Native Village
Youth and Education news
September 2010 Volume 4

Do Disney Movies Misrepresent Native Americans?
Shawndrea Corbin

Condensed by Native Village

Disney is beloved for crafting fairy tales, but is it possible for "harmless" children's stories to damage to an entire people?

According to Kevin Gover,  the answer is  "yes." 

Gover is the director of the National Museum of the American Indian Smithsonian Institute. He says art, cinema and advertising have always distorted Native American images and cultures. Among these stereotypes are the noble and somber "Indian Chief," the "violent savage," the "disappearing Indian," and today's "mystical Indian."

Films such as "Pocahontas" and "Peter Pan" are harmful because they feed the wrong images to young children. Gover pointed out that the film, "Pocahontas," presents her as the "self-sacrificing Indian" who would give up her life for the "better ways of the White civilization." This is another stereotype.

"Images are memorable, powerful and very hard to shake," Gover said.

To demonstrate the concept of the "mystical Indian," Gover showed images from the popular film "Twilight: New Moon." The film portrays Quileute tribal members as having the ability to transform into wolves. Gover said this "magical" concept of Native Americans is also seen in the primitive blue creatures of Pandora in the film, "Avatar."

Gover said these harmful images must be challenged. Not physically challenge, he stated, but to write to advertisers who use harmful American Indian images and to be conscious of racial slurs.

"We can all have an impact," Gover said.


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