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Common portrayals and stereotypes of the Indian princess in popular culture

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General public
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film studies
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UCSB

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Jessica B.
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documents in English
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  1. Introduction.
  2. The story of Pocahontas.
  3. Myths about native women generated from the desires of the colonists.
  4. Violence against Indian women.
  5. Indian women in economic, social, and political realms.
  6. The hand of British women in stereotyping Indian women.
  7. Conclusion.

Stereotypes of Native Americans have continued through to the 21st century with films like Dances with Wolves (1990), The Last of the Mohicans (1992), and Pocahontas (1995). In films like these and other popular culture, Native Americans appear with feathers in their hair, in tribal dress, sometimes with war paint, mohawks, tomahawks, bows and arrows and survive with the shelter from tepees. Basic Native American stereotypes also involved practices such as smoking from a peace pipe, chanting primitively, or an idea that Indians worship nature. With stereotypes like these, other stereotypes seemed to follow such as the idea that all Native Americans worshiped nature like the sun, trees, and animals, and also that all natives possessed some sort of funny Indian name that they had chosen. While these stereotypes still exist, other stereotypes have also created a negative image for Native Americans. Some of these involve being lazy, savage-like, not being to handle their alcohol, have no sense of money, and are soft spoken or quiet.

[...] One common stereotype used in popular culture is that of the Indian princess. In the story of Pocahontas a Native American woman sacrifices her relations with her tribe in order to save John Smith, a white colonist. Pocahantas was the daughter of Powhatan, an Algonquian chief who lived a relatively short life. When the Disney version came out on film, Pocahontas was depicted as a beautiful woman who could communicate with nature and the animals around her. She was a beautiful, young, and intelligent maiden who was somehow deeply committed to the white man. [...]


[...] However, the role of an Indian woman in the household was equally as important as the role of an Indian warrior on the battlefield. Instead of being housewives, the household lives of women regularly corresponded with their religious beliefs or the battlefield. During the rise of the Aztecs, Mexica people were very familiar with the battlefield, and the rituals Mexica women preformed regularly reflected this. For example, brooms in the Mexica household were seen as weapons as it was the housewife's defense against invading dirt and disorder, peripheral forces that, like the enemies of the state, threatened the maintenance of order and centrality? (Burkhart 35). [...]


[...] Quinn, Medicine Woman or Cate Blanchett's character in The Missing (2003) would be primary examples of the Pioneer woman, directly opposite of the savage-like Indian Princess. These Pioneer women were not always pleased with their mission to civilize the savage as reported in the 1870s by Rose Kingsley during a stay in Colorado Springs. Kingsley stated that the area was ?hideous? and it inhabited the most ?revolting specimen[s] of humanity she had ever seen, the smell of which even horses and mules could not stand for (Morin 322). [...]

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