Cover for COWARD: The Newspaper Indian: Native American Identity in the Press, 1820-90

The Newspaper Indian

Native American Identity in the Press, 1820-90

Creating a stereotypical image of Native Americans

Newspapers catalyzed public opinion in the nineteenth century, and the press's coverage and practices shaped the representation of Native Americans for white audiences. John M. Coward delves into the complex ways journalism both perpetuated and created the many stereotypes of the American Indian.

The newspaper Indian emerged not only from centuries of stereotypes but also as an Other standing in the way of economic growth and national expansion. As economic entities hungry for profits, newspapers sought colorful and exciting stories that attracted readers and confirmed the correctness of American values and goals. Journalists came to rely on easily understood formulas and clichés to explain American Indians while the changing technology of newsgathering promoted a fact-based but narrow native identity that standardized the representations of indigenous peoples. The result was a harsh, paternalistic identity that dominated American newspapers for decades—and still influence misrepresentations of Native American people in our own time.

Fascinating and thought-provoking, The Newspaper Indian shows how the press wove Native Americans into the fabric of a modernizing America.


"Greeley's contempt for Indian people as lazy, violent, unprogressive, and unworthy of justice mirrored a larger national view that had flourished since the first captivity narratives had been published in Puritan New England. . . . Coward's book emerges as the most comprehensive and authoritative account of journalistic treatment of American Indians in the nineteenth century."--Michael L. Tate, South Dakota History

"Coward's outstanding study places Indian stereotyping within a broader historical context and demonstrates the continuity of popular misconceptions. . . . Extremely well written, researched, and organized, this monograph makes a major contribution to nineteenth-century Native American historiography and provides unique insights into the press's role in molding the popular imagination."--Thomas A. Britten, The Historian

"Ideal for an undergraduate class since it is written in an informed and up-to-date, but very accessible style. . . . An engaging read."--Gillian Poulter, Left History

"A strong contribution to research engaging the complexities resulting from the nineteenth-century newspaper accounts of American Indians. . . . A lucid analysis of why perceptions of American Indians by the American public and the American press even to this day are biased, unbalanced, and unclear."--John Sanchez, Rhetoric and Public Affairs

"Every scholar who uses newspaper sources in the study of nineteenth-century Indian affairs would do well to read it carefully."--Daniel F. Littlefield, Jr., New Mexico Historical Review


John M. Coward is an associate professor of communication at the University of Tulsa. He is the author of Indians Illustrated: The Image of Native Americans in the Pictorial Press.

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