Indigenous Americans represent one of the most stereotyped ethnic minority groups. The discussed population is still misrepresented in terms of appearance-related considerations. Also, Native Americans’ land use capacity and food procurement efforts’ complexity and technological maturity often get underestimated. The same is true for the diversity of indigenous peoples’ diets and agricultural activities. This essay seeks to analyze an online vector image that implies stereotypes about Native Americans’ diet and limited acquaintance with land use technology.
The simplistic stock vector image produced by Kakigori Studio (2012) for commercial purposes displays Native Americans’ land use and food provision as peaceful and happy experiences with a hint of effortlessness. Using an unrealistic cartoonish style, the artist depicts a Native American couple holding a roasted turkey leg and a woven basket with two corn cobs. Both characters are happy and dressed neatly, which creates a positive impression. At the same time, this excessive positivity might make the viewer suppose that procuring enough food for their tribe was something jolly and limited by collecting nature’s gifts. The tribe’s tiring work and years of analyzing and improving their predecessors’ intellectual heritage remain invisible.
The stereotype linked with limited landscape control and management inventions might also be present since the creators pay no attention to landscape and working environments serving as the necessary prerequisites for producing enough food. Basically, landscapes represent an essential part of Native Americans’ daily life that creates a context for characters’ land use technology development efforts (Bowman, 2021). In the selected image, the landscape part is simply omitted, which could imply the lack of complex systems and tools for landscape control or the presence of technology that is overly primitive to deserve appreciation. For Native Americans and their descendants, the reciprocal dynamic between nature and humans, including the latter’s land protection and land quality preservation strategies, still remains an indispensable part of philosophy (Reid, 2018). However, having no purpose of establishing connections between tribes’ agricultural infrastructure establishment strategies and the resulting satiation and well-being, Kakigori Studio (2012) depicts the characters in isolation from natural environments. Therefore, some design elements might reinforce stereotypical perceptions of Native Americans’ insufficient progress in agricultural technology development.
Another crucial stereotype that the selected example might portray is a severely restricted range of foods that Native American communities had experiences with and could harvest skilfully. The image does not make explicit statements regarding indigenous peoples’ malnourished or insufficient diets, but an emphasis on meat products and corn is aligned with Paleo diet stereotypes. The art piece by Kakigori Studio (2012) simply includes the most stereotypical Native American foods instead of depicting a whole range of crops that the ethnic group knew how to produce. In reality, being plant-based, Native Americans’ traditional diet extended beyond diverse maize species and included berries, root vegetables, runner beans, squash, and other products (Sarkar et al., 2020). Indigenous Americans’ frequently depicted overreliance on corn and meat can, therefore, be an exaggeration. With that in mind, the example oversimplifies history in numerous ways, including food selection.
In summary, the selected image implicitly supports stereotypes regarding dietary diversity and land management strategies’ complexity. It does so unintentionally by emphasizing food’s availability without stressing well-considered land management strategies and technologies making it possible. The omission of any landscape elements also adds to the underlying message’s imperfections. Specifically, the ethnic group’s deep respect for their lands and attempts to use natural resources wisely become invisible. In general, the discussion above demonstrates that more or less harmful misconceptions regarding Native Americans are still prevalent among content creators.
Bowman, M. (2021). Shifting grounds: Landscape in contemporary Native American art by Kate Morris. Native American and Indigenous Studies, 8(1), 201-203. Web.
Kakigori Studio. (2012). Thanksgiving Day Native American couple [Image]. DepositPhotos. Web.
Reid, A. (2018). The symbolic and reciprocal relationship between a Native American community and their land. Ethnographic Encounters, 9(1), 25-31.
Sarkar, D., Walker-Swaney, J., & Shetty, K. (2020). Food diversity and indigenous food systems to combat diet-linked chronic diseases. Current Developments in Nutrition, 4(S1), 3-11. Web.