“(Europeans) either hold the New Age view that all Natives sit outside tipis praying to Wakan Tanka—people here think all Indians are Lakota—or it’s the Hollywood image from John Wayne films,” she says. “People don’t see Natives as real people; they see them as film clichés or fantasies. Many people over here believe that Native Americans don’t even exist.”
This ignorance has allowed a cottage industry of ersatz Indians to offer costly, flawed and ultimately disrespectful ceremonies to culturally starving Europeans. Whatever the intent, it has fueled the hackneyed stereotypes of Natives among blue-eyed blonds sporting braids and beads. That reality troubles Banfield, who has spent a good part of her career working on behalf of Native issues.