Don’t misrepresent Native Americans

By Rebecca Tallent

Publishing in Quill

It has been happening a lot lately: Native Americans misrepresented in the media, often with animal images.
Whether it is Michelle Williams’ Another Magazine photo shoot where she is dressed as a Native American in a wolf-like costume or a former Minnesota TV news director posting on Facebook an “Indian and other animals” are on his front lawn, once again Native Americans are being described in media as anything but human.
Some mainstream media ventured into reporting on the case of a Cheyenne River Sioux elder’s allegations that he was mistreated by medical staff at the Rapid City Hospital in South Dakota, violating his human rights. In his federal lawsuit, Vern Traversie said the letters “KKK” were carved into his abdomen, plus he was verbally abused and refused pain medicine.
The problem with the reporting, said Native American Journalists Association President Rhonda LeValdo, is many mainstream news groups, including The Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times, used comparisons of religious images in inanimate objects, such as a water stain or a taco shell, to describe the people who believe the elder’s story. Not an animal, but not human either.

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