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From Congress To Facebook, Study Shows Strong Misconceptions About Indigenous People

Jessica Flock

A recent report from a non-profit group aimed at erasing misconceptions about Native Americans says Indigenous people still face discrimination and invisibility.

The report by the organization Reclaiming Native Truth included a combination of approaches, including focus groups, interviews with policymakers like members of Congress, and analyses of millions of Facebook and Twitter posts from across different demographics. 

Crystal Echo Hawk is a member of the Pawnee Nation in Oklahoma and was a lead consultant on the study. She said most non-Natives don't know any indigenous people personally, so their perceptions are first formed in their K-12 education. 

"Through either really poor, inaccurate history taught in schools," said Echo Hawk. "And actually almost fifty percent of states in the country, their public schools don’t teach about Native Americans past 1890."

There is very little data on Native Americans of any kind. So Echo Hawk said, "To have this research that really begins to document many things that Native Americans inherently knew about the bias and discrimination that lives out there in key institutions. People feel incredibly empowered."

The research also included testing strategies to shift perspectives, like encouraging non-Natives to challenge their own perceptions. 

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, Yellowstone Public Radio in Montana, KUER in Salt Lake City and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.

Copyright 2020 Wyoming Public Radio. To see more, visit Wyoming Public Radio.

Maggie Mullen is a fifth generation Wyomingite, born and raised in Casper. She is currently a Masters candidate in American Studies and will defend her thesis on female body hair in contemporary American culture this May. Before graduate school, she earned her BA in English and French from the University of Wyoming. Maggie enjoys writing, cooking, her bicycle, swimming in rivers and lakes, and most any dog.