Depiction of Native Americans in American Film

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Depiction of Native Americans in American Film

Stereotypes of different cultures have a large role in the opinions we hold. One culture which has endured stereotypes since America came to exist is the Native American. This analysis intends to look at the different stereotypes Native Americans have been branded with and how these stereotypes have been incorporated into American Film, in particular The Searchers.

The current stereotypes we hold of the Native Americans stem from the first encounters of Europeans with the indigenous people. These indigenous people were the first humans of a different race and ethnicity the Europeans had encountered. Since the ways of these native people were ‘foreign' to the Europeans, it was decided the natives must be assimilated into the European, or white, culture. The Indians were viewed as primitive and hostile and in order to assimilate them, they were not allowed to hunt and were instead put on reservations to ironically learn about agriculture. These reservations however were often plots of land which were deemed unsuitable for agriculture and the Native Americans struggled with starvation. The stereotypes the Europeans created for these ‘foreigners' disregarded the more than two thousand cultures and languages present among the different tribes.

In the movie The Searchers, the main character Ethan (John Wayne) sets out on a mission to rescue his niece Debbie from the Indians who kidnapped her and killed her family. His companion on this mission, Martin, a man who is one-eighth Cherokee, is the half-brother of Debbie. The two men endure a search that takes years and the companionship of many other westerners before they find Debbie. Throughout the movie the actions of each character depict the stereotypes of the Indians which we have sadly come to know.

Early films, such as The Searchers, quickly picked up on the stereotypes of the Native Americans and used them to create characters. The Indians were depicted as a...
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