That’s one of the results of a report on American perspectives on native peoples. You know, if we’re going to be upset that some people don’t understand that the earth is older than 6000 years, we ought to be even more outraged at this level of ignorance — an ignorance that dehumanizes.
The study found that largest barrier to public sympathy for Native rights was “the invisibility and erasure of Native Americans in all aspects of modern U.S. society.” Representation of contemporary Native Americans was found to be almost completely absent from K-12 education, pop culture, news media, and politics. Two-thirds of respondents said they don’t know a single Native person. Only 13 percent of state history curriculum standards about Native Americans cover events after the year 1900. For the average U.S. citizen, the main exposure to contemporary Native Americans is through media and pop culture. Unfortunately, contemporary Native Americans are almost completely absent from mainstream news media and pop culture, and “where narratives about Native Americans do exist, they are primarily deficit based and guided by misperceptions, assumptions and stereotypes,” says the report.
Crystal Echo Hawk (Pawnee), co-project leader of Reclaiming Native Truth, said that in the focus groups, “the only references [to Native Americans] that we continuously heard as people were struggling to make a connection were Dances with Wolves and Parks and Recreation. So these stereotypes and caricatures are really forming perceptions of Native people.”
The sheer invisibility of Native people leads to some very warped perspectives about contemporary Native life. Forty percent of respondents did not think that Native people still exist. While 59 percent agree that “the United States is guilty of committing genocide against Native Americans,” only 36 percent agree that Native Americans experience significant discrimination today — meaning nearly two-thirds of the public perceive Native Americans as experiencing little to no oppression or structural racism.
I guess that might go a ways to explaining another phenomenon, that so many Indian women disappear, presumed murdered, every year, and the data is ignored and neglected.
Spend time in Indian Country and you’ll hear this story over and over: A niece, a daughter or a cousin who was taken quickly and violently from this world.
As many as 300 indigenous women go missing or are killed under suspicious circumstances every year in Canada and the U.S., but the exact number is unknown because the Federal Bureau of Investigation isn’t really tracking the numbers.
If they didn’t exist in the first place, they can’t disappear, right?