Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




In February of 1973, the American Indian Movement occupied the small village of Wounded Knee. AIM’s purpose was twofold, to increase awareness of the plight of Native Americans in the area and to remove the Tribal Chairman, Richard Wilson. AIM used the historic site of Wounded Knee and stereotypical images of Indians in hopes of gaining national attention through the media. AIM thought this media attention was necessary in order to bring about change. Portrayals of Native Americans in the media have for the most part been stereotypical. Evidence of this can be found in the extensive research on Native American stereotypes. The previous research has focused mainly on films, but there is evidence of Native American stereotypes in the print and broadcast media. The following research examined news photographs of the Wounded Knee occupation of 1973. The sources of these photographs were the Alliance Times Herald, the Rapid City Journal, and the Chadron Record. Each photograph was examined using five categories: the scene, the subject, the portrayal, the camera perspective and whether or not it was stereotypical. In addition, six photographs were analyzed in detail to give a close up view of stereotypical photographs versus images that were not stereotypical. The scenes of the photographs most often showed confrontation on both sides of the dispute, but never showed either side actually being fired upon or firing upon another. Areas of relative safety were pictured a third of the time even though gunfire was a regular occurrence during the occupation. Native Americans were most often the subject of the images. The portrayal of the occupation most often showed fatigue or relative safety. Only one photograph of a life-threatening situation was published. This is not a completely accurate portrayal since two people were killed and one left paralyzed during different exchanges of gunfire. The camera perspective was usually close up shots, with normal views being used with almost the same frequency. Surprisingly, only 25% of the photographs were stereotypical. The savage warrior stereotype was most often found in the stereotypical images. Differences were found in the newspapers’ photographic coverage of Wounded Knee. The Chadron Record ran photographs related to Wounded Knee but none that were taken at Wounded Knee during the occupation. The Alliance Times Herald ran mostly close up shots that conveyed emotion. The Rapid City Journal, which published the most photographs, published a variety of photographs from government military equipment to groups of Native Americans demonstrating. In general, these images show that a confrontation took place, but they do not show the life-threatening situations that were common during the occupation. The images convey a lopsided battle between Native Americans and the government. Images of helicopters, armored personnel carriers and tanks, all belonging to the government, make it clear that Native Americans were the underdogs. Some stereotypes were found in the photographs with the savage warrior stereotype the most common.


A Thesis Presented to the Department of Communication and the Faculty of the Graduate College University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements of the Degree Master of Arts University of Nebraska at Omaha. Copyright 2000, Anne Schmidt

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