By Eric Olson
Instead, the writers largely succumb to the Hollywood expectations. Mirage is respectful of the ways of both modern America and her Cheyenne ancestry, but traditional Cheyenne chants are employed as little more than magic spells, their cultural significance degraded to a plot device. Warpath is a vengeful, powerful Apache warrior with a misplaced vendetta against the X-Men, a warrior whom, of course, also possesses the acute senses of a tracker. The two characters, as they were established, represent the polar notions of “Indianness” that have kept the American Indian a staple in storytelling for so long; nobility and savagery.
As the years passed, they both flowed toward the center, but at that point cultural ties are all but a backdrop for the drama of shifting personality and allegiances. The opportunity to forego stereotypes and develop powerful, meaningful representations of these perpetually misrepresented cultures had been missed.
Thunderbird fits the "savage" model, but I'm not sure Forge fits the "noble" model. He's abandoned his cultural and religious heritage for the world of technology, so he may be the most realistic character of the bunch.
But Olson's basic point is valid. These characters are all superficial representations of what it means to be Native.
For more on the subject, see Predator Has Best Native Superhero? and Thunderbird in Future X-Men Movie?