"A Brother is to be Loved, and an Indian to be Hated": The Native American Struggle for Equality Under the Nineteenth-Century New American Ideology
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Native Americans are repeatedly the unfortunate recipients of racial stereotypes by the American ideological hegemony, beginning with early nineteenth-century American Literature. Literature is one of the primary cultural components necessary for the advancement of a State ideology because it contains and continues to reinforce many of the values held by that ideology. Early American literature has continued to negatively influence white American public opinion regarding Native Americans since the time of its publication. Originally learned through its literature, sentiments of bigotry and hatred become just another part of the culture over time. Lingering ethnocentric beliefs from the nineteenth-century American ideology are still present today, indicative of the Native American groups who are regularly at odds with the United States Government over land rights, protection of their people’s civil rights, and maintenance of their culture. Through this question of the widespread cultural embrace of resentment, oral tradition converges with print culture to perpetuate the values of the new American ideology while simultaneously deriding the indigenous outsiders, placing them on the fringes of American society. By examining The Prairie by James Fenimore Cooper and The Confidence Man: His Masquerade by Herman Melville, two separate but equal models emerge depicting the nineteenth-century white relationship to Native Americans. Each author attempts to positively include honest examples of Native Americans and their social issues in his narrative. However, each falls short of this goal because either the Native American is misrepresented as a formulaic ideal or is being used as a means to understand the white rationale for hate from a white ideological insider’s perspective. Understanding this type of white appropriation in nineteenth-century literature is the key to understanding why it still exists in the American contemporary.
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