Back in June, First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) released groundbreaking research about attitudes toward and perceptions of Native Americans as part of a jointly-managed effort called Reclaiming Native Truth: A Project to Dispel America’s Myths and Misconceptions. The project also released two messaging guides and a narrative-change strategy framework that will be used to begin to change the false and misleading narratives about Native peoples. Overall, the project seeks to create a long-term, Native-led movement that positively transforms popular narratives and images of Native Americans.
We have been delighted by the response so far! We have received countless emails, phone calls, texts and even social media messages about the materials and the project itself, as well as stated commitments by many folks to begin their own efforts to change the perceptions of Native Americans.
As a reminder, the materials are readily available for use at www.reclaimingnativetruth.com. Individuals and organizations — Native and non-Native alike — are encouraged to download the research findings and messaging guides, and put them into daily use and practice, whether that be in face-to-face conversations, in written communications, or in digital media such as social-media channels, videos or websites.
“Some incredible findings were unearthed through this research – many of which had long been experienced and assumed but not proven,” said Michael E. Roberts (Tlingit), President & CEO of First Nations, at the time the reports were published. “The findings clearly validate the realities that so many Native people face in their day-to-day interactions in communities. They provide our project, and the larger movement, with a strong foundation upon which to move forward.”
One of the most significant outcomes related to developing and testing a new strength-based narrative that incorporated messaging related to values, history and the visibility of Native peoples. The narrative was tested through an online survey with 2,000 Americans over age 18. Majorities of Americans support the new narrative and find it credible. A 65 percent majority say they would be willing — 31 percent very willing — to share these ideas with others. More issue-specific narrative messages written around key issues — mascots, the Indian Child Welfare Act, tribal sovereignty and pop culture depictions of Native Americans — find similar validation.
Narratives are broadly accepted, overarching stories that reinforce ideas, norms and expectations in society. Repeated over and over, through diverse platforms and channels, a narrative becomes the story people accept without question. Often a narrative reinforces the status quo and perpetuates unfair systems, structures and norms. The Reclaiming Native Truth project worked to identify and test the new accurate narrative that can support cultural shifts to advance social and policy change to support racial equity and justice for Native Americans and tribal nations.
The next phase of work is focused on bringing together the power of many movements — of organizations, tribes, grassroots leaders, non-Native allies, foundations — each of whom can adopt, adapt and disseminate the new shared narrative as part of their ongoing efforts and work, while leading implementation of their own priority strategies. An introduction to the narrative and messaging strategies are available as part of the Reclaiming Native Truth messaging guides at www.reclaimingnativetruth.com. The detailed research report and the Narrative-Change Strategy are also available online.
“We sought and received input and feedback at every step in the project, from more than 180 stakeholders, including an incredible swath of Indian Country that came together in a new and different way to support these efforts.” Roberts noted. “Their voices are reflected in this project and we are all committed to work together going forward. Native Americans and tribes have faced discrimination and bias at every level of society, institutionally, and within government. They have been held back from reaching their full potential by the negative stereotypes, damaging misperceptions and lack of awareness that prevail within education, the media, entertainment, popular culture and among thought leaders. Changing that begins now.”