Professor Clark decolonizes history and media through lecture

By Liv P. Fernandes- 1851 Staff

Students, faculty members and IC3 interns attended a lecture last month, titled “Decolonizing History.” This event was held by Director of Communications Programs for Equity and Inclusion and Professor Jordan Clark in Rosen Auditorium.

The seminar addressed decolonizing history, or understanding how cultures formed through Western research, established positional superiority and Western knowledge. The speaker discussed learning what was done, and reclaiming and rebuild- ing aspects of culture that were wiped away by white colonialism through understanding the different perspectives of history.


Among discussions within smaller groups, attendees discussed their experiences with Native Americans in the media. One video shown was the “Crying Indian” ad from the 1970s, which features an Italian actor presenting as a Native American distressed by litter. Another, a screenshot from the movie “Avatar,” which features alien-like creatures connecting to nature.

An additional reference to Native Americans in the media was a short scene from Walt Disney’s “Peter Pan” in which the characters interacted with Native Americans with exaggerated features, singing about their “red man” identity. After the showing, Clark

added that it builds a challenging and dangerous image of Native Americans.

Attendees took away the idea these in- stances are not new issues, and movies such as “Peter Pan” and “Pocahontas” and commercials from the 70s such as the “Crying Indian” are ugly distortions of true identities. One person in the crowd mentioned in a small group he had “both negative and positive experiences” growing up in Ohio, where Thanksgiving was the primary educational source of Native Americans.

An attendee commented the 70s commercial was her regular “Saturday morning ad.” Another attendee addressed the issue of forgetting how current this issue is. He emphasized how this story was always written as though the struggle was over, when these people were still in the country. He said we need to, “recognize this is an ongoing situation.”


Clark’s final message was, “behavior is learned, it is outrageous but continues while we are looking at symptoms and not the cause of Native American colonization.” He said, “we pick and choose what we present,” of a culture, and by doing so we are wiping out a group’s entire history.

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