Saturday, February 23, 2008


I get a lot of email from people asking about sources on the web they can use to learn about American Indians. There's certainly plenty of these sites out there, but most of them are kind of a mess!

I did a search using "American Indians" as the search term. Over three million hits... The first one looked scholarly, with a lot of text in small type, but all the verbs were past tense, and, the material itself was stereotypical, biased, and just plain wrong. Here's two examples... The section called "Games and Amusements" starts out like this: "Naturally careless of the future, the Indian gave himself up to pleasure when not under immediate necessity or danger." And, in a section called "War" is this: "As war is the normal condition of savagery, so to the Indian warlike glory was the goal of his ambition, the theme of his oratory, and the purpose of his most elaborate ceremonial."

There's a LOT of that kind of information on websites. Using those sites will affirm stereotypes and add to the mass of incorrect information that people think is knowledge about American Indians.

Before you start looking at websites, I highly recommend you start with Elaine Cubbins site "Techniques for Evaluating American Indian Websites." Cubbins is a member of the American Indian Library Association. Her site has excellent tips, such as the one I'm pasting below. Do visit the site, and view websites with as much care as you view children's books.

If the site claims to represent a tribe or a tribal view, is there information supporting the claim that it is an "official" or authorized Web site for the tribe?

Welcoming statements by tribal leaders, links to information about services for tribal members, and claims of the official nature of a site are possible clues, but are not conclusive evidence to identifying a tribe's official site. When in doubt, find out from a reliable source: call, write or email the tribe and ask. A good indication is if a server is owned by the tribe, but tribes do not always own the server where their official Web sites are located. For an example of this, see the tribal web site for the Miami Nation at

If a site claims to speak for a tribe, check with that tribe to verify the site's authority before believing that it actually does represent tribal consensus.



BPW said...

Unfortunately, the link to Ms Cubbins' site and the techniques leads to an error message. Hoping it is rectified in the near future. I was hoping to share some of her info with 5th graders studying the colonial period.

Debbie Reese said...

Try again, BPW. I just checked, and it worked fine. Might have been a momentary glitch.

BPW said...

I was able to access it from home. I kept getting error messages at work about "spyware" so the firewall must be blocking it. Strange! But glad to finally access the article.