"Indian" Stereotypes in TV Science Fiction: First Nations' Voices Speak Out

By Sierra S. Adare | Go to book overview

Conclusion and Epilogue

Over five hundred years have passed since Columbus “discovered” the First Nations peoples of the Americas, but the stereotypes generated in the media in the wake of his “discovery” continue to be used and to be believed by television viewers. This is quite obvious in such productions as Star Trek: Voyager. The writers, directors, and producers of the series didn't consult First Nations peoples when creating a “Native American” crew member who, whether Robert Beltran wants to admit it or not, is a role model for First Nations young people.1

If, however, the writers, directors, and producers in Hollywood listen to First Nations voices, “Indian” episodes should and will be written and acted by First Nations peoples, with tribal elders being consulted on content. This might put an end to the two major negative comment areas participants had about the episodes—the lack of respect for elders, traditions, and First Nations religious beliefs shown by Hollywood writers, directors, and producers; and the offensive depiction of the use of sacred objects. The third major negative comment—the inequity between the seemingly “superior” or “civilized” dominantsociety culture and the perceived “inferior” or “primitive” “Indian” culture—might also be alleviated.

On the positive side, participants' major comment areas were specific to two of the episodes: Quantum Leap “Freedom” and Star Trek: The Next Generation “Journey's End.” The non-Shoshones enjoyed the depiction of Joseph in Quantum Leap “Freedom” as a wise grandfather who behaves like a real “Indian” grandfather; how his grandson comes to realize the importance of elders, traditions, and culture; and the humor shown in the episode—all of which are a real leap away from the “Indian” stereotypes. Participants also appreciated the respect shown toward “Indian” religious beliefs and traditions, the sacredness of things, and Wesley's listening to the “Indian” elder in Star Trek: The Next Generation “Journey's End.”

Although these episodes are fiction, at least the science fiction genre includes “Indians” as part of the universe's collective future, and, when Hollywood writers, directors, and producers are willing, they can por-

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