September 05, 2012

Primitive Indian in gas-tax cartoon

Tribal Gas Stations Get a Sweetheart Deal in Washington

Gov. Chris Gregoire says she was forced to give tribes a break on taxes, but some lawyers say that doesn't pass the smell test.

Comment:  What's interesting here is the Dan Carino cartoon used to illustrate this article.

That's Gregoire on the right. The issue is the state's gas-tax compact, which the article calls a "sweetheart deal." Gregoire's gas can is labeled "gas tax compact," and she's obviously pouring gas on the flames.

Unfortunately, nothing else is clear. Pouring gas on a fire is a metaphor for encouraging a bad result. And the bad result in this case is...smoke signals? How does a puff of smoke suggest that Indians are profiting from an allegedly unfair deal?

Conceptually, the cartoon is a failure. But the real problem, of course, is the stereotypical Indian. He's got a buckskin dress-shirt, a feather in a headband, and a big hooked nose. More subtly, he's got pointed ears and a 5 o'clock shadow, which make him look faintly disreputable.

This Indian is making smoke signals because any technology from a handwritten letter to the telegraph to telephones and the Internet is beyond his reach. He's clearly out of date by a couple of centuries. Moreover, he looks more like an Eastern Woodlands Indian (like Jay Silverheels the Mohawk Tonto) than an Indian from Washington state.

In short, the image is badly stereotypical. Yet he's paired with a 21st-century white woman in a modern business suit. Conclusion: Indians are primitive; white people aren't.

This depiction is so typical and "normal" that most people won't think about it. It shows us how the mainstream's view of Indians is stuck in the 19th century. We're civilized and they're savage--the message we've seen and heard a million times

For more on the subject, see Indian Chief Bust at White Faux Taxidermy and Race in Revealing Eden.


dmarks said...

Looks like Hillary on the right.

Anyway, A bad political cartoon, as it bashes a what is intended to be real Native.

Anonymous said...

Justin Bieber needs to stop spreading memes, and people need to stop thinking of Justin Bieber as an expert on native law.

Rob said...

Okay, Anonymous, but this posting has nothing to do with Bieber or his claims.