How we can do right by the next generation of native people

By @Abbey Compton, February 10, 2020

It was my honor to present research from the Reclaiming Native Truth project at the 2020 BYM Women’s Retreat—an annual gathering of Quaker women seeking truth and pursuing a more peaceful and equitable world.
The project’s groundbreaking research and analyses reveal how and why myths and toxic stereotypes about native people are allowed to continue in digital and mass media and in consumer brands. In short, the absence of native people post-1900 in K-12 education creates a void in public awareness. That void is filled with persistent false narratives, antiquated and romanticized images, and harmful stereotypes reinforced in search results, news, and entertainment content.

Those of us who work in marketing and entertainment fields have the power to flip this script and bring about real change for the next generation of native people. Here’s how we can start:

  1. Learn about the Native Nations and Tribes recognized by state and federal governments in your area. Visit websites of the Tribes that have one to understand better the real people misrepresented by the false narratives.
  2. Take a hard look at your content and see where native people are present or absent. Are they represented fairly and accurately if at all?
  3. Recognize that native people didn’t chose to be 1 to 2 percent of the U.S. population. Look for opportunities to help them amplify their voices and tell their stories.

Many responsible companies and brands are already looking for ways to remove bias from their content and AI solutions. The work must continue and content marketers must be advocates for these efforts with our technology and channel partners.

The self-esteem of native kids hangs in the balance. Their stories deserve to be told from their own perspective, and non-natives (and our kids) will be better for having heard them.

Abbey Compton presenting at the 2020 BYM Women's Retreat
Abbey Compton presenting at the 2020 BYM Women’s Retreat.