Written by Love Isn’t Enough guest contributor Adrienne K.; originally published at Native Appropriations
Time to meet the 2010 Lego “Tribal Hunter,” the smiling dude at right. Note his “buckskin” outfit, beads, eagle feathers, warpaint, long hair, and bow and arrows. Pretty much every stereotypical marker that I can think of (see this post for more information about those markers). But lest you be offended, read his description below. He’s not a violent warrior, he’s not in the past–he has an ipod! And he doesn’t kill animals–just pokes them! (I’m not kidding. Read it.):
“Nature is both beautiful and very ticklish.”
The Tribal Hunter is a skilled, wise and noble tracker who is at one with the wilderness. He lives off the land, his only possessions a hand-made bow and quiver (though some say he also has an MP3 player hidden somewhere, and that he’s secretly a great dancer). There is no better hunter alive, but he does not hunt to eat – instead, he prefers to prove his skill in a most unusual way.
If an animal is famous for being difficult to sneak up on, you can bet that the Tribal Hunter can be found creeping silently toward it, his bare feet making not a sound on the dry autumn leaves, until he suddenly jumps out to surprise the unsuspecting creature with a friendly poke. Fortunately, he is also a very fast runner, because most of the time he ends up getting chased by something with very big teeth and a very short temper. But that’s all just part of being the best hunter around!
(The full page can be found here)
I think this serves as a great example of how a “Noble Savage” stereotype can be just as damaging as a fierce-scalping-war-like character. So let’s see. ”Tribal Hunter” is skilled, wise, and lives off the land–playing into the stereotypes of Natives being mystically connected to the land and nature. He has a bow and arrow and is the best hunter around–because he creeps silently through the leaves (like every “Indian scout” in every movie ever). But to make sure you still remember he’s “modern” he’s rumored to have a mp3 player, and *gasp* is a good dancer. Though it’s not confirmed. Thanks?
But don’t worry all you helicopter parents concerned about the amount of violence to which your child is exposed! This “hunter” doesn’t hunt/kill to eat animals (god forbid). He tickles them. If that isn’t infantilizing Natives, I don’t know what is. I just picture this clown-like Indian jumping out of the bushes with a lopsided grin and poking a buffalo with a maniacal laugh.
If you go to the Lego page, you can see along the side the other “characters”–there are some occupations, like deep sea diver and nurse, but most are things like Ninja, Caveman, Robot, Zombie, etc. Just like I mentioned in my post about headdresses at Yale Class Day, Indians are placed as a fantasy character, pretend, not a real group of people. To add insult to injury, these characters are given ratings for “Skills” (strength, creativity, and speed). Here are “Tribal Warrior’s” skill ratings:
3 stars for strength, 2 stars for creativity, 4 for speed. Solid ratings, I guess? But here are the “Circus Clown’s” ratings:
Circus Clown is just as strong, more creative, and faster than Tribal Warrior. Fitting, and proves my point exactly. We’re no better than a clown.
Lego “Tribal Warrior”: http://minifigures.lego.com/en-US/Bios/Tribal%20Hunter.aspx#Tribal%20Hunter