CoverIntroduction and Table of Media Literacy Activities for Key Civics ConceptsDefining Critical Media Literacy1. Foundations of the United States Political SystemDemocracy in Social Media Policies and Community StandardsThe Internet as a Public Utility21st Century Women STEM InnovatorsMedia Coverage of the RoyalsRepresentations of Native Americans in Film, Local History Publications, and School Mascots2. The Development of United States GovernmentDeclarations of Independence on Social MediaMarketing and Regulating Self-Driving CarsRepresentations of and Racism Toward Black Americans in the MediaPolitical Debates Through Songs from Hamilton: An American MusicalBill of Rights on Twitter3. Institutions of United States GovernmentHollywood Movies About the Branches of GovernmentWriting an Impeachment Press ReleaseMembers of Congress' Use of Social MediaPolitical Impacts of Public Opinion PollsWebsite Design for New Political Parties4. The Rights and Responsibilities of CitizensImmigration in the NewsPortrayals of Immigrants in Television and FilmCOVID-19 Information EvaluationWomen Political Leaders in the MediaOnline Messaging by Advocacy Organizations and Special Interest GroupsDigital Games for Civic EngagementSocial Media and the ElectionsMedia Spin in the Coverage of Political DebatesCelebrities' Influence on PoliticsPolitical Activism Through Social MediaMedia Recruitment of Public Sector WorkersImages of Teachers and TeachingRepresenting Trans IdentitiesMedia Framing of the Events of January 6, 2021Music as Protest ArtPACs, Super PACs, and Unions in the Media5. The Constitution, Amendments and Supreme Court DecisionsProhibition in the MediaThe Equal Rights Amendment on Twitter and Other Social MediaCivil War News Stories and Recruitment AdvertisementsRepresentations of Gender and Race on CurrencyThe Equality Act on TwitterReading Supreme Court Dissents AloudTelevision Cameras in Courtrooms6. The Structure of State and Local GovernmentNative American Mascots and LogosA Constitution for the InternetMilitary Recruitment and the MediaYour Privacy on Social MediaPandemic Policy Information in the MediaGendered Language in Media Coverage of Women in PoliticsEnvironmental Campaigns Using Social MediaTrusted Messengers, the Media, and the PandemicOnline Campaigning for Political OfficeAdvertising the Lottery Online and In PrintLocal Governments, Social Media and Digital Democracy7. Freedom of the Press and News/Media LiteracyPress Freedom in the United States and the WorldObjectivity and the News from All SidesInvestigative Journalism and Social ChangeNews Photographs & Newspaper DesignHow Reporters' Report EventsRecommendation Algorithms on Social Media PlatformsFake News Investigation and EvaluationCritical Visual Analysis of Online and Print MediaMemes and TikToks as Political Cartoons

Representations of Native Americans in Film, Local History Publications, and School Mascots

More than 8 million American Indian and Alaska Native people live in the United States today, and those numbers are projected to rise to 10 million by 2060 (Indian Country DemographicsNational Congress of American Indians, June 2020).

In 2021, October 11 was declared Indigenous Peoples' Day by President Joe Biden and November was proclaimed National Native American Heritage Month.

Most students, however, learn little about Native peoples in schools. The indigenous education organization IllumiNative reports that most (87%) state level history standards do not address Native history past 1900.

Much of what students do learn about Native history comes from the media, including movies and television, local history publications, and imagery associated with local and national sports teams.

Hollywood movies and network television shows have long portrayed First American indigenous people in grossly stereotypical terms. Men are depicted as warriors and medicine men. Women are portrayed as either objects of desire or inconsequential members of a tribe. Native peoples are often shown as living in the wilderness or on reservations even though 60% of today's American Indian and Alaska Native population live in cities (5 Common Indigenous Stereotypes in Film and Television, ThoughtCo., January 2021).

Around the country, there are increasing efforts by local tourism and community groups to tell the stories of those left out or marginalized in history through tours, exhibits, and celebrations of important individuals and significant events in Native American, Black, women, and LGBTQ history. For example, "Navajo Tours USA" present Native history in New Mexico, while "Nez Perce Tourism" explores Native sites in the Pacific Northwest. There is an "Unfiltered Truth Collection" in Louisville, Kentucky, a "Truth and Reconciliation" Tour in Montgomery, Alabama, a Black Heritage Trail in Boston, and the Missouri Historical Society operates "Renegade STL" that presents Black, women's and LGBTQ history tours in St. Louis ("Historical Tours Reach Deeper to Include People Long Left Out," Sunday Travel, Boston Sunday Globe, November 7, 2021, pp. 11,13).

The following activities ask you to critically consider how Native peoples have been represented in films, local historical publications and tours, and school names and mascots and how those representations have shaped people's attitudes.

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Activity 1: Analyze how Native Americans are Portrayed in Movies

Activity 2: Design a Film or TV show About Native Americans' Influence on the U.S. Government

Activity 3: Research & Redesign the First American History of the Place Where You Live Today

Activity 4: Propose a Culturally and Historically Fair School Mascot

Additional Resources

Connecting to the Standards

  • Massachusetts Civics & Government Standards
    • Analyze the evidence for arguments that the principles of the system of government of the United States were influenced by the governments of Native Peoples (Massachusetts Curriculum Framework for History and Social Studies) [8.T1.5]
  • AP U.S. History
    • Key Concept 1.1
    • Key Concept 3.2
  • ISTE Standards
    • Digital Citizen
      • 2c: Students demonstrate an understanding of and respect for the rights and obligations of using and sharing intellectual property.
    • Knowledge Constructor
      • 3a: Students plan and employ effective research strategies to locate information and other resources for their intellectual or creative pursuits.
      • 3b: Students evaluate the accuracy, perspective, credibility and relevance of information, media, data, or other resources.
      • 3d: Students build knowledge by actively exploring real-world issues and problems, developing ideas and theories and pursuing answers and solutions.
    • Creative Communicator
      • 6a: Students choose the appropriate platforms and tools for meeting the desired objectives of their creation or communication.
      • 6b: Students create original works or responsibly repurpose or remix digital resources into new creations.
      • 6d: Students publish or present content that customizes the message and medium for the intended audiences.
  • DLCS Standards
    • Ethics and Laws (CAS.b)
    • Interpersonal and Societal Impact (CAS.c)
    • Digital Tools (DTC.a)
    • Collaboration and Communication (DTC.b)
    • Research (DTC.c)
  • English Language Arts > History/Social Studies Common Core Standards
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.6
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.7
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.8
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.9-10.6
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.9-10.9
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.6
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.7
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.8
  • English/Language Arts Common Core Standards