Ethically Blameless: A Report on Cultural Imperialism

Powwows are defined as a gathering of medicine men and spiritual leaders which usually referred to a religious ceremony (Manataka American Indian Council). It has been Americanized today in the sense of almost everything it is. Even the word doesn’t have its original pronunciation of pauwau. Through the use of modernized colors and regalia made to be flashy whereas it began as a celebration for our people and nothing flashy at all. Today, it is more for entertainment and competition but was originally a mere gathering of our people to celebrate things like marriage or victory. People and visitors of all nations travel from hundreds even thousands of miles away to participate and sell merchandise when it really should be a celebration or sacred ceremony. Through the use of mass media, such as the internet or magazines, powwows have been made to attract larger audiences through their flashy colors, and merchandise sold, and the ‘spiritual connection’ to their traditions or tribes represented.

If you ever came across a reservation, it is apparent that we as a people are struck with poverty and the lack of economic development. This too is because of an Americanization of wealth. Before the settling of our ‘founding fathers’, wealth to a Native American meant the ownership of horses and cattle. Today wealth is advertised through newspapers, TV shows, and magazines as who owns the most land, resources, and money. “Indian Nations are poor today because they are shackled by a federal regulatory environment that dates back to 1934, when Congress passed the Indian Reorganization Act (Anderson)”. This Act caused Native Americans to be ‘ward of the courts’ and left on the poorest parts of the country to have their land use regulated and overseen by the government. This has created corruption and greed not only among Apache leaders but other Native American leaders as well. Similar to aggressive stimulation, and observational learning, corruption and greed has inspired our leaders to act out what is reported in news, or movies even though this did not exist in our cultures before.

It was easy in the old days for our ancestors to teach their young. Without the distraction of YouTube, social media or educational institutions, it was all that was known. Today, education comes from everything around us. We are not only shaped what to like, what to desire, but what is considered right and sometimes unethical. Mass media has changed education through being taught to question everything. When our ancestors taught their young, it was never questioned. We were taught to respect our elders and I’m sure whatever they said went. Nowadays, our generation wants to know why. Answers can be found on TV, the internet, or anywhere desired and even then, it is not the way we as Native Americans were taught. This alters what our elders are trying to teach us. An example would be medicinal plants. Our elders can give us a plant that is meant to heal us in some way but we can easily look online and find something that is advertised to be the best remedy.

Cultures have changed and developed into what they are today through the use of mass media, and the American culture. Though powwows today are for entertainment purposes, in some ways it helps tribes be connected to their people. Through learning their dances, and ways of making native jewelry, it helps bring families together by learning of their cultural backgrounds. Returning it back to their own tribal culture would mean returning it to what it was meant to be, a celebration and sacred ceremony. Wealth in our tribes can be restored through the strife for education to our people.

If people are educated enough to run for office, and have knowledge of who they are electing, so much can change. Wealth can also be restored by having the freedom of government rule. “By combining these ingredients, Native Americans can rise out of poverty and have the dignity they deserve” (Anderson). In order to keep our traditions alive, the knowledge of our elders must be known. The best way for this to be done is by recording it. Textbooks have been used for centuries to teach things and I think that if schools on the reservation created a textbook of their traditions and is taught in their schools, some hope might be in place.

Mass media has a profound impact on the perception of everything we do, whether we are at work, driving, or just lounging at home, there is no avoiding it. American colonization of Native Americans has permanently changed the culture and lives of our people. The one thing to defend what we have left of our culture and recreate the poverty is education. Educating not only our people, but those around us can make an effective impact. Education can change the image given to us by Disney, literature, and other mass media. We are not mere blood thirsty savages, we are not mere noble savages, and we are not nonexistent. We are people struggling to keep our own traditions and culture alive in a culture that changed our identity.



Works Cited

Anderson, Terry. “The Wealth of (Indian) Nations.” 25 Oct. 2016. Web. 15 Mar. 2017.

Manataka American Indian Council. “History…” n.d. Web. 15 Mar 2017.



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