Toys of Genocide

cowboys & indiansMichael Yellow Bird brings up a good point.

You can still find packets of plastic cowboys and Indians and play shoot ‘em up to your heart’s content.

“You can buy toys of genocide,” Yellow Bird told a standing-room-only crowd this week at Portland State University.

Yellow Bird, a professor who studies decolonization at Humboldt State University in Northern California, said folks continue to act out scripts of colonization each time we “perform” as cowboys and Indians.

Sometimes it’s a movie about the Wild West (think The Lone Ranger) and sometimes it’s dressing up in Halloween costumes of ersatz warriors and maidens.

Cowboys and Indians juxtapose the colonizer with the colonized, Yellow Bird said.

Them and us.

So why can’t we drop by Toys R Us and buy a bag-full of slaves and slave-owners? Why not plastic replicas of Jews and Nazis duking it out in Baden-Baden?

Why are American Indians the rare group whose cries of stereotypes and prejudices continue to be discounted?


About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. Dr. Coleman is an enrolled citizen of the Osage Nation.
This entry was posted in authenticity, framing, Humboldt State University, Indian, journalism, Michael Yellow Bird, native press, science, science communication, writing and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Toys of Genocide

  1. Karen Lincoln Michel says:

    Good question. It’s one that also could be raised in the discussion about mascots.


  2. Padraig Cronin says:

    Comparing plastic cowboys and native Americans to plastic Jews/Nazis or slaves/slaveowners is not comparing like-with-like. With the cowboys and Native Americans, you have two opposing groups of armed combatants. Let us remember that the whites did not always win (Little Bighorn 1876, Fetterman Fight 1866, Dade’s defeat in Florida in the 1830s etc).

    There are plenty of themed wargames figures out there, of which “Wild West” figures are but one variant.


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