February 03, 2010

"Half Indian and half human?"

Wayne Newton advocates for Virginia state recognition of Patawomeck Indian

By Fredrick KunkleThe Virginia-born tenor, wearing a highflying pompadour and a pair of alligator-skin cowboy boots, set the town aflutter as he argued for the state's official recognition of the Patawomecks--a tribe whose name, in slightly different form, now belongs to the river flowing by the nation's capital.

Playing in the General Assembly building--what had to be one of the smallest venues of his career--Newton, 67, described hearing stories from his grandfather about his Native American heritage and absorbing his appreciation of the culture. Both of Newton's parents were half Native American: His father was Patawomeck and his mother was Cherokee. Newton also displayed a picture of his grandfather in full-feathered regalia and passed around a heavy green sash that bore what Newton called a peace medal his ancestors received from Gen. George Washington.

Speaking in a husky voice, Newton also said that when he told his 7-year-old daughter of their heritage, she replied: "Does that mean I'm half Indian and half human?"

"I realized I had let her down," Newton told reporters after the brief appearance, saying more must be done to preserve the tribe's place in history.
Comment:  Why would Newton's daughter think Indians aren't human? Because of a million stereotypes portraying them as savages, demons, and monsters. As nightmarish cartoon characters only vaguely resembling human beings.

We see several examples of this every week. The Stilwell savage, the SCALPED marauders, the Neverland Indians in Peter Pan, the Jack Chick comics, Injun Joe in Tom Sawyer and Warner Bros. cartoons, the "fierce" Yanomami, the pseudo-Indians in Avatar, the Quileute werewolves in Twilight, and on and on.

Again, I say to defenders of Stilwell, SCALPED, and other stereotype sources: If your products aren't giving children like Newton's daughter the idea that Indians aren't human, what is giving them that idea? Name the specific sources you think have given them that idea. Put up or shut up, stereotypers.

For more on Wayne Newton, see Newton Stumps for "Newton Indians" and Wayne Newton's Legal Battles. For more on what Americans think of Indians, see "I Thought John Wayne Killed You All" and The Influence of Movies.

Below:  "Singer Wayne Newton, a member of the Patawomeck tribe of Virginia, testifies during a House of Delegates committee meeting at the Capitol in Richmond, Va., Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2010. The committee passed a bill that would officially recognize the Patawomeck tribe. Chief Robert Green, left, looks on." (Steve Helber | AP)

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