve never really read/watch that much books or movies/shows with Native American rep

      Liked by 1 person

    • thebookprophet

      Thank you for the consideration 🙂 I wouldn’t have minded, though! I haven’t read the Heroes of Olympus and Trials of Apollo yet though I need to (especially now)! I can always count on Rick Riordon, though, he’s honestly the best. Usually the Native American rep has to do with Indians living on reservations, which is also an assumption that’s not always true, but I wouldn’t quite classify that as bad rep. Thanks for letting me know about these!

      Like

  15. Hmm, now that you mention there’s indeed not a lot of native american characters in books/films i’ve come across.
    The ones i remember are in Parks and Recs and my favourite video game The Secret World. Now, i have no idea if these are good representations or not… in the game there’s an entire section where the player has to solve mysteries based on native american traditions/folklore/myths and there are plenty of native american characters and stories and all sorts of monsters from their myths which i thought were cool, but i could be wrong.

    Liked by 2 people

    • thebookprophet

      The thing is, it took me so long to realize it myself too! You don’t realize the lack of rep until you start thinking about it. I haven’t seen/played either of those but that game actually sounds like a lot of fun!

      Liked by 1 person

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