Stoic Indian

The stoic Indian

The stoic Indian

The stereotype of stoicism among Native Americans has carried far and wide, although its relationship to real life is a thin one.

The Stoics (with a capital S) were Greek philosophers known for their austerity, according to the Oxford English Dictionary.

It gets better.

Being stoic means someone who “practices repression of emotion, indifference to pleasure or pain, and patient endurance,” says the OED.

So, Indians—particularly men—are characterized in literature, film and nonfiction, as dispassionate.

The stoic Indian is skewered in Chris Eyre’s film Smoke Signals, written by Sherman Alexie. In one scene, Thomas Builds-the-Fire (Evan Adams) gets instruction in how to be a real (stoic) Indian by pal Victor Joseph (Adam Beach).

Thomas is told to ditch his spectacles, unbraid his hair, stop chatting and cease smiling.

But in order to be an “authentic” Indian, Thomas is inauthentic to his true persona.

A lovely 5-minute video by Ryan Red Corn and Sterlin Harjo of the 1491s breaks the stereotypes by featuring smiling Indians.

Take a look.

Blog #13 for Native American Heritage Month

See the youtube clip from Smoke Signals at

Smiling Indians is at


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 american indian, authenticity, Indian, Native American Heritage Month. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Stoic Indian

  1. Cynthia, I an immensely grateful to my teachers/elders who insisted I be funny, visible, and a little crazy. I am deeply introverted so this is often difficult. That said, life is a lot more interesting when I allow myself to play, or express emotion.


  2. Thank you for that: I completely agree. Life is too short to avoid humor.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s