The Scarlet Letter: Stereotypes about Indigenous Americans

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In the contemporary era, people hold stereotypes toward the people they don’t know well and labeling them into certain characteristics, so it is necessary for us to learn about an ethnic group that is usually misunderstood by other people. Native Americans, however, as the original residence of America, often being portrayed in a prejudicial description. There are pieces of evidence that make people think in such ways.

To begin with, the main stereotype of Europeans about the Indigenous Americans is that they are somewhat innocent and their way of living looks primitive. In the journal “la relacion cabeza de vaca” described by a Spanish explorer “They cure by blowing upon the sick, and with that breath and the imposing of hands they cast out infirmity. They ordered that we also should do this, and be of use to them in some way. We laughed at what they did. Telling them it was folly, which we knew not how to heal. In this description, the Indigenous Americans are portrayed as uncivilized and their way of curing people seems ridiculous to those Europeans. In addition, the author also describes that “the inhabitant of all this region go naked. The women alone have any part of their persons covered.” However, it is understandable that these Europeans may feel perplexed about their unique culture due to their relatively backward living styles, which forms the early stereotypes about the Native Americans

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What’s more, there are some very negative prejudices against Indigenous people. In “The scarlet letter” written by Hawthorne in the 1600s, Descriptions of Native Americans in this novel are both racist and patronizing (Gussman 73). The word “savage” is used countless times in the book in reference to Indians. To Hawthorne, the clothing, the way they danced, the places they lived were savage. When Chillingworth is standing in the market-place, Hawthorne describes him standing next to an Indian as “a white man, clad in a strange disarray of civilized and savage costume” (Hawthorne 56). His clothing, received while being held by Native Americans, is looked down upon by Hawthorne just as it was by Puritans. Moore, author of “The Salem World of Nathaniel Hawthorne”, describes how Indians were treated as subjects in his writing, and goes so far as to say, “In truth, Hawthorne never seemed to see the Indian as yet some of the early stories he refers to Indian savagery”. While these negative opinions on the lives of Indians were the general view of countrymen at this time in history, Hawthorne’s bias toward the Indian’s civilization shines through in The Scarlet Letter. His blatant comments on their savagery, and the way he described them as “idle and vagrant” do nothing but further prove that he had disdain for everything that Native Americans represented.

Admittedly, there are also some stereotypes that are positive about the Native Americans. The American Indians are known for their bravery and good warfare, especially the indigenous Americans who live on the plains for hunting. In order to get enough food, they watched the bison's route and looked for the best hunting opportunities. In the fierce battle with the bison, they may be trampled to death by strong buffalo. The hunting traditions of the plain Indians cultivated their militant and brave spirit. In the struggle against the European colonists, the entire tribe often fought to the last person, the last drop of blood. But the indigenous Americans do not aim to capture and enslave others, they only for revenge and honor.

Work cited

  1. La Relacion of Cabeza De Vaca - Chapter XV, Aufses, Robin Dissin, et al. Conversations in American Literature: Language, Rhetoric, Culture. Bedford/St. Martins, 2015.
  3. “The Scarlet Letter Notes.”,
  4. Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Scarlet Letter. New York: Penguin, 1986. Print.
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The Scarlet Letter: Stereotypes about Indigenous Americans. (2022, Jun 16). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 23, 2024, from
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