April 10, 2010

Indian toys and games

'Americana Indian' shows how products enforced stereotypes

By Patricia EckerSam Betcher, a junior at Central Michigan University, was shocked that someone had marketed a children’s toy called “Scalp the White Man.”

She saw the toy Thursday at an exhibit titled “Americana Indian: American Indians in the American Imagination,” an exhibit of Native American stereotypes at the Multicultural Education Center in the Bovee University Center.
And:In Baker’s collection of children’s toys is another item called “the Magic Knife” which is a bloody-looking plastic knife laid on top of an image of a Native man wearing feathers in his hair and a grimacing expression.

“It is such a tragedy,” Betcher said.

One part of the broken knife goes through the lower jaw of the face, and the other part of the knife is coming out of the side of the head.
And:One of the items on display, “Go Together Lotto,” a memory board game to “encourage children to connect associated objects with people.”

The only way to win is to connect the Indian with the teepees.

“The Indian doesn’t go with the bathroom or the classroom,” said Baker. “And the Indian is depicted wielding a tomahawk, dancing, and dancing with his arms in the air, as if he was war whooping.

“This limits how people conceptualize Native people. Think about the way culture works. This is a process of erasure.”
Comment:  Someone in the comments section noted that Indians did scalp people. No, really? Gee, thanks for that stunning revelation. That really justifies a scalping toy...not.

Europeans stoned people, drew and quartered them, burned them at the stake, etc. They shipped slaves across the ocean, threw prisoners into ovens, and incinerated them with atomic bombs. Meanwhile, Indians domesticated crops, developed medicines, built cities and pyramids, and calculated astronomical periods.

When you show me a range of toys reflecting negative European and positive Indian behavior, then we can discuss the appropriateness of an Indian scalping toy. Until then, scalping is a stupid stereotype that sends an obvious message about Indians. Namely, that "they" are much more savage than "we" are.

For more on Indian toys and games, see:

Native G.I. Joes
Amazonia Barbie
Happy Meal with Custer doll
Hopi Medicine Man toy
Indians in Playmobil comic
Indian kitsch collection

Below:  One of the objects on display in the Americana Indian exhibit.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Regarding that KKKuster toy that was recently sold at McDonald's in the Northern Plains regions. A friend of mine had purchase a happy meal for his 6 year old kid. Luckly he got one of them KKKuster figures. What we did next for the heck of it, we took KKKuster out in the field and took turns shooting at the figure. Unfortunately but fortunately it was I who shot him bulls eye. No competition and my friend didn't get a chance. It was a good time and I had fun killing Gen. George KKKuster.