Over the weekend, CBC cancelled one of its few hit shows: the Indigenous-centred drama, “Trickster.” It’s a decision that baffles the mind, but at the root of it is a problem that plagues “Indian Country” today: “Pretendians,” non-Natives who pretend to be Indigenous for material gain.
The Indigenous arts community in Canada recently proposed making pretending to be an Indigenous person a crime. However, by doing so, Indigenous activists would hand even more power to non-Native bureaucrats to regulate identity — it would mean, in essence, asking non-Natives to choose which is the real Tonto.
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I mention Tonto for a reason. In 1973, the Associated Press wrote one of the first stories about the problem of racial stereotyping in film and television. Zeroing in on Indigenous people, the AP declared that, “Indians have been getting the worst of it from the earliest years of Hollywood,” having been portrayed unsympathetically as “blood-thirsty redskin(s).”