From the book: American Indians: Stereotypes & Realities
by Devon A. Mihesuah

1. Stereotype:

Indians are all alike.

Reality:

In America alone, there are approximately 2.1 million Indians, belonging to 511 culturally distinct federally recognized tribes or an additional 200 or so unrecognized tribes. They live in a variety of environments, either on 286 U.S. reservations, or off reservation in rural areas or cities.

2. Stereotype:

Indians were conquered because they were inferior.

Reality:

Indians were conquered because of their lack of immunity to European diseases.

3. Stereotype:

If Indians had united, they could have prevented the European invasion.

Reality:

Tribes were too different culturally and lived too far apart to fight together as a cohesive unit.

4. Stereotype:

Indians had no civilization until Europeans brought it to them.

Reality:

Indians were civilized. Their cultures were different from those of Europeans.

5. Stereotype:

Indians arrived in this hemisphere via the Siberian land bridge.

Reality:

Indians believe that they were created in this hemisphere.

6. Stereotype:

Indians were warlike and treacherous.

Reality:

Indians fought to defend their lands, sovereignty and way of life from invaders.

7. Stereotype:

Indians had nothing to contribute to Europeans or the growth of America.

Reality:

The contributions of American Indians have changed and enriched the world.

8. Stereotype:

Indian tribes did not value or empower women.

Reality:

Indian women often wielded considerable power within their tribes.

9. Stereotype:

Indians have no religion.

Reality:

Indians are deeply religious. Each tribe has its own religion.

10. Stereotype:

Indians welcome outsiders to study and participate in their religious ceremonies.

Reality:

Indians often practice their religions secretly and want outsiders to respect their desire for privacy.

11. Stereotype:

Indians are a vanished race.

Reality:

There are 2.1 million United States Indians today.

12. Stereotype:

Indians are confined to reservations, live in tipis, wear braids, and ride horses.

Reality:

There is nothing that confines Indians to reservations. Few wear braids and rid horses. Fewer still own tipis.

13. Stereotype:

Indians have no reason to be unpatriotic.

Reality:

Most American patriotism is the celebration of Euro-American history and interest. Euro-Americans' behavior and policies towards Indians have been brutal throughout American history.

14. Stereotype:

Indians get a free ride from the government.

Reality:

The benefits Indians receive from the government derive from treaty agreements, which purport to compensate them for the surrender of some or all of their invaluable lands.

15. Stereotype:

Indians' affairs are managed for them by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Reality:

Each tribe has its own govermental structure possessing a variety of self-governing powers.

16. Stereotype:

Indians are not capable of completing school.

Reality:

Hundreds of Indians graduate from universities every year.

17. Stereotype:

Indians cannot vote or hold office.

Reality:

Indians represent a powerful voting bloc in elections. Numerous Indians hold tribal, state and national offices.

18. Stereotype:

Indians have a tendency towards alcoholism.

Reality:

Indians are no more predisposed to alcoholism than members of any other ethnic group.

19. Stereotype:

"My grandmother was an Indian"

Reality:

Thousands of Americans "wannabe" Indian, but they are not.

20. Stereotype:

Indians are all full bloods.

Reality:

The majority of Indians are of mixed heritage.

21. Stereotype:

All Indians have an "Indian name."

Reality:

Most Indians have only a Euro-American name. A minority of Indians also have "Indian names."

22. Stereotype:

Most Indians know the histories, languages and cultural aspect of their own tribe and of other tribes.

Reality:

Few Indians know all cultural aspects of their own tribe, much less those of other tribes.

23. Stereotype:

Indians are stoic and have no sense of humor.

Reality:

Indians are as endowed with as rich a sense of humor as anyone else.

24. Stereotype:

Indians like having their pictures taken.

Reality:

Indians find photographers intrusive.


For a further explanation of these stereotypes and a list referencing many other sources on this topic, please read: American Indians: Stereotypes & Realities by Devon A. Mihesuah.
All quotes directly taken from the afformentioned book.


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