Indigenous Male Persona

Indigenous men, just like women, also carry heavy and harsh stereotypes in our high media culture. Like my last post I will be looking into how media portrays men of Indigenous culture especially through Disney. Just like in Pocahontas the men of this children’s film are placed into a strict mold of the “Disney Savage”, the white European men powerfully use the word savage throughout the film to identify the Indigenous culture, especially the men. As children grow up they follow people who tend to mirror them, meaning that if they see people that look like them in an idolized way they start to act and talk like them. With children being very susceptible to media having men that may possibly look like them could be detrimental to the moving forward of indigenous equality in our society. Also on the other hand it could worsen the ideal of Indigenous culture and acceptance through Indigenous people.

This clip from Pocahontas when the two sides are about to go to war after John Smith has been captured by Pocahontas’ tribe. While both sides do refer to each other as savages, the white European side does this out of ignorance and annoyance because there are barriers to “their new world”, however the Indigenous people only refer to the whites as savages because of their unexplained anger and aggression. The lyrics in this particular song are very vulgar and racist. The Europeans refer to the Indigenous people as barely human, savages, filthy little heathens, skin’s a hellish red, vermin, only good when dead, not like you or me which means they must be evil, dirty red skin devils, and destroy their evil race until there is not a trace left. This song outlines racism, genocide, prejudice, stereotyping, and ignorance from the Europeans.

While I was looking on youtube for the Pocahontas videos I came across this video which is from Peter Pan. When I was thinking about what forms of proof I could use for the portrayal of Indigenous men this movie did not come to mind at first but after watching the video I realized this is just as awful as Pocahontas. As the Indigenous have a pow wow around their fire the lyrics to this is unbelievably racist. First of all the name of the song is “What Makes the Red Man Red” and throughout they use the word squaw to describe the female tribe members. This is a very degrading  word for the Indigenous culture. Also what is awful about it, is that the Indigenous people themselves are using these words and singing the song. At the end of the song Wendy refers to herself as a squaw, which could be represented as the white society is learning about the Indigenous culture through false forms of media, like this song.

Overall, as it can be  noted in my past post and this one Disney has created a harmful image of the Indigenous community. They start it off from the younger generation as a basis to what we learn in our school systems. The school systems, however would be a whole other blog in general to tackle, but should be noted that our history shapes us today and the wrong information or lack of modern equality stemmed through our own means of information can be harmed through prejudices and stereotypes in our media.

Indigenous Female Persona

The topic of this post will outline the media’s portrayal of Indigenous women, specifically in the Disney movie Pocahontas. As children we are very susceptible to what we watch, most of my generation grew up with the original Disney princesses and princes. Pocahontas was probably my first introduction to the Indigenous world, while watching this as a child I obviously did not take in the in depth racism and stereotyping within this movie but now re-watching it as an adult I realized this is not a movie I would ever want to show my children. Now it can be argued that it was set in a period of history when the white Europeans were taking over land that was not theirs to take, also the amount of racism embedded into the white society was at one of its worst in history.

In this clip it shows a variety of different Indigenous female “tasks”, which all include typical gender roles only specific to “Indigenous culture”. This is not what women were in charge of; like in modern day women and men for the most part share equal duties. There is no hunter and gatherer aspects within the Indigenous community that we are taught in the media. 

In the short clip above Pocahontas sings to John Smith about the meaning behind the word savage. It should not be placed upon someone for their race, if being used it should be placed upon someone’s character or actions. Pocahontas explains that his  culture is different from hers but she does not see him as a savage. His righteousness is not correct and Smith needs to re-evaluate his sense of moral direction before taking over land, and taking away lives because of indifference.

In the sequel to Pocahontas we see that she is now in England waiting to marry her prince, in true Disney form. Going along with more Disney tradition the princess figure she goes through a make over, even once again in this song it is portrayed that she needs to shed her culture in order to conform to the white European requirements. This can mirror the actions of the residential schools in Canada, they wanted to conform the Indigenous people to the proper Canadian form.

Pocahontas brutally takes away from the true Indigenous culture by placing awful stereotypes through song and illustration in the film. The Indigenous female persona in Pocahontas comes across that females are uneducated, overly spiritualized, ignorant to other culture, and among many other stereotypes. As a child watching this movie I would  not have picked up on any of these stereotypes because I accepted them as truth, but however still today this is how their culture is perceived. All the proof needed is to look at the comment boxes on youtube for any of the videos I post on my blog and it is obvious the amount of ignorance society has of the indigenous community. Not only is it disheartening that Canadians have brutally scarred a part of our nation, but it also is not taught in the educational system about our true nations founders. Which in all honesty, is it fair to hide a culture because of our own damaging decisions as a country?

Traditions and Story-Telling

Within the Aboriginal Community there are many different traditions, however, we will be focusing on story telling. The aspect of story telling in the indigenous culture is explained through this poem in the opening of Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko:

Ceremony

I will tell you something about stories,
[he said]
They aren’t just entertainment.
Don’t be fooled.
They are all we have, you see,
all we have to fight off
illness and death.

You don’t have anything
if you don’t have the stories.

Their evil is mighty
but it can’t stand up to our stories.
So they try to destroy the stories
let the stories be confused or forgotten.
They would like that
They would be happy
Because we would be defenseless then.

He rubbed his belly.
I keep them here
[he said]
here, put your hand on it
see, it is moving.
There is life here
for the people.

And in belly of this story
the rituals and the ceremony
are still growing.

The Ceremony poem creates an understanding of the importance of story telling within the culture of Indigenous people. Story telling is a way of communication for this culture, by sharing and exchanging stories it helps to preserve the original traditions from the origin it came from. By doing so it also allows for medical and spiritual healing practices to continue today. The uses of story telling also tie into my last post because it helps to identify the culture of the Aboriginal community. Through these stories we can grasp the mentality of an indigenous person in a white westernized world. In Lee Maracle’s First Wives Club: Coast Salish Style the style of short stories helps the reader to grasp the idea of story telling through a textual form.  Each story has its own meaning, lesson, and personal moral about the Indigenous culture.

Little Hawk speaks about the native culture from previous generations and their outlooks on the current generation.

   We are all the same people just living on different parts of the land .

The inner identity that tribes have with each other separates them even more, Little Hawk’s father suggested that “we are all the same people just living on different parts of the land”. This statement can also go further than just the Indigenous community, with every different culture and ethnic diversities within our society. Also within this short video it is noted when Little Hawk speaks of his grandmother she teaches him how to have a good heart. “its not about the gold star, it is about the right heart. that’s your gold star”. This is a key example of how story telling works as an educational asset to the community. It keeps them humble and modest in social situations.

The indigenous community not only lives through story telling but they also rely on it, and it is obvious why they do. It creates a humbling atmosphere of tradition and culture, it teaches lessons, cures illness, and helps to keep the Indigenous way of life alive and healthy.

Stereotyping Our Nation’s Founders

The focus of this post will be the passage from Lee Maracle’s novel The First Wives Club: Coast Salish Style. The passage, titled The Cafe, Maracle invokes many instances of imagery and we are going to look at how this imagery creates a stereotyped opinion for the reader through her uncensored thoughts.

“This is Carrall and Hastings. The cafe is right across from the Sunrise, a hotel of considerable disrepute. The cafe is located in the heart of skid row. Outside, people stagger to and fro, not from home to work but back and forth between Main and Carrall streets because they have no home. They beg spare change from passerby so they can come in here for a bowl of soup, a cup of coffee, a minute or two of relief from the rain, the street, the other beggars, the nothingness of their lives, anything at all” (Maracle, 39).

From this passage, there are certain words that go against stereotypical aspects or ideas of a cafe. The stereotype that a cafe usually carries is a space for privileged upper middle class. From our already create a stereotype out of the word cafe, we form a mental image of this setting just from reading the title. The narrator’s thoughts give us her biased opinion the cafe she is in is a rundown portion of the neighbourhood called skid row, which places our stereotype backwards from her descriptions. 

Also within this short story, the topic of physical image takes over the narrator’s thoughts while she remembers the time when she was fifteen. The imagery from this memory is strong because of the identifiers used to describe the physicality of an aboriginal person. “An old tape goes off in my head. It’s from an anthropology class some fifteen years earlier: ‘Indians have fat on their eyelids.’ I want to reach up and touch my eyelid to test the validity of the instructor’s remark. I did not know that. ‘It marks . . .’ I stifle my laugh. Murphy Green hisses in my ear from behind me, ‘I didn’t come here to learn about ear wax—honey-coloured or otherwise—or fat on my f’king eyes.’ As twenty sets of near blue eyes subtly try to ascertain whether or not this bizarre statement is true, Murphy’s words inspire a deeper desire to howl with laughter. ‘It’s twoo, it’s twoo.’ He mocks. ‘I have fat eyelids,’ looking directly at the young man who was staring at us. The student’s face reddened and he turned his shame toward the instructor’ (Maracle, 40).

This racist identifier creates a stereotype within the Indigenous community. Within the anthropology classroom there is an identifying image made by the professor that aboriginals have ‘fat eyelids’, which is racist and stereotypical. This is the type of imagery that creates stereotypes of the indigenous community along with other forms of visual aids that create a racist image of their culture.

A video I found on Youtube shows the hurtful and derogatory stereotypes that are placed on Indigenous people in Canada. 

 

 Maracle breaks from the original ideas of the white view because we are inside the minds of these Indigenous women, which allows the readers to grasp the inner concepts and traditions that back up their culture and livelihoods. By placing the reader in the minds of these women, it creates a different world that is more understandable and shocking all at the same time from the original ideals that society has placed upon this group of people.