In his article, Starn mentions how in the last decade the anthropology of North America has experienced a sort of “rebirth”. Women are gradually replacing men on the forefront of anthropological research, as well as more people of color and individuals who hail from Third World countries. An “activist” or more politicized approach has also been used by anthropologists more frequently in recent years. I think this indicates that the study of North America is heading in the right direction.
North America’s history is a controversial one as we’ve learned throughout this semester. There are things that Americans today are proud of, like their liberation from Great Britain and emphasis on things like freedom and innovation. But the past (and also present) is filled with events people would prefer to remain in the shadows away from the public eye, like the treatment of Native Americans. Who better to study the past of North America than women, people of color, and individuals from third world countries – all people who have experienced some sort of oppression or hardship. Up until this point the development of North America has largely been viewed as something to be celebrated and revered by other national powers. But the time has come to pay attention to the things that we did wrong, as well as those we’ve wronged. Of course there are those who would prefer to just ignore such injustices that are so “unAmerican” and go against the values like equality and justice that America was founded on. But the activist like nature of more modern anthropologists ensures that these wrongdoings don’t slip through the cracks.
Because the right people and values are now being applied to the anthropology of North America, I think the real focus needs to be on education. From readings we’ve done for class, I know that great work is being done on the study of North American peoples and cultures, but it’s a shame that almost no one I talk to outside of the course knows that there are prominent Native American tribes within the state of North Carolina. And even if they did, I’m doubtful that they’d be able to tell me about the tribes’ cultures or histories. These are historic cultures that we share an environment with. We should therefore be made aware of their pasts, as well as present situations.
I think that if younger generations are taught the full history of North America, including all the ugly details, a greater respect for native cultures and awareness of social issues would develop. Therefore no student should ever enter a college course about Native Americans and not be aware of the Bloody Island Massacre, or the boarding schools imposed on Native American children. It’s important to build a better anthropology of North America by constructing a more accurate depiction of the continent’c development.
It kind of sucks that the general public had to find out about the insensitivity and offensive stereotypes felt toward Native Americans through someone as irrelevant and stupid as Adam Sandler. I may have been a fan of Happy Gilmore and Billy Madison before, but his upcoming movie’s depiction of native cultures has definitely made me reconsider this. This article we discussed in class gained national attention because Sandler was rightfully being condemned for his offensive depictions of Native Americans as homogenous and uncivilized people. I just wish it didn’t take a celebrity scandal to make people realize the way Native Americans are wrongfully viewed in society today. This can however be avoided through application of more modern North America anthropology as Stern described in his article, to younger generations.