Academic journal article Journalism History

The Newspaper Indian: Native American Identity in the Press, 1820-90

Academic journal article Journalism History

The Newspaper Indian: Native American Identity in the Press, 1820-90

Article excerpt

Coward, John M. The Newspaper Indian: Native American Identity in the Press, 1820-90. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1999. 244 pp. $18.95.

The Newspaper Indian is a book to be included on the reading lists of classes examining the media and Native Americans. Covering the major portion of the previous century, author John Coward has analyzed the news coverage of the American Indian in newspapers, large and small, east and west. As might be expected, a majority of the news events were not sympathetic to the Indians, while at other times, there were revealing insights to events and principal native leaders.

Coward concludes, "Good or bad, most newspaper representations were shaped by a powerful ideology of progress." Most Americans in the nineteenth century, and this included newspaper editors, "believed in Manifest Destiny, which meant that Indians were destined to give way to EuroAmerican civilization." He maintains that the press turned native people into ideologically useful Indians-flexible but potent symbols by which Americans could measure the progress of their civilization.

The Newspaper Indian does not try to cover every incident about natives in the nineteenth century, but instead it gives a basic overview and then looks at several specific news events and people. The author reviews the sources of images of Native Americans and writes that editors helped to establish a "double mindedness" about natives in American culture: "Indians had two clear but contradictory identities, one romantic and one savage."

Coward credits the loose reporting practices of the period -which included literature, jokes, and poems-for the rise of diverse Indian representations. …

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