December 07, 2009

"What Americans know ... comes from movies"

'Myth buster' for Indians

Leslie Hannah seeks to educate Americans about native cultureLeslie Hannah, an assistant professor of English at Kansas State University at Salina, is on a mission to change the way the world sees American Indians.

Hannah, a Cherokee, is originally from Tahlequah, Okla., home of the headquarters of the Cherokee Nation. Addressing groups about his Cherokee heritage and dispelling many misunderstandings about American Indian culture have made Hannah into what he considers a "myth buster."

Leslie Hannah"I hate being stereotyped," Hannah, pictured at left, said, "and I think you would be shocked to know how many people know only stereotypes about Indians. America knows very little about its indigenous peoples, and generally what the nonnative world does know about Native Americans is wrong. What Americans know about American Indians generally comes from movies."
Comment:  I wish I had a central repository of all the Native experts who have said our understanding of Indians is based on movies and other media. It would be a fitting rebuke to the know-nothings who claim "a movie is just a movie" but can't explain where they think people have learned about Indians.

As I wrote in The Harm of Native Stereotyping:  Facts and Evidence:I don't know whether to laugh or cry when people say things like "Indians need to learn to separate entertainment from reality." These people need to learn where the public's misunderstandings and misperceptions come from. If not from the media, then where?

If anyone has an answer other than the media (i.e., stereotypes in the media), I haven't heard it.
If any new readers want to tackle this question, feel free. Tell us where people learn about Indians other than the media.

For more on the subject, see The Influence of Movies.

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