Changing public perception tends to be a Herculean task, and certainly will be in this case, battling a whole history of lies, distortions, and stereotypes. There’s also the massive problem of a complete lack of education. In the U.S., history which is taught is strictly white-washed, and it too is full of lies and distortions. The average person in uStates doesn’t know one accurate thing about Indigenous peoples.
A $2.5 million Native-led research project, announced this morning, will spend two years studying mainstream perception of Native Americans and developing long-term strategic campaigns to address the public’s misperceptions.
Reclaiming Native Truth: A Project to Dispel America’s Myths and Misconceptions is a joint project between the First Nations Development Institute and Echo Hawk Consulting, with funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
“Native Americans and their communities are blocked from reaching their full potential by harmful stereotypes, misperceptions, and lack of awareness,” said Michael E. Roberts (Tlingit), president and CEO of the First Nations Development Institute and co-director of Reclaiming Native Truth, in a press release Tuesday morning.
Leading the project will be a 20-person committee of some of Indian country’s most well-known and well-respected experts. More than half of the committee spots have been confirmed, including:
Cheryl Crazy Bull (Sicangu Lakota), president, American Indian College Fund
Ray Halbritter (Oneida), Oneida Indian Nation representative and CEO of Oneida Nation Enterprises
Jacqueline Pata (Tlingit), executive director, National Congress of American Indians
Sara Kastelic (Alutiiq), executive director, National Indian Child Welfare Association
Dr. Adrienne Keene (Cherokee), scholar, writer, blogger, and activist
Judith LeBlanc (Caddo), director, Native Organizers Alliance
Denisa Livingston (Navajo), community health advocate, Diné Community Advocacy Alliance
Nichole Maher (Tlingit), board vice-chair, National Urban Indian Family Coalition, and president, Northwest Health Foundation
Erik Stegman (Assiniboine), executive director, Center for Native American Youth
Mark Trahant (Shoshone-Bannock), editor of TrahantReports
Nick Tilsen (Oglala Lakota), executive director, Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation
“Over the next two years, this project is focused on understanding the true extent of society’s negative and inaccurate perceptions of Native Americans and finding the best means of overcoming them,” said Crystal Echo Hawk (Pawnee), president and CEO of Echo Hawk Consulting and co-director of Reclaiming Native Truth.
Specific goals of the project include improving portrayal of Natives in media, ensuring Native participation in government, addressing grant-funding inequalities and including accurate Native history in public school history courses.
If you’re one of the many people who don’t know much about Indigenous peoples, that’s easily remedied. Most Nations/Tribes have their own websites, which are full of information, and there’s a whole lot of Native journalism going on. Just a few good sites to read on a regular basis: Indian Country Today Media Network, Indianz.com, Native News Online, Indian Country News, and Native Voice One. There’s no shame in ignorance, as long as there’s an attempt to learn.