Over 70 people tuned into the Woodland Cultural Centre’s virtual Stereotypes and Racism Workshop on Wednesday, April 19, 2023.
It was the first time the one-hour workshop has been offered to the public and it examined a variety of topics about stereotypes and racism that Indigenous people have experienced and continue to experience.
The presentation looked at current media and back throughout history to see how society has shaped and continues to build upon stereotypes and racism. Attendees were walked through examples of movies and advertising, sports teams, and cultural appropriation, as well as through institutional racism like residential schools and more.
“Stereotypes and racism of Indigenous peoples dates back to the arrival of European Christian missionaries and settlers,” said Krysta Longboat, Manager of Education at the Woodland Cultural Centre. “Indigenous peoples were often seen as barriers to the rich land and its abundant resources of North America. The treatment of First Nations people by European settlers is linked to their mode of thought and has contributed to oppressive acts and constraints meant to control First Nations people.”
Longboat led the group through definitions and spoke about discrimination in areas such as criminal justice, housing, employment, health care, education, gender equality, and political representation, as well as the misconceptions that non-Indigenous people have about those very topics.
She discussed history, movie clips and even artwork to help convey the harmful representations of Indigenous people throughout the years.
Longboat showed advertising from the past of Indigenous people being misrepresented with feathers in their hair, bowing down to non-Indigenous people, wearing war bonnets, buckskin or little to no clothing, as well as other harmful stereotypical looks.
She showed clips of cartoon movies like Pocahontas and Peter Pan, while attendees pointed out any stereotypes and racism they could see within the clips.
Longboat also discussed the harm of repeatedly seeing such misrepresentation in the media as both a young child and an adult, whether Indigenous or not.
“Indigenous people are often told that it’s not a big deal or that we’re being too sensitive and that we should be worrying about bigger issues,” She said. “But really, these types of things are perpetuating those bigger issues when you’re talking about stereotypes and racism.”
Throughout the presentation, Longboat also gave various suggestions on how to help move through everyday life with more of an understanding for other cultures and noted that there are over 600 Indigenous communities across Canada and over 70 different individual languages.
“One of the ways in which we can help to combat these stereotypes is to not judge a whole group just by one negative experience or a few negative experiences,” she said. “Get to know people from different racial backgrounds on an individual level and to find out how much you might actually have in common with those who may be seen as ‘others’.”