The Arapaho Indians are a Native Americans tribe which historically lives on the Wyoming and Colorado plains. The Arapaho were very close allies of the Cheyenne and had a loose alliance with the Dakota and Lakota (Anderson 229). Arapaho bands in the 1850s formed the southern and Northern Arapaho tribes. The southern Arapaho reside in Oklahoma and are recognized federally as Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes. The Northern Arapaho live in the Eastern Shoshone in Wyoming (Anderson 234). They are recognized federally as The Arapahoe Tribe of the Wind River Reservation. The Arapaho lived in Minnesota originally. They were agricultural people who resided in permanent villages in the eastern woodlands.
The European expansion forced them to migrate westwards to the plains of Wyoming and Kansas (Anderson 245). This forced them to change their lifestyle to become nomadic people who followed the great buffalo herds for livelihood. The tribe was a warlike people who had eight secret societies of warriors which were graded using age. Every secret society had its own medicine bundles used in the Smudging Rituals. The tribe lived in a Tepee which was a tent-like home. This Tepee suited their nomadic life as they were easy to erect and dismantle. The Arapaho are very spiritual people and call their God Be He Tight. The tribe speaks the Algonquian language which has five dialects.
Most of Native Indians history is conveyed through the media. Most of the Americans learn about Native Indians more in the media than schools and museum. The Native Indian history plays a very important role in the American history. The American Indians stories have been told through different media channels but the idea and image depicted in the media is a white construction (Ramasubramanian 249). The stereotype has nothing to do with how Native Americans represent or perceive themselves. Even though the media has further justified racism and mistreatment toward American Indians, Plains Indians, including the Northern Arapaho tribe, face injustices that still affect how they are seen within American culture and society.
Northern Arapaho Culture
The Northern Arapaho tribe speaks the Arapaho language (Anderson 43). The language is an Algonquian language is mostly spoken in Wyoming. It is a polysynthetic language containing long and complex verbs and a relatively free word order. The Northern Arapaho speak Gros Ventre dialect. The dialect is slightly different from the dialect spoken by Southern Arapaho but the languages are mutually comprehensible between the two tribes (Anderson 49). The language is mostly spoken by the elderly although the tribe is teaching the younger generations to revitalize the language.
The Northern Arapaho land tenure forms one of integral tradition. The land is owned by the tribe and an individual, family or a band cannot lay any claim to land (Leavitt et al. 39). The whole tribe share and mutually defend their territory. The tribe also has a unique division of labour. The unmarried women remain close to the household and help their mothers with domestic work. The unmarried men are assigned activities such as hunting and horse care. The married women are tasked with household chores such as cooking. The married men care for horses, hunt, maintain camp security and carry out religious functions.
The division of labour is partially defined by age grade membership (Anderson 59). The tribe kinship is bilateral where extended family remains the tribe social life core. The tribe kinship classifies all the mother’s sisters as mother and all the father’s brothers as a father. The Northern Arapaho has two types of marriages (Ramasubramanian 253). The most common is the arranged one where senior relatives arranged the marriage of the prospective spouses. The second type involves elopement where a couple moves in together in secret. Marriage is strictly prohibited between relatives.
Challenges Faced by Northern Arapaho Tribe
One of the major challenges facing the Northern Arapaho tribe is identity and assimilation. Identity and assimilation have long been a very critical challenge and poses a serious question today. The tribe members face a dilemma when deciding whether to live traditionally and identify with their tribe culture or to move to the cities and adopt the modern life (Bird 61). They also cannot readily define how much of the dominant American culture to accept in their lives. When a member of the tribe move to cities they fear other Americans will not accept them and the tribe will no longer consider them a real tribal person. The Northern Arapaho tribe also faces the challenges of living with the typical Indian stereotypes in the American society (Anderson 78).
The Native Americans face relative media invisibility. The media portrays them generally as historical figures when they represent the Native Americans. Most of the media show them as people from the eighteenth century who still wears buckskin, live in tepees and ride horses (Leavitt et al 52). This is evident mainly in entertainment media. When the media portray Native Americans as modern people, they associate them with poverty, addiction and illiteracy. The media also portrays the Native Americans as different types of American Indians. The narrow representation does not in any way reflect the diversity of the tribes’ cultures. The Native Americans are the most underrepresented group of people in the media where the percentage of popular media characters is almost zero (Bird 64). This underrepresentation is further heightened by the fact that the average citizen has nearly no direct interaction with the Native Americans.
The cultivation theory suggests that media shape the concepts of the social reality (Meadows 36). The media influences people although the effects are gradual and indirect. However, these effects are significant and cumulative. The media is responsible for cultivating attitudes and values present in a particular culture. The media also propagate these attitudes and values. The media portrayal of the Northern Arapaho tribe as illiterate and poor people has led to many Americans to believe this is true. Since most Americans do not have a direct contact with the Northern Arapaho tribe, they tend to believe whatever the media tells them about the tribe (Bird 65). An average American will most likely believe what they see on television and will not take their time to research if the information is biased. As long as the media portrays the Northern Arapaho tribe negatively, most people will believe them since the media is their primary source of information about the tribe.
The uses of tribal mascots by universities and in sports tend to do more harm than good to the Native Americans (Anderson 94). Most people tend to believe the mascots are promoting the native’s culture but in reality, they pose a substantial challenge to natives’ culture especially the youth. The mascots are a derogatory stereotype to the natives. Instead of honouring the Native Tribes, the mascots have very serious social and psychological effects on the Native youth. There has been a significant advocacy to remove Indian references in sports although a significant number still remains (Meadows 36). This misrepresentation has caused significant damage to the Native Indians. The stereotyping has caused significant damage to the Native Americans culture.
Damage of the Media Misrepresentation
The missing white woman syndrome is the situation in which the media tends to focus on the white people more than the other races (Anderson 250). This poses a significant damage to the Native Americans since they get fewer media coverage. Any crimes committed against the natives will not receive media coverage. This means any injustices committed against the natives will not receive much attention from the public. This media bias has a negative effect on the natives since the media is a powerful tool to highlight injustices in the society (Anderson 98).
The media misrepresentation has created a lot of prejudice against the Northern Arapaho culture. Most of the Americans believe their culture is far more superior to the tribe culture (Leavitt et al 46). This is not the reality since the tribe culture has many important values which the American culture does not possess. A good example of these values is the strong family ties. The tribe culture has very strong family ties in regard to extended families. Strong family ties are an important feature which makes up a good society (Bird 75). The media portray of natives culture as backward is incorrect and both native and modern American culture have their good aspects.
The media is a powerful tool to influence people. The Northern Arapaho tribe needs a better representation in the media.
Anderson, Jeffrey D. “The history of time in the Northern Arapaho Tribe.” Ethnohistory 58.2 (2011): 229-261.
Anderson, Jeffrey. “Ethnolinguistic dimensions of Northern Arapaho language shift.” Anthropological Linguistics (2015): 43-108.
Bird, S. Elizabeth. “Gendered construction of the American Indian in popular media.” Journal of Communication 49.3 (2016): 61-83.
Leavitt, Peter A., et al. “Frozen in Time: The Impact of Native American Media Representations on Identity and Self Understanding.” Journal of Social Issues 71.1 (2015): 39-53.
Meadows, Michael. “Journalism and indigenous public spheres.” Pacific Journalism Review 11.1 (2013): 36.
Ramasubramanian, Srividya. “Media-based strategies to reduce racial stereotypes activated by news stories.” Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly 84.2 (2017): 249-264.