Native Americans/American Indians: A Teaching Module on Images and Myths
left: John Collier, "Elizabeth Smith and Husband... Navajo Reservation, 1948
right: cover of Genuine Gallup commercial promotion brochure, 2004
To say that the Native American is a myth is to speak of the dual meaning of that word: Native Americans as a group contend daily with their own images, filtered through commercial culture, through nostalgia, through their own self-conceptions and those of the tourists, romantics, and the general non-Native American population. There is no one Native American type, and the contest to understand, direct and control the image, the narrative, the history-- in short, the "myth"-- of the American Indian is a continuous one.
Yet most students of American culture, whether high-schoolers in Germany or professors in Chicago, have a passionate interest in the history and culture of the Native American tribes. Teaching the subject, then, is an attractive notion-- but how to do it with sensitivity, tact, and some measure of objectivity?
In this module, we present a variety of materials meant to offer backkground, to provide a fuller and more controversial picture of Native American life, culture and its mythology.