What is even more striking is that, according to a study by Environics Institute, many non-aboriginals recognize their comic-book characterization of natives, and acknowledge that real discrimination exists.
The federal government, the provinces and aboriginals themselves need to broaden this unsophisticated image, which focuses only on the social challenges natives face, while obscuring the many success stories.
While some non-aboriginals are “inattentive skeptics” who are uninformed about natives, others--especially in Toronto are “cultural romantics,” who appreciate native art and culture, but are unlikely to know any actual aboriginals. “Connected advocates,” on the other hand, are most likely to support the achievements of aboriginals, and to understand the role discrimination plays.
These findings are based on the Urban Aboriginal Peoples Study, which probed the views of both aboriginals and non-aboriginals in 11 Canadians cities. This week, Toronto results were released.
Only through increased engagement and interaction between aboriginals and non-aboriginals will negative stereotypes be eroded. That means bolstering cultural exchange programs, and making sure all primary and secondary-school students are exposed to native culture and history--as well as to their modern-day triumphs and challenges. “Too many Canadians view aboriginals as relics of history,” said Ginger Gosnell-Myers, a member of the Nisga’a First Nation, and the study’s project manager. “They need to understand the realities of aboriginal life today.”
"Inattentive skeptics" sounds like the majority Americans who deny the evidence in front of their faces. "Cultural romantics" sounds like the Hollywood liberals who love the idea of Indians but won't hire any actual Indians in their productions. Meanwhile, I'm a "connected advocate," as are many Newspaper Rock readers, I trust.
The final paragraph above reiterates what I've said about educating people. We need to expose people to modern-day Indians and their stories. That's what I'm doing at Pechanga.net, in my comics, and here.
For more on the subject, see:
70% think Indians are extinct
"Absolute fear" over powwow photo
Modern Indians are less Native?
"Little Yummy Banana" in beads and feathers
Classmates thought Alexie would shoot them
and the rest of my postings on education.
Below: A comic-book characterization and shameful stereotype.