Dr. Stephanie Fryberg, Professor of Psychology

Omission as the Modern Form of Bias Against Indigenous People

In the U.S. cultural imagination, Indigenous Peoples loom large in romanticized and stereotyped ways, yet contemporary Indigenous Peoples are largely omitted from the public conscience. In K-12 education, for example, 87% of references to Indigenous Americans portray them in a pre-1900’s context. In mainstream media, less than .5% of representations are of contemporary Indigenous Peoples. Utilizing both experimental and national survey studies, Dr Fryberg demonstrates that prevalent representations of Indigenous Peoples (or lack thereof) shape how people think, feel, and subsequently act towards Indigenous Peoples, as well as how Indigenous Peoples feel about themselves and act to make change in society. Dr Fryberg's research shows that recognizing Indigenous omission shapes discrimination and both implicit and explicit bias towards Indigenous Peoples, including attitudes about the use of redface, and apathy towards the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls epidemic.  Her work demonstrates that sensitivity to Indigenous omission has adverse psychological consequences for Indigenous Peoples’ wellbeing, but also serves to galvanize efforts to change the status quo through civic engagement. By making visible the pernicious consequences of omission and highlighting Indigenous agency and resistance to omission, we illuminate a path towards creating a more equitable future for Indigenous Peoples.

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