Along with stereotyping Natives, there are four tropes prevalent in the media’s perception of Native peoples in North America.
- Relegation to the Past: Native people are represented as historical figures, not contemporary peoples, failing to recognize that #WeAreStillHere.
This trope is rampant in media about Natives. Many Native peoples practice their cultures every day and are simultaneously part of contemporary society. Speaking or writing about Natives in the past tense locks us in a time of genocide and cultural loss. A time when our languages and ceremony were beaten out of us. Today Native peoples are working to regain our stolen heritages. Relegation to the past diminishes our current struggles in the eyes of non-Natives.
- Tonto-Speak: Native peoples speak in broken English, implying that they are inferior.
This trope carries across Native character stereotypes and media characterizations. Native peoples speak different languages; English is depicted as a second language—one at which they do not excel. These broken sentences, spoken by slow-to-comprehend Native peoples demonstrates the superiority of the English language and the white people who speak it.
- “Mohican Syndrome”: A non-Native chooses to leave their contemporary life behind to live with the Natives. They succeed in their endeavor and uphold the Western Native stereotype better than the Native peoples themselves. This results in them appearing more Native than the Natives.
In this trope, the Native people are a background to the main, non-Native character. They are only present to exemplify the superiority of the non-Native character, who will fight on behalf of the poor, ignorant Natives. (Dubbed in Native American in Comic Books by Michael Sheyahshe of the Caddo Nation, Native Americans in Comic Books, Sheyahshe 2016)
- White Savior: The Natives are too ignorant or naive to take care of themselves. They are rescued by a kind-hearted white person, usually a man.
The white savior trope shows that Native peoples cannot save themselves. They need a white person, who can navigate the contemporary world, to save them. This trope is not unique to Native representation and is found across media representation of other diverse identities as well.