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

Sometimes, you forget you’re an "Indian"—someone who is just a figment of someone else’s imagination. You're a princess or a fierce warrior. On Halloween, you're that pocahottie costume that attracts the guys; at a football game, you're that headdress the fans wear as they put back the beer and scream at the refs. Or you're even that disappearing Indian, riding away on his faithful steed into the mists of time, not around to be interviewed about what is going on today, not fit to comment on issues that concern Native people.

RELATED: Snyder Wins: How 'CancelColbert' Drowned Out the Native Voice

You forget, and then -- there are abrupt experiences that remind you.

For instance, Rooney Mara, a non-Native actress, was recently cast as Tiger Lily in a remake of Peter Pan, and journalists were up in arms about it and wrote some 87 articles about it in the national press. These writers—African American, Asian American, feminist, people of color—all failed to include us in their coverage of an issue that was ostensibly about us. Will Hollywood try to pull off Redface or are they simply whitewashing roles to avoid the issue all together?

And then last Thursday, it happened again, this time it was the folks on social media trending #CancelColbert and completely forgetting about Dan Snyder and the real foundation to promote the racial slur Redsk*ns. Once again, ostensibly about us, but of the issue garnered no real attention until it fell in someone else’s hands and then they, once again, forgot about us.

No, it wasn’t Stephen Colbert who forgot about us, nor was is "Stephen Colbert," a character played by comedian Stephen Colbert, to satirize the extreme insensitivity of Republican conservatism. His show, The Colbert Report did a whole skit skewering Dan Snyder, billionaire owner of the Washington Redsk*ns, and Snyder's new Original Americans Foundation (OAF), exposing it -- through satire -- as a blatant attempt to use charity to provide cover for his NFL team’s racist name. It was the hashtaggers, PoC (People of Color) and progressives, our own allies on Twitter who trended the hashtag #CancelColbert in response to the fictional foundation’s name featured in the skit.  And yet, Dan Snyder’s real foundation promoting an ethnic slur against us, a foundation that actually exists, failed to garner even a tiny fraction of outrage by the same group. In fact, in her Time Magazine article that followed the enormous success of #CancelColbert, hashtag originator Suey Park failed to mention Snyder’s foundation at all. She certainly did not mention the Native hashtag protesting it #Not4Sale, despite it being covered by Mike Wise at the Washington Post and Al Jazeera America’s The Stream just days before. Only one reporter, Jeff Yang of the Wall Street Journal included any mention of Native responses to it. 

Could you imagine national coverage of #CancelColbert or the previous trending hashtag promoted by the Asian American community #‎NotYourAsianSidekick without interviewing any Asian Americans? Or without any mention of the creators of the hashtag like Suey Park?


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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