In the current debate, real Indians won't be heard as long as the media thinks they've vanished into the mists of time.

I'm Not Your Disappearing Indian

Jacqueline Keeler

Studies done by Dr. Stephanie Fryberg and resolutions by the American Psychology Association make clear that the negative effects on Native people of mascots and stereotypes are measurable and real. Fryberg found that even Native people who claimed to be okay with Native mascots experienced measurable lower self-esteem and spoke less positively about their future goals in their lives after being exposed to Native mascots. Meanwhile, those that appropriate our image experience the exact opposite effect.

Stereotypes of Native people in film, like the Indian Princess Tiger Lily, the guttural-voiced Chief (like Tiger Lily’s father in the Disney version), and the Warrior, also do this.  And if we are not those things then what are we? The drunk, the Disappearing Indian, the squaw? When EONM (Eradicating Offensive Native Mascotry) members challenge Redsk*ns fans online, the fans immediately resort to attacking us with these very same negative stereotypes, saying, “You’re a drunk and on welfare, you should be grateful we are honoring you.” There is no middle ground in their minds.

And what is the antidote to these stereotypes that fill the minds of so many of our fellow Americans, regardless of ethnic background? It is hearing and seeing Native people in the media and social media as we are today. We must not only challenge these images but also fill the void left once we get rid of them. And I do believe we will get rid of Native mascots. I also think that each time we remind our allies and reach out to journalists who forget about us in their coverage, things will get better there, too.

For instance, Jeff Yang (or @originalspin on Twitter) of the Wall Street Journal, who authored an article about the New Tiger Lily has been responsive to my request to include Native voices. He promptly began following us and when the story about the Colbert Report’s satire of Snyder’s foundation came out, he included us in his article. He is the only one so far, but if we keep it up more will follow. And our Asian American allies? An online activist organization representing Asian American and Pacific Islanders recenly tweeted at us that they want to help and are planning a campaign to take on Snyder and his foundation.

We really can talk to our allies and to the media. They will listen. But we have to speak up.

And "Stephen Colbert," the satirical character? He announced on Monday night that he will be closing his (fake) foundation and donating all the money to Dan Snyder’s OAF, because he didn’t hear [expletive] about that on Twitter. Let’s make sure he does. And hopefully, with our allies help our concerns and hashtags -- #Not4Sale Snyder! -- will be heard.

Keep up with the debate by following Jacqueline Keeler on Twitter at @jfkeeler and checking her blog TiyospayeNow.


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Michael Madrid's picture
Michael Madrid
Submitted by Michael Madrid on
It's a shame when one minority is too dense to comprehend the satire used to point out the discrimination of another minority and completely derails the (what would have been) a successful protest against racism. The problem that we are among the invisible people is obvious when I go out in public. If there were laws against being openly Indian in public, I would be arrested every time. I'm not saying wear feathers everywhere you go, but at least be more vocal about Native concerns. There is a day of silence (today 4/4) that people observe to bring attention to gay discrimination, why can't we organize something similar?

Michael Madrid's picture
Michael Madrid
Submitted by Michael Madrid on
I think I may have just found the solution to our invisibility in another article here. "I'm not your disappearing Indian" shows how we can use art to shed our cloak of invisibility. " Miles is grateful to the monOrchid Gallery because he hasn’t had a gallery show in a while. Even Native American galleries haven’t hosted a show of his work recently. Is it because his art is still too challenging for mainstream galleries? Could be, he says. “America likes its Indians quiet. America likes its Indians docile, and noble. They like to look at Indians through what I call the pristine lens of the past. Pristine meaning clean and pure. So they don’t really have to look at what they did.” Read more at

curtj's picture
Submitted by curtj on
It's sad that we're not more outspoken, or rather our leaders. we're stuck inside a box of colonialism, with dictated education that glosses over the policies that changed ownership of resources and lands from our people to the European immigrants and their descendants. All the people we send away to go to school come back still stuck inside the box of ideals, philosophies, and philosophies of the colonial governments, who continue to instigate and manipulate invasions and coups, to enable their corporate masters to go in and profit off stolen or coerced resources and lands. Our leaders are timid and voiceless, even when they get to see the president(in a group), they are forced to agree on what to say to him.

florm's picture
Submitted by florm on
Thank you. I am very appreciative of your article, and for the collaborative, hopeful examples of supporting actions. I have been healed at times by seeing the many people and organizations who step forward and are taking actions to help change the mascots. We see too very difficult aspects of humanity in the process. May this experience help us overcome. Thank you for your wonderful writing, I look forward to more.

Valjones8's picture
Submitted by Valjones8 on
I admire so much your writing and the subsequent cultural education I get from it. I am white and ignorant, and "colonialism" was not even in my vocabulary a month ago. Yet, the more I read from writers like yourself, the more I feel the heavy, debilitating weight of that colonialism on my sensibilities and beliefs. I am searching for ways to help. Thank you for the education your efforts have afforded me. -Val