Hollywood wasn’t the first to affect how non-natives see Native Americans. However, they affected the last few generations both positively and negatively. In one sense, they brought the plight of the Native American into the view of the average TV viewer, or movie goer. In fact, based on many history books, the Native American was gone. They were a part of history, and only a few lived on in remote places. TV, and westerns, as much as they stereotyped the Native American, gave them a chance to ride back into the hearts of those who didn’t even realize they were still around.
Often, while portrayed as an amalgamation of cultures, Hollywood attempted to show as many aspects of Native life as they could. Although, sometimes, their attempts put two contradicting cultures and ideas a s a single culture and idea. Hollywood kept Native Americans in subdued roles for many years. Until the actors spoke up and demanded better roles, more realistic roles, and attention to cultural integrity.
Hollywood helped bring about the interest in, and the sharing of cultures long forgotten. This includes Native Americans, and their public gatherings. These gatherings often blend Native American cultures. Which doesn’t help with cultural differentiation. It does however, help those who want to begin the process of connecting with their roots.
The culture of the Native American on television has given me an opportunity to learn more about Native American cultures. It has also led me to questions nearly everything I see, or read, that is labeled as Native American. Did it really exist that way? Was this once their true culture? Or is this a culture created by the Europeans and Hollywood? Does anyone really know? There is no Native American living that was alive before the Europeans came in 1492. There is no way to know for sure what is part of a culture and what is not. Cultures are not static. They change. However, as a writer, I want to write the facts. As they are for my characters. Not stereotypes that never have been real. I’d rather create true stereotypes.