Ruth Hopkins

In recent weeks, social media erupted in outrage after it was announced that Warner Brothers had cast Rooney Mara, a non-Native actress, to play the part of Tiger Lily, a Native character, in a new adaptation of Peter Pan.

We’re all seen this scenario before. Since the dawn of film, non-Native actors and actresses have been perpetuating negative stereotypes of Natives by painting their faces red and appearing as embarrassing caricatures that promote Hollywood’s view of what American Indians are.

It’s so disappointing that this practice continues. There are plenty of qualified, talented Native thespians who are available to play Native characters. Sadly, movie makers continue to double down on white privilege, unwilling to give Natives and other people of color equal representation.

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I understand the indignation. When will we have a voice in how we as Native peoples are portrayed? When will our demands for respect be heard?

But wait. Hold your horses. Instead of raising our smartphones in anger and filing petitions calling for Warner Brothers to boot Mara and replace her with a Native actress, let’s flip the script—literally. We don’t have to play their white-privilege game.

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While little is known of Warner Brothers' new version of Peter Pan, the history of the story alone is enough to warrant apt circumspection by socially conscious Natives everywhere.

Like other movies featuring stereotypical Native characters, Peter Pan, in regards to American Indians, is flawed on its face. Based on the 1904 play authored by J.M. Barrie, Disney upped the racism ante by giving his feather and fringe costumed Indian princess Tiger Lily a "peace pipe"-toking father in actual redface who offered to “Teach ‘um Paleface brother all about Red Man,” accompanied by a big-nosed chorus of generic Indian braves who sang “What Makes the Red Man Red.” If that weren’t enough, a homely snaggle-toothed ‘squaw’ plays right into patriarchy when she tells Wendy, “No dance,” that she must gather wood instead. The fact that these monstrous, bigoted, negative depictions of Natives continue to be force fed to the minds of highly impressionable children is unacceptable. They’re being brainwashed; conditioned to embrace white privilege and the racist system they’ve been born into.

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We’re right in refusing to accept a whitewashed world. Our children need to see role models who look like them, not just lily white ones. Also, studies have shown that redface is harmful to the mental and emotionally well-being of Native children. Yet at the same time, are we as Native adults setting a good example for the next generation when we put Native actors and actresses in the position of playing to Hollywood’s stereotypes of who we are?

It’s time we stop dancing to their tune. We don’t have to play into their lies. No more one little, two little, three little Indians. We have the tools and talent necessary to tell our own stories, with our own voices. We have the power, and are the most qualified, to show the world who we are as Natives...

4/11/14
Ruth Hopkins

Living in the Dakotas isn’t for everyone, primarily because of the weather. In the summer, it gets hot and sticky. Thunderheads appear on the horizon, hail stones rain down, and tornadoes materialize from on high to rage across the prairie....

2/21/14
Ruth Hopkins

Since the passing of fellow Indigenous tribesman Madiba Nelson Mandela, much of mainstream media has attempted to paint him in their own colonial image, once again revising history to make the Federal Government and it’s allies look good, and thereby use him to suit their own purposes....

12/8/13
Ruth Hopkins

Who decides who is Indian? In pre-colonial times, it was obvious. Indigenous individuals were part of a whole tribal society. They were simply one of the People....

11/10/13
Ruth Hopkins

Ahh, yes. Halloween is just around the corner. Time for pumpkin carving, Trick-Or-Treating, and women dressed like two-dollar hookers wearing headdresses....

10/26/13
ICTMN Staff
10/12/13
The physicists who first theorized the existence of the so-called God particle, the Higgs boson, have been awarded the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics...
Ruth Hopkins

Welcome to the laboratory-rat cage, folks. We’re all being experimented on by Monsanto and the federal government.

In April, President Barack Obama signed HR 933 into law. While this appropriations bill was fairly standard, a biotech rider included in it was not....

5/7/13
Ruth Hopkins

Last week, grassroots opponents of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline hoping to halt its development were successful in submitting over 1 million comments before the State Department’s established April 22, 2013 deadline....

4/30/13
Ruth Hopkins

Every American Indian alive today has been affected by the policy of assimilation implemented by the United States government not that long ago....

3/30/13
Ruth Hopkins

This past Thursday, Jefferson Keel, President of the National Congress of American Indians, delivered the 11th Annual State of the Indian Nations Address....

2/17/13

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