Native American Stereotypes in Literature

The Noble Savage, the Utopian Man

  • Katrina Brown


Historically, Western White society has portrayed Native American societies as utopias that we can
look to for political, spiritual, and artistic inspiration. For example, Columbus’s original “Letters of
Discovery” began this tradition by writing the natives as a primitive, pure, communal society, and
Montaigne’s “Of the Cannibals” continued this tradition with his similar portrayal of native peoples.
Such portrayals ultimately lead to harmful stereotypes, expectations, and marginalization of Native
American people by White society. With the aid of Robert Berkhofer Jr’s The White Man’s Indian,
this essay explores the idea of the noble savage in conjunction with utopian ideals and breaks down
the process by which Native ways of life have been falsely portrayed as utopias. Additionally, it
explores the consequences of such stereotypical depictions and looks at attempts to dispel such
utopian myths.

How to Cite
Brown, K. (2019). Native American Stereotypes in Literature. Digital Literature Review, 6, 42-53. Retrieved from