Throughout all the races, stereotypes have created false concepts about the true identity of each culture. The Native Americans are one prime example of this. The definition of stereotype is “a standardized mental picture that is held in common by members of a group and that represents an oversimplified opinion, prejudiced attitude, or uncritical judgment” (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/stereotype). In other words, a stereotype is a conforming idea about a group or race of people. When discussing Native Americans, many stereotypes do not accurately describe the identity this group of people, however there are some stereotypes have become true over time.
Native Americans have a very unique and special identity. In the past, Native Americans have been known to be highly spiritual and tribal. Some of these concepts remain today. This is evident in “ This Is What It Means To Say Phoenix, Arizona” when Alexie writes, “So Victor called the Tribal Council” (Alexie, 32). This statement shows that there is still a central council that runs the reservation. Some Native Americans today still practice cultural rituals to help maintain their heritage. Another characteristic of Native American identity is the resentment towards the US government. The government has oppressed them and taken their land over the past hundreds of years. There is still some anger that remains. A third characteristic is the respect for cultural heritage through people like Thomas. Thomas is a storyteller. In “This Is What It Means To Say Phoenix, Arizona”, there are numerous occasions when Thomas stops to tell a story. One example is when Alexie writes, “’Hey’, Victor said. ‘Tell me a story.’ Thomas closed his eyes and told this story:” (Alexie, 35). Some of his stories contain very cultural and special knowledge, others are just for fun.
There are many stereotypes that inaccurately represent Native Americans. The main one being alcoholism. Many people believe that all Native Americans are alcoholics. This is not always the case. In the film, Victor is confronted by an officer asking if he was drunk at the scene of the crash. Victor replies that he has never drank alcohol in his entire life. This is one example that not all Native Americans drink. Victor chooses not to drink because of all the negative effects it has on the people around him. Another stereotype is how all Native Americans are still compared to the tribal and savage Native Americans of the past. People fail to recognize that the modern day Native
American is similar to anyone else. When people hear the word Native American, they still think of the savage Native Americans from the time when the country was founded. A third stereotype is that Native Americans still reject the “white man” for destroying their land hundreds of years ago. This stereotype can be both supported and rejected with the scene on the bus. In the story, Victor and Thomas enjoy a friendly conversation with the woman sitting next to them. In the film, Victor becomes angry at the woman for over exaggerating in her position on the Olympic team.
Even though most stereotypes are bad and untrue, some do overlap with Native American characteristics. Alcohol is one overlap. The stereotype is that all Native Americans drink. It was proven to be untrue because of Victor, but there are still a large number of Native Americans that still drink. In the film, there were numerous scene depicting drunken parties. One leads to the fire that killed Thomas’ parents. Another overlap is the belief that all Native Americans are very tribal. Modern Native Americans do not wish to give up their tribal culture and customs, but to no extent is it like what it used to be hundreds of years ago. Some Native Americans still participate in cultural rituals and activities, but there are some that don’t. Even though this stereotype overlaps with the identity, the stereotype implies a society based around tribalism, but today it is only mildly practiced. A third overlap is the concept of the warrior status in the Native American identity. Some people believe Native Americans to be fierce warriors by nature. Most Native Americans are not like this, but in the case of Victor, they still like to maintain the thought of being a strong warrior. On the bus, Victor tells Thomas to act and look more like a warrior. It implies strength and superiority.
There are numerous stereotypes for all different races, and most of them do not accurately describe a races culture. Native Americans are commonly associated with many negative stereotypes, however some of these stereotypes overlap into their identity. Even though Native Americans of modernized, there are still several stereotypes that are true about their identity. Regarding all stereotypes, there are bound to be some that are true.