This video clip shows a Native American culture far from static and one that appears far from being understood by mainstream America. What is an Indigenous sound? It is the voice of an Indigenous kid, wearing jeans and a hoodie, driving down a modern city street, filming on an i-device in 2012. The speaker uses classic “trickster” tactics, teasing and barraging the audience with questions. These questions act as a mirror to the inquisitors, reflecting their views of Native Americans stuck in the 1800s.
What prevents an understanding of this kid’s vibrant culture? Americans have not suspended other cultures in a 19th century time capsule. No one thinks the French still dress like Napoleon Bonaparte, do they? Scholars place blame on U. S. educational texts. The history books used in schools rarely cover Native cultures past the point of post-contact. School children appear to have left the Native Americans in chapter one, also leaving behind the multiplicity of Native cultures, amalgamating all tribes into one. Then came the portrayal of the “Savage Indian” on the big screen. Hollywood, in the early 1900s formed a major American film genre--the Western. These movies further cemented the stereotypes that, oddly, the YouTube filmmaker is asked to explain.
In addition to textbooks and movies, many people form impressions of others from information gleaned from TV/news. Most current coverage, however, either ignores Native cultural stories completely or tends to focus on the negative aspects, “victimizing” Native Americans. Harsher realities of alcoholism and poverty play only parts in otherwise rich and flourishing cultures. As we hear in the clip, modern-day stereotypes fuel the question, “So, I saw a drunk guy yesterday, he kinda looked like you. Is he your father?”
Is an i-movie on YouTube the new Hollywood documentary? Is the Internet the new history book? The last real democracy capable of bringing 21st century Native Americans into the minds of the mainstream may be the Internet. The tone of this video suggests it’s not the filmmaker’s responsibility to knock on every door in America to educate. Instead, he rhetorically urges viewers to act. Thanks to the Internet, we can hear his cultural voice—with real-time evidence of Indigenous cultures resisting assimilation, yet, participating and thriving in America today. This Native American youth narrates his story to the world with the indigenous sound edging its way into the cultural conversation.