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Popular Culture. Native American Communities


Indigenous people represent a unique combination of historical, economic, political, religious and diverse cultural influences. Impressions and interpretation of the land and the traditions shaped American culture bringing unique beliefs and aspirations followed and shared by millions of people. This survival of a close link between religion and ethnic identity helps to understand the way Americans tend to think and act.

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Globalization and integration processes have forced many Native Americans to assimilate and become a part of the American society. According to statistical results, “the Native Americans population is growing. According to the 2000 census data, there are 2.5 million Native Americans in the United States, up from 1.9 million in 1990” (Morton 37). In spite of great benefits and advantages, assimilation into American culture brings Native Americans grievances and disillusions.

Thesis Assimilation and new social changes have brought Native Americans such problems as alcoholism and infectious diseases, false social images in media news (TV and press) have resulted in lack of social support and negative stereotyping which cause great suffering and psychological burden to native population.

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BBC and Reuters, the Times and the Look portray that low class location prevents many Native Americans to obtain social respect and opportunities available for white and black majority. For instance, it is difficult for Native American families to give good education for their children.

From an early age, their children are excluded from from society. It means that they visit pre-school courses and sections for low class families; they go to low prestigious schools (The United States Commission on Civil Rights, 2001). They receive poor primary education because of social position of their parents. In ten years, they become workers or service labor unable to obtain high paid job and step over to a higher social class.

The most disturbing facts concern wrong social images of Native Americans depicted by the media. While much attention goes to larger groups such as African Americans and Hispanics or Latinos, increasingly Native Americans’ views are heard on treatment of their people in the news media. Generally, their criticisms echo those of the larger groups, but in addition, Native Americans criticize the use of imagery. They say journalists failed to understand Native American cultures, history, and treaty rights and misrepresented them when reporting conflicts such as those over fishing.

They criticize mainstream reporting on the rise of Native American casinos for not describing adequately the tribal sovereignty that make them possible. Finally, mainstream coverage is cited for too often depicting Native American people and communities as historical artifacts or museum pieces who has no contemporary existence. Journalism educators pay attention to preparing their students to work in a multicultural world. Again, though more notice is given to the larger African American and Latino or Hispanic groups, Native American concerns also surfaced. These generally are aimed to remind viewers of the complex cultural and legal issues surrounding news about Native Americans, and to explore the nature of stereotyping in the media (Thomason 243).

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As in the 1990s, the variety of Indian images in the press increased. But, perhaps in keeping with the hard-nosed “me” orientation of the 1990s and public cynicism of the 1990s, there were fewer romantic images. Stories depicting Native Americans as exotic people from the past or degraded Indians who were beset by poverty and social problems persisted, though modified to fit the times. Although Native Americans were not routinely identified as “braves,” “squaws,” and the like in the mainstream press, stereotypical language continued to crop up.

It seemed to appear more often in stories in which Indians were peripheral to the action than in stories specifically about their concerns. The story selection also reinforced imagery. Despite attempts to broaden the definition of what was considered news, stories of conflict, the unusual, and the bizarre still rated prominent placement. When these values were applied to stories about Native Americans, a numerically small group with little political or economic power, mundane but significant stories about their communities were less likely to see print (Mckelvey 28).

The facts show that lack of government support and intervention campaigns are the main causes of the problems mentioned above. On the one hand, the US government does not help Native Americans to assimilate; on the other hand false media images worsen the problem depriving many people to enter American society. Clearly articulated goals against alcohol and HIV/AIDS will help to identify the true purpose of the inter­vention, facilitate public understanding and debate around legitimate health purposes, and reveal prejudice, stereotypical attitudes, or irrational fear, and exploration of more intrusive measures are permissible were clearly necessary.

Social agencies should launch campaigns against the drinking and should educate Native Americans about the adverse effects of drinking and diseases on their health. “There are likely to be a variety of cultural, psychological and biological factors that distinguish Alaska Natives from the majority population with respect to alcohol use and the development of alcohol problems, it is also appears that there are many similarities” (Hesselbrock et al 150).

The main reason is that if the provision of service or benefits programs does not adequately protect public health, more restrictive policies may be warranted. The “disconnect” is rooted in official schizophrenia–at least when it comes to federal policy toward native Americans” (Mckelvey 28). Governments sometimes feel public pressure to respond to an urgent pub­lic health concern with restrictive or punitive measures.

For example, public opinion may blame Native Americans, drug users, homosexuals, sex workers, or other disenfranchised populations for the health threat. A searching examination of a range of less restrictive alternatives can uncover policies that not only defend the rights of the individual, but also are more worthwhile for the population as a whole. “Native Americans who have an strong Native Americans identity and are greatly involved in their traditional culture may respond better to a treatment program that takes their culture into account, although there is no empirical data to suggest that this will result in improved outcomes” (Thomason 243).

I suppose that the second important measures are that public opinion should call for civil commitment offering alcohol addicts incentives and services. Stress, portraying a self-image and cultural pressure are found to be the indisputable causes of cultural decay. In terms of the crisis of identity is an interpretation of the self that establishes what and where the man is in both social and psychological terms. It is important these steps and decisions must be made in an emergency, precluding deliberative reasoning and assessment of scientific evidence.

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Recent TV news and press releases claim that lack of education and low social position leads Native Americans to such problems as sexually transmitted diseases and alcoholism. The lack of HIV/AIDS education, prevention, and quality care on reservations has encouraged many Natives to migrate from reservations to urban areas. Native population is similar to that of society at large, with men representing 82.6 percent of the cases and men who have sex with men constituting the largest segment of Native American AIDS cases, 5%. The second largest exposure category for Native male adult/adolescents is men who have sex with men and inject drugs, 17%.

Since males account for the largest portion of AIDS cases for Native American, and men and women who have sex with men make up the main exposure category, it is critical that we focus our attention on this population to stop the further spread of HIV/AIDS in tribal communities. Lack of understanding and discriminatory treatment of two-spirit men creates an environment where HIV/AIDS can spread unimpeded. Knowledge of gender and sexual variance in Native societies are limited, but what is known is that some tribal communities had more than male and female genders and participated in a variety of sexual orientations (Mckelvey 28).

I suppose that the media discourage and discriminate against Native Americans and their culture. Native Americans do not differ from other nations: African-Americans or Latinos who positively portrayed by the media. To some extent, false social images of Native Americans show discrimination and racism against ethical minorities. If the roots of color are found partly in widespread acceptance of the one drop rule. In other words, that objective value structure is to be found in given social forms that provide shared meanings, phenomena that are entirely absent from the artificial world created by males.

From this perspective, media can never be neutral between competing ways of life but must preserve the form of life in which individuals are embedded. The males are not prior to social arrangements but constituted by them. This approach clearly undermines that purported universalism which characterizes much of normative mode, and would seem to limit social criticism to an exploration of the meanings of forms of life. “Many people in Indian Country desire the trappings of middle-class American life–cars, televisions, stereos, jobs, money–but do not want to lose their Indianness or sense of belonging to place” (Minerd 10)..

The clash of cultures showed how journalistic practices can lead to flawed images and coverage. Reporters from many states descended on the sprawling, isolated reservation to cover the story. Some were Native Americans, but not necessarily Navajos. All were under deadline pressure. They could not observe the Navajos’ traditional four days of deep mourning and still get their stories. Also, journalism required facts, in this case, names. Journalists felt compelled to intrude on privacy and tradition to get their stories. Their views also found their way into some mainstream publications, where they could resonate among journalists and the public alike.

Whether it was due to the vigilance of Native Americans or the greater economic power of a few tribes or journalism’s attention to multicultural issues or expanding definitions of news or some combination of these, the images of Native Americans in the 1990s press multiplied. Stereotyping did not end, as the examples cited illustrate, but it was mitigated by a variety of other portrayals. Indians have been patronized, romanticized, stereotyped, and ignored by most of mainstream America.

The twentieth-century press has been complicit in this, seldom by design but certainly through the exercise of its own conventions and values. To is sure, journalism has reflected the images and stereotypes prevalent in the popular culture. But it has done more. The very conventions and practices of journalism have worked to reinforce that popular–and often inaccurate–imagery. Stereotyping does not depend only on the use of crude language or factual inaccuracies. It also comes from the choice of stories to report, the ways stories are organized and written, the phrases used in headlines (Thomason 243).


In sum, media news coverage discriminates against Native American populations portraying them as low educated people involved in sexual relations and gambling, drinking, and spiritual practices. Unlike whiteness, which is rooted in the belief that whites are racially pure and that being white is genetically determined, Native Americans make no assumption that they are not ethically pure. Native Americans and whites in the United States offer strikingly different explanations for behavior.

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Whites come by this belief honestly enough, for their culture has taught them that blacks are an inferior, degraded people, strong, stupid, and oversexed. Most black people, not all, really believe that behavior is determined by choice and that the choices made are moral ones. Native Americans come by this belief honestly enough for their culture has taught them that some whites behave morally and others do not.

Native Americans distinguish among whites who are racist, those who are antiracist, and those who claim that racism is no longer a force in American society. Native Americans draw this distinctions for the same reason as their ancestors; they do not have the luxury of pretending all whites are the same. It is incredible but the image of Native Americans in news stories was one of a symbol, a metaphor, a mascot–one that had nothing to do with real people or even real history. Such trivialization perhaps made the use of stereotypical language seem permissible.

Works Cited

Calloway, C.G. The American Revolution in Indian Country: Crisis and Diversity in Native American Communities. Cambridge University Press, 1995.

Hatfield, D. L. The Stereotyping of Native Americans. The Humanist, Vol. 60, 2000, 43.

Hesselbrock, M.N., Hesselbrock, V.M., Segal, B. Alcohol Dependence among Alaska Natives Entering Alcoholism Treatment: A Gender Comparison. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 61 (2000), 150.

Native American Spirit Survives Through Centuries of Struggle, Strickland Says. 2004. Web.

Mckelvey, T. Domestic Abuse: How the U.S. Government Is Violating Native Americans’ Human Rights. The American Prospect, 15 (2004), 28.

Minerd, J. Native Americans vs. Environmentalists. The Futurist, 34 (2000), 10.

Morton, L.P. Targeting Native Americans. Public Relations Quarterly, 47 (2002), 37.

Thomason, T.C. Issues in the Treatment of Native Americans with Alcohol Problems. Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development, 28 (2000), 243.

The United States Commission on Civil Rights. 2003. Web.

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StudyCorgi. "Popular Culture. Native American Communities." October 21, 2021.


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