Do you see any similarities between the kinds of impressions that Europeans created with their first encounters and stereotypes we still see today?

HIST-15 Esntl US History

Discussion: Native American Stereotypes and Mascots 1520 and 2020

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In our first module, the reading by Paula Findlen focuses on the idea of the Americas as a “zone of contact” between the many different peoples of Europe and the Americas. Across the three chapters, her analysis centers the diversity of the peoples that European explorers encountered. Yet, when we read the original sources in our Activities this week (European Views of Native Women and John White), we see certain similarities in the ways that Europeans described the Native people they encountered, despite the variations of location and time between these accounts and depictions.

Europeans, despite the differences between people like the English artist John White and the Spanish explorer Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, tended to focus on the aspects of Native culture that was different from their own, or represented either threatening aspects, or behaviors that made the Natives appear weak or suitable for exploitation. Over time, many of these impressions and descriptions hardened into stereotypes about Native Americans. A stereotype is defined as “a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing” (Links to an external site.) or “a standardized mental picture that is held in common by members of a group and that represents an oversimplified opinion, prejudiced attitude, or uncritical judgment.” (Links to an external site.)


Stereotypes and prejudice can easily lead to discrimination when they reduce individuals to categories.

The creation, persistence, and legacy of stereotypes will be a recurring theme in the course and the topic of your final project. Although these encounters between explorers and Native peoples occurred hundreds of years ago, many of these stereotypes have persisted in American society, particularly through the tradition of sports mascots. Although many colleges and organizations changed the names of their teams and mascots in the last few decades, several prominent professional sports teams still use names with connections to stereotypes of Native Americans. This summer, the most prominent sports team still using a Native American stereotype or slur for their name or mascot retired the name and said they will choose another (The Washington Football Team).

The resources below give you some context about the development and decision to remove Native stereotypes from sports teams:

Anna Purna Kambhampaty, “The Deep History—and Troubling Impact—of Sports Teams Using Native American Mascots,” Time Magazine, July 14, 2020 (Links to an external site.) (Links to an external site.)

Erik Brady, “The real history of Native American team names” USA TODAY, August 24, 2016 (Links to an external site.)


For your discussion post this week, review the European Views of Native Women and John White Activities as well as the the video and article links above to explore the creation, persistence, and legacy of stereotypes. Some points to consider in your response:

  • What common impressions of Native people do you see in the primary sources from Globalyceum?
  • Whether you saw their depictions of Native people as sympathetic or not, what kinds of stereotypes about Native people do you think these accounts and depictions could have created?
  • Do you see any similarities between the kinds of impressions that Europeans created with their first encounters and stereotypes we still see today?
  • Why do activists suggest that it was long past time to remove these names?


Subject:  History


Please read through the text carefully, and answer the discussion questions at the end

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