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Activity 4: Addressing Stereotypes About Native Americans

The history of indigenous people in the United States' dominant white culture has been plagued with stereotypes that inhibit real progress toward developing attitudes of tolerance and acceptance.

While this has been true for all minority cultures in our country, negative stereotypes of Native Americans have been especially detrimental.

This activity asks students to critically examine where negative stereotypes are found and how these stereotypes have influenced attitudes and behavior toward Native Americans.

Activity A: Identifying Stereotypes

1. Have students define the word "stereotype." 2. Discuss: What is the difference between positive and negative stereotypes? Why are both types of stereotypes detrimental to building authentic, positive relationships? How can the students avoid letting stereotypes influence their attitudes and relationships?

3. Discuss: Where do we find stereotypes depicted in our modern culture? (Students should address: media, holidays, sports, textbooks.)

4. Ask students to keep a log of stereotypes they see on television for one week. They should include both television programs and commercials. The log might include the following: Program/Commercial, group stereotyped (e.g., women, men, teenagers, ethnic groups - specific, elderly people, people with disabilities), description of the negative stereotype displayed, their reaction to the stereotypical depiction.

5. After one week, use a class period or two to have students share their logs. You may wish to have them prepare copies of the log for the entire class or take turns presenting their logs to the class orally.

6. Divide the class into small groups of 4-6 students each and ask each group to address the following:

Which four stereotypes (from any student's log) had the most impact on the students?

How did the stereotypes make the students feel?

How does each negative stereotype hurt the group depicted?

How could the producers of the program or commercial present the group in a more positive, less stereotypical way? (Basically a re-write of the program or commercial.)

7. After the students have had sufficient time to discuss these points, ask students to come together as a class and present their results to the class.

Activity B: Identifying Negative Native American Stereotypes

1. Discuss the meaning of negative stereotypes and the impact they have on development of attitudes toward groups of people. 2. Discuss: Are negative stereotypes always false? Are they ever based on accurate historical facts? If so, how can they still be negative toward a group?

3. Provide the class with the list of negative stereotypes about Native Americans detailed below.

4. As a class, read through the list.

5. Ask students to choose one stereotype each. Try to avoid more than one student for each stereotype.

6. Ask students to write a one-page paper that addresses the following:

Examples of how the stereotype has been promoted through various media (movies, television, novels, news reports, web sites, commercials, historical interpretations, etc.) and celebration of holidays. Students should cite specific examples from research.

Description of how the stereotype has a negative impact on attitudes toward Native Americans.

Description of how the stereotype is or is not based on fact. Students should research reliable, relevant, credible historical resources upon which to base their assertion.

Description of what could be done to eliminate the negative stereotype in our culture.

Summary of action steps the student recommends.

7. Student papers may be presented orally to the class, published on a class web site, displayed on a bulletin board. Standards: (Source: McREL K-12 Standards at

Behavioral Studies Standard 1: Understands that group and cultural influences contribute to human development, identity, and behavior

Level 3

5. Understands that various factors (e.g., wants and needs, talents, interests, influence of a family and peers and media) affect decisions that individuals make.

Level 4

1. Understands that cultural beliefs strongly influence the values and behavior of the people who grow up in the culture, often without their being fully aware of it, and that people have different responses to these influence.

Language Arts Standard - Writing Standard 1: Demonstrates competence in the general skills and strategies of the writing process.

Level 3

11. Writes compositions that speculate on problems/solutions (e.g., identifies and defines a problem in a way appropriate to the intended audience, describes at least one solution, presents logical and well-supported reasons).

Level 4

10. Writes descriptive compositions (e.g., uses concrete details to provide a perspective on the subject being described; uses supporting detail [concrete images, shifting perspectives and vantage points, sensory detail, and factual descriptions of appearance]).

Language Arts Standard - Writing Standard 4: Gathers and uses information for research purposes.

Level 3

2. Uses the card catalog to locate books for research topics

3. Uses the Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature and other indexes to gather information for research topics

4. Uses a computer catalog to gather information for research topics

5. Uses a variety of resource materials to gather information for research topics (e.g., magazines, newspapers, dictionaries, schedules, journals, phone directories, globes, atlases, almanacs)

6. Determines the appropriateness of an information source for a research topic

7. Organizes information and ideas from multiple sources in systematic ways (e.g., time lines, outlines, notes, graphic representations)

8. Writes research papers (e.g., separates information into major components based on a set of criteria, examines critical relationships between and among elements of a research topic, integrates a variety of information into a whole)

Level 4

1. Uses government publications to gather information for research topics

2. Uses microfiche to gather information for research topics

3. Uses a variety of news sources to gather information for research topics (e.g., newspapers, news magazines, television, radio, videotapes, artifacts)

5. Synthesizes a variety of types of visual information, including pictures and symbols, for research topics

6. Uses a variety of primary sources to gather information for research topics

8. Determines the validity and reliability of primary and secondary source information and uses information accordingly in reporting on a research topic

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