‘Red, Black and Brown’ event attempts to educate on misconceptions surrounding Native American people

Gonzalez speaking to students about the history of Native Americans, Nov. 15 2018. Photos courtesy of Michael Daniels

Madison Brattoli

In order to prevent common misconceptions of indigenous people, Bobby Gonzalez spoke to Kent State students Thursday evening, at “Red, Black, and Brown: Native American, African/Latino American Exchange,” in order to educate on the topic.

Bobby Gonzalez is a multicultural motivational speaker from New York City. He has lectured at many institutions including Yale University and has had the privilege of performing at Carnegie Hall.

Gonzalez focused on highlighting the differences between what cultures are considered Native American, Indian and indigenous, stressing that these terms are not interchangeable.

“I was never taught Native American culture in school. I attended this event because I wanted to broaden my horizons,” TaNica Holmes junior fashion merchandise student said.

Gonzalez is proud to have Native American, African, Latino and Puerto Rican blood.

When Christopher Columbus sailed en route to the West Indies but ended up in current United States, he called the villagers “Indians” and the word stuck.

Although, Gonzalez explains that others should address his people with a different term.

Kimberly Debham, a senior applied communications major, asked, “At one point you had said Indian, is there a preference between Indian and Native American?”

Gonzalez explained that the proper term is either native or indigenous. Another term one should avoid is “tribe”.

Gonzalez asked the audience if anyone has heard of a pow wow. When no one raised their hand, he explained that it is an event when Native Americans get together to sing and dance wearing regalia clothing.

A common misconception among the public is that regalia is often referred to as “costumes.” Gonzalez explained that that is offensive and the attire should be referred to by the proper term.

During each pow wow, they select an Indian of the year, this year Gonzalez won that honor.

Two other cultures frequently confused with being referred to as “Indian” are Mayans and Aztecs. ***ATTRIBUTION

The Aztecs resided in central Mexico speaking Nahuatl while the Mayan people resided in southern Mexico and northern Central America.

Even in present day, indigenous peoples are not seen strongly in pop culture.

“About 40% of the people of Columbia are of African descent, but you won’t see them on Spanish language television,” Gonzalez said.

Spanish-speaking T.V. in general feature few people of color. ***ATTRIBUTION

If Gonzalez could change people’s views on one thing concerning indigenous people, it would be the role of the women in the various cultures.

A major misconception portrayed in the media about Native Americans is that a chief is always a man. It is highly likely for the chief to be a woman.

“I learned how to break stereotypes,” said Tiana Rogers, a sophomore fashion merchandise student. “Learning that even if Native Americans look the same, there are many different types.” 

Madison Brattoli is a diversity reporter. Contact her at [email protected]