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Book Reviews 183 Book Reviews Mary Ann Weston. Native Americans in the News: Images of Indians in the Twentieth Century Press, no. 49 in the series Contributions to the Study of Mass Media and Communications. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1996. "This is not a book about Indians," notes author Mary Ann Weston. "Rather it is a book about ... perceptions-readers' perceptions fostered by newspaper and magazine articles [which] had and have a powerful role in shaping our views of Native Americans-and the actions we and our representatives in government take based on those views" (ix). In a well-written and researched one hundred and eighty-eight page account, Weston, a professor of journalism at Northwestern University, by and large succeeds in making her case. Weston successfully explores "the notion that the news media have perpetuated popular images of Native Americans, images that were badly flawed-inaccurate stereotypes, in fact. 11 Furthermore, "this repetition of inaccurate images, which runs counter to the press' ideal of fair and factual reporting, has been a consequence of the news process itself." As she points out, "the practices, traditions and forms of journalism, rather than challenging the stereotypes of popular culture, have repeated and reinforced them. By doing so the press has given these images the weight of actuality"(2). The core of the book consists of six case studies, beginning with the successful marshalling of the media by "cultural pluralists 11 during the 1920s against traditional "civilising" assimilationist policies, through the "Indian New Deal" of the 1930s, Native American participation in World War Two and the bitter struggles against "termination" in the immediate postwar years, and culminates in the "Red Power 11 confrontations beginning in the 1960s. Each study provides ample historical context with respect to the Native 184 Canadian Review of American Studies Revue canadienne d'etudes amencaines American reality, the nature of contemporary American journalism, and the larger American political and cultural environment. Chapter two, for instance, focuses on the highly successful press campaign masterminded by John Collier against a U.S. Senate bill which threatened to expropriate traditional Pueblo lands in New Mexico. Collier and others fell back on two stereotypes: the romantic views of the "good Indian,, the "ancient/exotic Indian." Shown as a noble people and a cultural treasure being wronged by the government, rarely did the Indians speak for themselves . And the more distant from New Mexico the writers and readers were, the more the former fell back on these images which failed to portray either the Pueblo culture or cause in a sophisticated or complete fashion. In chapter six, she focuses on the 1973 Wounded Knee standoff. Confrontation , as with contemporary African Americans, brought serious consideration by a media now more willing to self-criticize, to question government , and explore oppression from the perspective of the oppressed. With the emphasis on the Indians' plight, positive stories stressed the return to traditional ways-the "exotic" romanticised. Indeed, "the militant Indians were generally depicted sympathetically as romantic figures [the "noble Red man"] who were saving not only their own people but a failing white society by resurrecting the ways of the past" (137). Before long, however, the "bad Indian" imagery came to dominate, with modifiers like "hard-line,, and "militant " frequently invoked (as they had been from the outset in local coverage). Vestiges of the old imagery-"noble savage" versus the "bad Indian"-endured despite considerable "consciousness raising" for both journalists and their readers, and a growing sensitivity to the plight of nonmainstream Americans. "InAmerica," as Weston correctly asserts, "'the Indian' is ubiquitous, but Native Americans are virtually invisible.,, Mass culture images of Indians resonate widely, "but real Native Americans, because of their small numbers and relative lack of political and economic influence, are often unseen and unheard,, (16). Weston's examination of Native Americans and the news process does contribute substantially to our understanding of the press' role in creating and perpetuating the imagery by which this group was seen, not to mention judged. Her findings indicate that the images of Indians have remained amazingly unchanged since the 1920s. The tone and language used by mainstream journalists was usually either derogatory or humorous, and the subject matter...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1710-114X
Print ISSN
0007-7720
Pages
pp. 183-185
Launched on MUSE
2019-01-02
Open Access
No
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