Orginal Publication Date
Ethnic Studies Review
Hollywood inherited conflicting myths of Native Americans: barbaric savages or "Noble Savage." Influenced by the latter romantic view, James Fenimore Cooper in print and George Catlin and Edward Curtis in art conveyed to an American public a portrait of a noble but vanishing race of America's first people. The dime store novels and Wild West shows of the late 1800s played with the dueling idea of a noble yet menacing Red Man, and Hollywood picked up this created myth of American Indians which, while ostensibly sympathetic, actually perpetuated stereotypes of a depraved and primitive race. Hollywood then packaged these images, made them her own, and secured for generations of people the predominant image today held of Native Americans. Since, as Hannu Salmi theorizes, movies are the myth by which Americans understand Western history, this is an alarming state of affairs.
Copyright ©ESR, The National Association for Ethnic Studies, 1998