Since You STILL Don’t Get It: The Complete Idiots Guide to Native Americans

Welcome back to the third installment of what is shaping up to be an ongoing series on racism and stereotyping — brought to you by the not-very-nice people at MTV and The Dudesons in America.

Surprise, surprise…the comments on my first Dudesons blog have been flying in lately.  Flying in, but blocked by the administrative comment approval feature — because most of them have been hateful, far off-topic, and, not too surprisingly, long-winded racist diatribes.  Hey, I wholeheartedly believe in free speech.  But just because you CAN say it, doesn’t mean you SHOULD, and it definitely doesn’t mean I’m going to allow you to use my blog as a forum for hatred and illiterate rants.  So sorry.

Sheesh. A lot of people are angry about this.  Are they angry that we’re protesting an offensive and racist television episode??  No.  They’re angry because they STILL DON’T GET IT.  This is the basic, watered-down gist of the more recent comments:  “How dare you accuse our beloved Dudesons of racism and stereotyping!  They’d never!  What’s so racist and stereotypical about it all, anyway?”

So, there it is.  If anyone is to expend another breath or keyboard stroke attempting to persuade the nay-sayers and fence-sitters out there that The Dudesons in America episode entitled “Cowboys & Findians” is in fact racist, perpetuates negative and false stereotypes, and that it distorts and misappropriates Native American culture and spirituality, perhaps it’s time to clear up some of those common misconceptions, as well as provide a little bit of education to the general and sadly uninformed public.

Oh, and for those of you who already know better, my apologies in advance.  Bear with me while I take a brief time-out for a little NDN 101.  Idiots of the world…class is in session.

The Complete Idiots Guide to Native Americans

MYTH: All Native Americans and Native American Nations are basically the same.

FACT: You’re an idiot.  Every one of the many tribes in the United States, Canada, South America and Central America is inherently different.  (Yes, Norman and Beatrice, they are all Native Americans, too.)  There were (and are) differences in languages, traditions, customs, spiritual beliefs and practices, traditional stories that have been passed down, where they lived, how they lived, what they ate, what type of dwelling they lived in, and…well, you get the idea.  Different people.  Sort of like how people in France are different from people in Russia.  Or how people in Arizona are different from…well…Arizona has now set itself apart from pretty much everyone.  The closest comparison I can think of for the current state of Arizona is Nazi Germany…but that’s another blog.

MYTH: Headdresses, war bonnets, and fringed and/or heavily-beaded, store-bought and/or store-rented “native-styled” clothing, including fringed and cleavage-bearing mini-dresses paired with fringed stiletto go-go boots, are perfectly acceptable attire for a non-Native to wear: (a) at a pow wow, (b) to a costume party, (c) on Halloween, or (d) during the taping of a moronic television episode.

FACT: You’re an idiot.  Traditional clothing and regalia should only be worn by Native Americans.  The reason for this is simple: they are not costumes or for playing dress-up games. Regalia is set aside and worn only for sacred or otherwise special gatherings.  Some regalia is considered especially sacred, and is purified by smudging.  For a people whose culture and traditions were taken away from them by force, wearing traditional clothing and regalia in today’s times is not only a continuing aspect of Native American tradition and culture, but an important way of preserving and passing down those traditions to the next generation, as well as a way of instilling and maintaining Native Pride.  Bottom line: DON’T DO IT. EVER.

MYTH: It’s perfectly okay if I adopt Native American spiritual practices and combine them with a few others, such as New Age/Wicca and create a brand new religion of my own.

FACT:  Technically, it’s “okay,” since the Constitution and I both guarantee and respect your right to freedom of religion.  But just because you CAN, doesn’t mean you SHOULD.  I won’t call you an idiot for this one — but you should tread very, very carefully here.   Most Native Americans won’t mind at all that you want to smudge your house with sage or cedar, or that you wear a turquoise fetish around your neck.  But if you do adopt any aspect of Native spirituality, be sure to adopt the practice correctly and with respect, and give credit where credit is due when someone asks why you’re doing it.  An easy to remember analogy about picking and choosing spiritual practices:  Roman Catholics consider the Eucharist (the blessed and consecrated communion wafer and wine) to be the most sacred aspect of the Catholic Mass and the Catholic faith.  To a Catholic, the Eucharist doesn’t just represent the body and blood of Christ, it BECOMES the body and blood of Christ upon the consecration by a priest.  So if you were to decide to use your own version of the Eucharist in your own spiritual practices, by taking saltine crackers, blessing them yourself, and then charging people for the privilege of receiving your blessed saltines in your backyard church, you should expect a whole lot of criticism from devout Catholics. And guess what: Native Americans are no less protective of or devout in their own beliefs.  And while we are on the subject of those blessed saltines, never charge money for something spiritual or sacred.  If you’re foolish enough to want to run a sweat lodge in your backyard, that’s your business.  But do so for free — and at your own risk — and don’t try to pass yourself off as a representative or member of any Native American tribe.  And for crying out loud, please do stop calling yourself a medicine man/woman or a shaman.  You do not simply wake up one morning and decide to declare yourself a medicine man…unless you happen to be an idiot.  (And p-freaking-s, there is no such thing as a shaman in Native American tradition.  Look it up.  Google is free, you know.)

MYTH: Native American dance consists of hopping up and down in a circle, while clapping a hand over one’s mouth yelling “woo-woo-woo-woo-woo-woo-woo.”  It’s called The Indian Dance.  Everyone knows that.

FACT: You’re an idiot.   Native American dance and song is many things, at many different times, but it is always, ultimately, sacred and significant.  It is storytelling, celebration, ceremony, ritual, and prayer to the Creator.   So while you are woo-woo-woo’ing and hopping up and down like an idiot, you are mocking Native Americans, their culture and their spirituality.  Which is really no different than walking into your local Roman Catholic Church and beginning to sing at the top of your lungs, changing the lyrics to a sacred hymn to suit your own purposes, while washing your dirty socks in the holy water.

MYTH: No one will mind if I pretend to be Native American.  I’m sure any Native American would be honored and flattered by that.  I don’t mean any disrespect by it — I’m just very interested in Native culture and traditions and want to be a part of it all.  I’m not hurting anyone with my little white lies, am I?

FACT: You’re an idiot. Few things piss off a Native American more than a non-Native trying to pass themselves off as a Native.  There are more egregious things out there, but it ranks right up there in the Top Ten.  You know how annoying it is when a rich white kid from the suburbs decides one fine morning that he wants to be a black gangster?  Yeah, it’s a little bit like that.  But worse.  A lot worse.  (There are a number of reasons for that, but one that comes to mind is the Blood Quantum Laws.  I’m not going to explain all that at length here — again, Google is free, and available to idiots everywhere, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Read up on it.  When you understand that Native Americans were (a) first stripped of their identities and then (b) later forced to prove those identities, you may see the light as to why it’s just a tad annoying to see non-Natives flippantly lying about their heritage.)  And for those of you who think no one knows that you’re lying:  oh, believe me, they know.  I’ll let you in on a little secret.  I just got done telling you that Native Americans aren’t all the same.  Well, there is in fact one trait that is common to every Native American alive today:  the ability to spot a wannabe from five miles away.  So do yourself a favor, and avoid being pointed at and laughed at behind your back.  (Or laughed at to your front.)  No one is saying that you can’t be interested in or have an appreciation for Native American culture, but rather than pretending to be something or someone you are not, embrace who you really are instead.  You’ll piss off a lot less people that way…and you may discover an interesting thing or two about your own heritage while you’re at it.  BOTTOM LINE:  Stop it.  Please…just stop it.

MYTH:  Native Americans used to scalp the white man..

FACT: Scalping was invented by the white man.  Again, consult with Google…it’s free, and available to idiots everywhere.  As more Europeans flooded this country, the desire to move out those pesky Natives who were already there began to increase and intensify.  The white man started the practice of killing and then scalping Native Americans as a way of showing off their “kill” — in much the same way hunters show off a bear skin.  Scalping became so popular among the white men that scalps were actually sold and traded.  (Sick, huh?)  Oh, there were some Natives who were so enraged by what they were seeing that they decided to fight fire with fire, and a white scalp was collected here and there…but rest assured, it was the white man’s practice first and foremost.  Another thing that Europeans were and still are very good at: rewriting history.  This is how the Natives got the reputation as being the scalpers, and why the myth persists to this day.   BOTTOM LINE:  Stop portraying Native Americans as a bunch of bloodthirsty, scalp-collecting savages.  Thanks.

MYTH: “Ugh” and “How” are Native American words that all Native Americans use.  I know this is true because I’ve seen it in the movies.

FACT: You’re an idiot. “How” is an English word, as in “How did you get to be so stupid?”  “Ugh” is another English word.  It is an interjection used to express disgust or horror, as in “Ugh, are you really that much of an idiot?”  Sure, if you watch old black & white western movies, you’ll see a lot of Native Americans raising their hand and saying “HOWWWW.”  You’ll note that the “Native Americans” in those movies were actually white men wearing makeup — and the screenwriters, directors, and producers who made those old movies knew even less about Native Americans than you do.  Stereotyping and racism was even more pervasive 50 years ago than it is today — and the “ughs” and “hows” were utilized by the white media to demonstrate the “lack of intelligence and savagery” of the Native American.  (Yes, Norman and Beatrice, Native languages are actually quite beautiful, complex, and diverse.)  BOTTOM LINE:  If, after reading this, you still walk up to a Native American man or woman, raise your hand and say “HOWWWW,” you’re a bigger idiot than I thought you were.

MYTH: My grandmother’s-grandmother’s aunt’s cousin was an Indian Princess, and I am 1/8th Cherokee and 1/16th Apache.

FACT: You’re an idiot. There is no such thing as an “Indian Princess.”  Native American tribes did not have such things as “princesses,” “princes,” “kings,” or “queens.”  There were chiefs and there were medicine men; there were leaders, and there was rank and organization and order among the tribe, but there was no “royalty.”  So sorry, Princess, but you’re not the descendant of an Indian princess…and I seriously doubt that you are 1/8th or 1/16th anything that originates from the North American side of the Atlantic.

MYTH: All Native Americans have long black hair, dark eyes and a dark complexion.  You don’t LOOK Native…are you SURE you’re Native?  You sure don’t look like any of the Native Americans I’ve seen in the movies…

FACT: You’re an idiot. Believing that all Native Americans look the same — or that they should look the same — is about as dumb as thinking that all citizens of New York City do or should look the same.  Tall, short, thin, fat, long hair, short hair, dark eyes, blue eyes, dark hair, light hair, dark skin, light skin, medium skin…get the idea?  There’s a whole lot of diversity there.  (Oh…and the reason why a lot of  Native American actors and actresses appear the way you THINK they should in the movies is because producers and directors already know that idiots like you won’t understand that they’re watching a movie about Native Americans unless they hire a cast that looks the way idiots expect them to look.)

MYTH: Satirizing or parodying Native Americans, their culture, traditions, or spirituality is not racist, offensive, or perpetuating stereotypes.  It’s just a joke…lighten up.

FACT: You’re an idiot.  Calling something satire or parody doesn’t change the nature of what it really is, or make it any less offensive or heinous.  A rose by any other name would still smell like racism.

MYTH: All Native Americans catch fish with their mouths.

FACT: You are a fan of or somehow associated with The Dudesons in America.  You are also an idiot.


Has Anything Really Changed?

My decision to get involved in the MTV / The Dudesons in America protest was a no-brainer, knee-jerk reaction.  I saw a post on AIM’s Facebook page, noted the contact information, and started writing a letter of protest within the hour.  A blog followed shortly thereafter.

What I didn’t expect or anticipate was some of the feedback.  Not only on my own blog, but those of others writing about this issue.

Apparently there are some people out there who aren’t convinced that The Dudesons in America episode entitled “Cowboys & Findians” is racist, offensive, or that it perpetuates stereotypes.


I’m an idealist…always have been.  But knowing on a conscious level that I am an idealist doesn’t always prepare me for that occasional whack in the head by cold, harsh reality — when someone expresses views that are so contrary to my own.

When someone just doesn’t get it.

Anyone under the age of 50, who was raised on the colorblind, diversity-embracing dogma that Sesame Street spoonfed us each day HAS to be an idealistic, humanistic, culturally sensitive and tolerant sort of person.  I mean, you don’t watch an oversized yellow bird becoming best friends with a brown fuzzy elephant, while the humans who lived on the block were African-American, Latino, an interracial couple, and a deaf woman, to name a few.  Even the resident not-so-nice-guy on the street was tolerated and accepted.  Oh, and a purple vampire lived there, too.  And those with horns on their heads, and bike horns for noses.

You don’t watch that seven days a week without getting the bigger picture.  Diversity is a beautiful thing.  Right??

Apparently not.

While the majority of the comments on my Dudesons blog have been favorable and in support of the protest against MTV, there were just enough people who didn’t seem to get it to make me do the math.  Statistics.  Blog view counts, view-to-comment ratios…

Wow, there are a lot of ignorant people out there.

And all this got me to thinking.

Have things changed at all in the last 40 years?  Are people really any less prejudiced, racist and ignorant than they were during the 1960s?  Or…is it just that people are more politically correct in what they do or say when they know someone is listening?

In search of an answer to that question, I stumbled across this video on YouTube.

I laughed, I cringed, I got mad, and then I cringed some more.  And then I got mad again and decided to post about it.

Easy to remember rule of thumb: make me mad, and I’m going to blog.

This video footage is from 1972.  I was three years old.  (Now you know how old I am, and you need to sign a confidentiality agreement. )

So while I was watching Sesame Street and becoming indoctrinated to the ways of the lifelong path of a tolerant, diversity-loving and culturally sensitive liberal, the adults in this video were being randomly interviewed on the street, during New York City’s Easter Parade.

And I’m embarrassed FOR them.

The burning question in my mind is whether the answers would be any different, if asked today.

The idealist in me wants to believe that they would be.

Cold, harsh reality tells me otherwise.

So does that episode of The Dudesons in America.

The problem from the very beginning has been the negative and outrageously false stereotyping of Native Americans.  From the earliest days of the penny Western novel, the indigenous people of this country have been portrayed to white America as unintelligent, savage, crude, uncivilized, and (GASP) heathens who have no religion.  The 19th century images of savagery and brutality gave way in the mid-20th century to cartoon-like caricatures, where Native Americans were shown as no more than dimwitted buffoons.

I shouldn’t have to sit here and tell you that none of these things are true.  A lot of you already know this.

But too many people don’t know.  Far too many people haven’t the slightest understanding of what it truly means to be Native American.  They know nothing of history, and have instead bought into the lies and revisionism.  They know nothing about culture, traditions or spirituality, and instead have believed the distortions and stereotypes.  All they have in their heads are lies and propaganda — the propaganda that the media, in all its forms, has helped to perpetuate to this very day.

And if programs like The Dudesons in America continue to poison the airwaves and the minds of everyone who watches it, can we reasonably expect the answers to those questions posed to the random man or woman on the street to be any different another 40 years from now?

Now for those of you who still don’t get it, I have a few more words.  I can be fair about it, and acknowledge that you may not personally find the program or its content offensive — that you just don’t get it.  But in return, you have to acknowledge that there are in fact many people who do find it offensive.  Instead of closing your mind and washing your hands of the matter, look a little bit deeper.  Ask yourself why it is that people are offended and outraged.  Do you honestly believe that people have nothing better to do than to complain and protest without reason?  There’s a world of reason.  But it may be that you refuse to see or acknowledge it.  Those of you who are still in the “I don’t get it” camp, I’d like you to consider this a personal challenge.  Stop for just a moment, and think outside your own little perspective box.  It begins with self-education, is followed by empathy, and ultimately, will lead to enlightenment.  If enlightenment should lead to outrage, I will consider it a personal victory.

I am not so naive as to believe that racism and the stereotyping of Native Americans will suddenly end with the permanent removal of this offensive Dudesons in America episode.  But it’s a damned good start in the right direction.

For those of you who do get it, keep writing.  Make those phone calls.  Keep telling MTV that you will not tolerate stereotyping and racism in any form, and that you want your children and grandchildren to inherit something better than the status quo.

And no, I don’t need the world to be the mirror image of Sesame Street.  But I really wouldn’t mind living a world that more closely resembles it.


The Dudesons in America ~ Racism and Stereotyping at its Finest…and Lowest.

This is one of those times when I have mixed feelings about drawing attention to an offensive program.  This is a show that doesn’t deserve publicity or a larger audience.

But I have no choice but to call attention to the latest episode of The Dudesons in America.

The Dudesons, a television series that has been stimulating the intellect of the dumb and dumber in Finland for a decade or so, has been brought to an American audience and aptly renamed The Dudesons in America.  All this, courtesy of MTV.

MTV has not exactly been known for its quality programming, and hasn’t given anyone a compelling reason to tune into that channel since the early 80s.

With The Dudesons in America, however, MTV has sunk to an all-time low.

The episode entitled, “Cowboys & Findians” is chock-full of racial stereotyping and material so deeply offensive to Native Americans, that I believe even Andrew Jackson, who was not widely known for his deep and abiding love for the indigenous people of this country, would have been appalled.

For those of you who were fortunate enough to have missed the airing of this offensive piece of trash, I congratulate you.  But I am going to ask you to make the supreme sacrifice now.  Watch the episode.  I’ll be here when you get back.  Go…watch.

UPDATE:  MTV removed this video from its website sometime during the evening of 5/21. 

The video can be viewed in streaming format here:

and at its new host site here:




Don’t be misled or confused by the fact that the producers of this show were able to find a Native American who was willing to participate in this show.  He is but one man, and does not speak for all Native Americans.  The American Indian Movement (AIM) is asking its members and supporters — and anyone who has the sense to see this episode for the hateful, racist and stereotypical piece of trash that it is — to write to MTV and express their outrage.

I have written to MTV (at length) and have demanded that this episode never be aired again, and that a formal and public apology be offered to the Native American people.  (Those interested in reading my letter of protest can read it at the end of this post.)

If the episode is not permanently pulled from the airwaves (and internet), and an apology issued by June 1, 2010, there will be a boycott of MTV, its sponsors and affiliates.

It only takes a few minutes of your time to let MTV know how you feel.  Your opinion and voice matter.  Please get involved, and let MTV know that this kind of racial stereotyping and offensive material will not be tolerated.



Melissa Barreto
Senior Publicist, MTV

Stephanie Berman
Senior Director, MTV

Jeff Castaneda
Vice President, MTV

Janice Gatti
Director, MTV

A.J. Sarcione
Senior Publicist, MTV

American Indian Movement – Santa Barbara (



Re: The Dudesons In America /Episode #2 – “Cowboys & Findians”

Dear Sirs/Madams:

I am writing to express my disgust and outrage with regard to the episode of The Dudesons In America entitled “Cowboys & Findians.”

The cultural insensitivity, stereotyping, and blatant racism in this episode is appalling.  Shame on all of you for perpetuating the negative, hateful and erroneous stereotypes that Native Americans have fought for so many years to correct and eradicate.  Frankly, you haven’t just perpetuated stereotypes — you have gone so far as to create brand new ones.

I hesitate to provide a group of adult professionals with a history lesson, but after viewing the episode in question, it seems to me that one may be in order.  Many years of systematic slaughter, broken treaties, and unspeakable acts of brutality and callousness culminated in the forced removal and relocation of Native Americans to reservations.  This, however, was not the end of the story.  It was only the beginning.  Native Americans were not only forced to give up their ancestral homelands, but their very identities.  They were robbed by force of their traditions, their culture, their spirituality, their languages, and everything that was sacred to them.  Their children were taken away from their families, and were sent to government-run boarding schools, where they were beaten, brainwashed, and stripped against their will of everything that defined them.  This is not ancient history we are referring to — as of the 1970s, tens of thousands of Native American children were still attending those schools.

It is only in more recent years that Native Americans have truly felt the societal freedom to once again wholeheartedly embrace their traditions, culture, languages, and all that was once part of the sacred fabric of their lives.  Ironically enough, many non-Natives have at the same time become utterly fascinated with Native American culture.  Over the last two decades or so, Native American music, culture, spirituality (and any and all things Native American or Native-related) have become “trendy” with non-Natives.  This has been a double-edged sword for the Native American people.

On the one hand, this shift in American thinking has, in some ways, fostered a reawakening of Native American pride, and has allowed a more open embracing of the traditions, culture, and language that the people were, for so many years, wrongfully denied.  But the downside is obvious.  Native Americans are now witnessing yet another wholesale American theft: that of their traditions, languages, and spirituality, by non-Natives who often distort, bastardize, misconstrue, and even those who attempt to make a profit.  In the case of your program, the distortion and bastardization of Native American culture has been taken to new lows, as it was done in a manner of mockery and complete disrespect.

The episode “Cowboys & Findians” stands apart in terms of stereotyping and racism.  You have sent a negative and hateful message to millions of people.  But I ask you: would you even attempt to parody an African tribe in such a manner?  I think not.  The backlash from the NAACP, the media, and public at large would be immediate and powerful.  What you fail to recognize is that it is no less unacceptable to portray Native Americans in such a light.

We all know that racism is wrong — in any form.  But there is much more to this than cultural sensitivity.  To willfully mock and distort the traditions, culture, and spirituality of Native Americans — when they have only recently fully reclaimed the very identities that were forcibly robbed from them not so very long ago — isn’t only politically incorrect and insensitive, it is simply inexcusable.  The fact of the matter is this: as long as the “stereotypical Indian” is portrayed on the screen, in print, or any other form of media, the general and largely uninformed public will, on some level, believe those stereotypes to be true — or at the very least, will continue to fail to recognize that they themselves are perpetuating racism.

As you may or may not be aware, this week marks a precedent-setting event in Native American history.  On Wednesday, May 19, 2010, the United States Congress offered a formal apology to representatives of five Native American tribes, for the “ill-conceived policies” and acts of violence and atrocities committed against the Native American people.  It is an apology that was long overdue.  Can you recognize the irony in the timing of the broadcast of this hate-filled and racist television program, when the U.S. Government itself is seeking to make amends for the incalculable wrongs that it committed?

Interestingly enough, the MTV website ( states the following, in part:

“At MTV Networks, we like to use our powers for good. Our award-winning pro-social initiatives – which raise awareness about important social, educational, health, environmental and other current issues – as well as our partnerships with leading nonprofit organizations, are an integral part of the work we do every day. We’re proud to champion the causes that matter to our audiences and their communities. Check out our pro-social campaigns below and find out how MTV Networks walks the walk when it comes to giving back.” [emphasis added]

The damage has already been done, and it cannot be undone.  But, as MTV has stated within its own website, you can use your powers for good.  You have the power to make things right.  You have the power to raise awareness about important social issues — and I can’t think of a more important issue than the present one for you to address and rectify.

Nothing short of a formal and public apology to the Native American people should be forthcoming at this point.  This heinous and hateful episode should never again be aired in any format, whether on television, the internet, DVD compilations, or elsewhere.  This is an episode that rightfully belongs on a dark, dusty shelf in your Hall of Shame, and it should remain there forever.

You should be aware that this matter is being taken very seriously.  You have outraged and offended many people.  A non-response — or the wrong response — will invariably result in the immediate and indefinite boycott of MTV, as well as all its advertisers and affiliates.  If the episode is not permanently removed from public view and an apology issued by June 1, 2010, the boycotting will begin.

The world is watching.  Do the right thing.


Jennifer Yuhas-Gall