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Monday, December 7, 2009

Native American Women-Princess/Squaw Stereotype

Stereotypes on Native American women have been represented in television shows, movies, novels, and comic books throughout history. Since few Americans really know the true culture of Native American people, we as a society begin to believe these stereotypes as true Native American behavior. It was not until the late twentieth century that filmmakers realized they were portraying these characters inaccurately in their films. Although the stereotype on Native Americans is recognized, it continues to be portrayed even today in pop culture. A popular stereotype of Native American women is the Indian Princess (Princess Squaw). The Indian Princess is portrayed as the Native beauty who is so infatuated with the white man, that she is willing to give up her cultural heritage and marry into the "civilized" white culture. The Indian Princess is never portrayed as a powerful character, instead she is always lured into the desirable white culture

Stereotypes on Native American women have gone all the way back to 1492. What people fail to recognize is the power and strength Native American women have. They have the power and strength to protect their cultures and languages, and to provide for their families. We are blind to these characteristics that Native American women hold because throughout history we have been falsely fed the idea that these women are inferior to the white race.

Princess Squaw has been depicted the same in both present and past culture. She is always seen as the Native Beauty who falls in love with the white man and abandons her culture to be civilized. In the 1950 film Broken Arrow, a young native beauty falls for the white man.

Video Clip of Broken Arrow:

Another past film that depicts the Native American girl falling in love with the white man is Dual in the Sun.

Video Clip of Dual in the Sun:
In present pop culture one can see these stereotypes depicted in Disney Movies such as Pocahontas and Peter Pan. Pocahontas is portrayed as the typical Native beauty who falls in love with the "civilized" John Smith. She is lured into choosing romance with John Smith over staying true to her culture and marrying Kocoum, a man who is part of her tribe. The word "savages" is used very much throughout the movie making them inferior to the white race. The message that is portrayed in this movie is that the white men always dominate over the Native American people.

Video Clip from Pocahontas:
The Disney movie Peter Pan shows this stereotype as well. The Indian Princess Tiger Lily is depicted as having a crush on Peter Pan. In one scene in the movie, the Native Americans are having a pow wow and Tiger Lily kisses Peter Pan. The song that is sung during this scene is, What Makes the Red Man Red? When Tiger Lily kisses Peter Pan, he grows red in the face. Tiger Lily's kiss is what makes his face red. Thus this scene is a depiction of the affection between an Indian Princess and a white man (Pocahontus Bastardizes Real People).
Video Clip from Peter Pan:

An important way to combat the stereotypes on Native American women is to have the media take real life stories and make movies and novels out of them. For example some real life stories of Native American women include: Beverly Hungry Wolf’s The Ways of My Grandmothers, Carolyn Niethammer’s Daughters of the Earth, and H. Greene’s Native American Women. Each of these stories depict real life Native American women and portray them as they truly are.

Like any other cultural minority, Native Americans are traditionally portrayed as biologically and morally inferior to the more civilized white Americans. This concept of inferiority extends to word-use and connotation. The curious concept of squaw is still debatable whether it is an acceptable or derogatory term to refer to Native American women. Mostly from what the media has been trying to feed the public, squaw has become a derogatory term for these minority women. From its original or aboriginal concept that means "women," the word squaw evolved to refer to the female reproductive organ and thus became synonymous to vagina.

Movements have been made to reclaim the word squaw is of cultural preservation more than correcting a stereotypical notion. Squaw does not actually pertain to a woman's vagina; rather it means the totality of being a woman. It’s a term that refers to women in the aboriginal language and NOT an English word. Ergo, it was used by the native people as a way to refer to their women. However, because of the colonial influence, such meaningful words were twisted in a way that even Native Americans became shameful of being called as such. But no, it means the totality, and the quintessential women.

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