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Examples of stereotypical figures of speech:

(How might these words be hurtful or misleading?)


They are acting like a bunch of wild Indians.

This statement makes people think Native Americans do not know how to behave in a civilized way.  Native Americans behave in a variety of ways depending on the situation, just like everyone else. This is a disrespectful figure of speech.




Native Americans do not have bright red skin as pictured in some cartoons and comics. Native Americans have different shades of skin color.   The term “Redskin” might come from the use of reddish colored “paints” used by some Native Americans as seen by the Europeans who first came to the Americas.



The Noble Redman

This statement sounds complimentary, but it has led people to think that Native Americans do not have a sense of humor, are always very serious, and never show emotion.  Actually, humor is greatly appreciated by Native Americans.  Native Americans feel a variety of emotions just like everyone else.






Indian giver

This term makes it sound as though Native Americans give things away and then want them back.  Actually, Native Americans have a strong tradition of giving gifts to express gratitude and friendship to others without expecting anything in return.



Sit Indian style.

Native Americans sit in all kinds of positions just like everyone else. 



Cigar Store Indian

This term refers to painted carvings that look like the stereotypical view of what some people think Native Americans are supposed to look like.  They are not accurate representations and they promote the idea that Native people have little to say and have no feelings or worthwhile ideas.



Indian Princess

This expression has been used widely to describe many Native American women.  In reality, Native Americans did not and do not have Kings, Queens, Princes, or Princesses.  Today, some Native groups do have contests and events where a woman might be honored as an “Indian Princess.”  However, this term does not have anything to do with royalty. Native American women and girls should be referred to as women and girls.


Indian Brave

This term has been used to describe many Native American men. It sounds as though it might be flattering and that it means all native men have courage.  However, it takes away from the understanding that native men are human beings just like all other men.  It is much more polite to refer to native men as “men,” to native women as “women,” and to native babies as “babies.”




This term is sometimes used to refer to all Native American men and tends to make people think that Native American men are warlike and aggressive.  It is true that some Native American men have fought in wars.  Some have not.  Some Native American men stand up for the rights of their people by speaking, writing, or through artistic expression.  Care should be taken because “Warrior” could refer to an individual who belongs to a certain group or who has a special responsibility. Native American men should be called “men.”




This term has been used incorrectly to describe all Native American men.  Only certain men are chosen to be a Chief.  A Haudenosaunee traditional Chief is chosen by the women and he has certain clearly defined characteristics.  His job is important and he must listen to the people in order to do his job well. Some chiefs are elected.



Native Americans greet each other by saying “How.”

This is an example of an idea that was promoted in Hollywood movies.  Each Native American nation or tribe has their own language and their own way of greeting one another.







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