Native Americans in the News: Images of Indians in the Twentieth Century Press

By Ganje, Lucy | Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, Autumn 1996 | Go to article overview

Native Americans in the News: Images of Indians in the Twentieth Century Press


Ganje, Lucy, Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly


Native Americans in the News: Images of Indians in the Twentieth Century Press. Mary Ann Weston. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1996. 200 pp. $55 hbk.

Native Americans in the News is about false perceptions and the role the media have played in their persistence. It examines the false understanding of Native people and communities, their history and culture, which has been fostered by the mainstream press. And it chronicles the persistence of these images through almost seventy years of press coverage in America.

Much of the history of Indian nations in the United States has been determined, or heavily influenced, by the actions, policies, and attitudes of white Americans. Weston reminds us of the news media's powerful role in shaping public perception (and hence opinion) through newspaper and magazine articles, and she explores the social and political effects of these perceptions.

The impact of public perception regarding Native people and issues is illuminated through case studies. This case-history approach makes it possible to be circumstantial and concrete in dealing with complex issues. The topics covered provide a contextual framework for many Native issues. The Pueblo land controversy of the 1920s is used to initiate a discussion of assimilation and cultural pluralism. World War II "Braves on the Warpath" coverage is studied through the case of Ira Hayes. Governmental termination of tribal recognition, and the part the press played, is examined through the case of the Menominees of Wisconsin.

Resources dealing with American Indian issues and the media are extremely limited. The work of Sharon and (the late) James Murphy, Let My People Know, American Indian Journalism (University of Oklahoma Press, 1981) provides a historical view of the American Indian press and white press complicity in perpetuating stereotypes. The work of Daniel Littlefield and James Parins examines the publication history of American Indian newspapers and periodicals. The soon-to-be published history of Native journalism, Pictures of Our Nobler Selves, by Mark Trahant (Shoshone/Bannock and news editor at the Salt Lake Tribune), is awaited with excitement and a feeling of relief that an important aspect of America's journalism history has been rescued. …

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