How are ethnic minorities portrayed in the media



How are ethnic minorities portrayed in the media

Native Americans are often shown is a wide variety of images. Many of these depictions reinforce stereotypes of American Indians. Indians wear buckskins and feathers; they are unintelligent brutes; they attack peaceful white settlers; they are fading anachronisms of the western landscape. The consistent image, however, of Native Americans is that of outsider.

The American Indian has been shown often as brutal killers of white families. In Figure 1, two white settler families are attacked by Indians. The cartoon was published during the Civil War in Harper’s Weekly. Indians are shown with knives raised above the family in the foreground, with one native holding an infant by the foot and preparing to kill the baby. The baby’s mother begs for mercy while her husband is knifed by an Indian. Behind the woman, a third native is ready to kill her. A jug of whiskey lies at the feet of the third Indian with the words «agent C.S.A.» on the jug. The caption of the cartoon is a quote from Confederate president Jefferson Davis with an explanatory comment. «‘I am happy to inform you that, in spite both of blandishments and threats, used in profusion by the agents of the government of the United States, the Indian nations within the confederacy have remained firm in their loyalty and steadfast in the observance of their treaty engagements with this government.’ The above extract from Jeff Davis’ last message will serve to explain the news from Minnesota.»

However, situation in Minnesota in 1862 was only marginally related to the War Between the States. Rather than being agents of the Confederacy, the Sioux in Minnesota were fighting for their treaty rights. In 1851, the Santee Sioux, now known as the Dakota, ceded 24 million acres to the US government. The land was opened to settlers. The Santee then were forced to cede control of an additional 1 million acres, reducing their reservation in size by half. Congress only paid 30 cents per acre two years later, beneath the average price per acre for prime farmland. Simultaneously, the US government was attempting to force American Indians to turn to farming. White traders would front the Indian farmer’s credit on supplies and then, when the tribe was paid annuities, would claim inflated charges, leaving the native farmers with little or no money. Finally, in the winter of 1861-1862, a major crop failure left the Santee near starvation. Ultimately, the last straw came when the white traders refused to provide credit for food during


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