Opinion

Bethany Yellowtail: Mainstream media maintains stereotypes





"For those of you connected to Indian country via cyberspace you’ll see that there has never been a more exciting time to be Native American than the present. What I see when I scroll down my newsfeed are a ton of brilliant beautiful Native folk making waves on and off the reservation. I see health and wellness programs, American Indian lawyers and entrepreneurs, hilarious videos full of Indian humor, Native athletes competing at the professional level, language programs and cultural preservation in education, I see hope and opportunity for our youth. Musicians, artists, models, photographers creating dynamic cutting edge images, actors and actresses in feature films and TV commercials, and my all-time favorite, Natives in fashion.

But how and when does the rest of the nation see us—those people who aren’t connected to the inter-tribal cyber webs of Indian country? They see us when the Kardashians and Gwen Stefani “play Indian” on TV and in music videos, when Paul Frank throws an “Electric Powwow,” when the GAP releases a “Manifest Destiny” tee, and when a war whooping Victoria’s Secret model is adorned in turquoise, chicken feathers, synthetic buckskin (and leopard bikini) and she sashays down the runway to the beat of her own drum.

They see us in the generalized image of the “Hollywood Indian,” war whooping, warbonnet-wearing, romanticized, sexualized, buckskin-beaded beings of the past. They see “us” in the stereotypes that the mainstream media continues to perpetuate."

Get the Story:
Bethany Yellowtail: It’s an Exciting Time to Be an American Indian (Indian Country Today 11/16)