Last spring after a parent attending a college tour called campus police with concerns about two Native Americans in the group, the American Indian College Fund knew it had to respond. The College Fund convened a group of national higher education experts and Native students to address the social issues Native Americans face on campus.
A recent report confirms what Native Americans have always known: Most people in the United States know little, if anything, about American Indians. And what they do know is based on questionable information spread by traditional media.
At the same time, the report shows that the U.S. media is ready to help end misunderstandings and build new stories about Native Americans.
HELENA, Mont. – A new report explores how Native Americans are perceived in the United States, and according to one of its project leaders, it’s the largest public-opinion research project about Native Americans ever conducted.
Crystal Echo Hawk said the goal of the report “Reclaiming Native Truth” was to find out about the dominant narratives and perceptions of native people from a diverse group of Americans. It included focus groups spanning 11 states and every race. She said toxic and contradictory stereotypes about Native Americans persist, such as ideas that they’re dependent on the government, but also flush with casino money.
This month, a team of Native researchers and thought leaders, organized under the project Reclaiming Native Truth, released a groundbreaking report that reveals for the first time how the American public views Native Americans. The report includes some stunning statistics on just how distorted and inaccurate public perception really is. Central to the findings is the role of the media in creating the problem, but also the potential for news and media to be part of the solution.
American students learn some of the most damaging misconceptions and biases toward Native Americans in grades K-12. In fact, 87 percent of history books in the U.S. portray Native Americans as a population existing before 1900, according to a 2014 study on academic standards. For many Americans, we no longer exist.