A half-hour special from the Emmy Award-winning PBS teen series


What's it like to be a young Native American today? Teens from throughout the United States share their stories in this In the Mix special co-hosted by award-winning rap artist and film actor Litefoot. Shot around the country, the program features Kori, a champion lacrosse player from western New York; Hovia, a Grammy-nominated flute player from rural Idaho; and short films made by Native teens in Alaska and Washington State. A group of young leaders from cities and reservations also weigh in on the issues that affect them everyday—common misconceptions and stereotypes about Native Americans, how they balance traditional culture with contemporary concerns, and their hopes for the future.



Did You Know?


ü     There are an estimated 4.4 million Native Americans, including those of more than one race. They make up 1.5% of the total American population.


ü     There are about 150 Native American languages in the United States and Canada.  About 381,000 people speak a native language at home.


ü     About one-third of Native Americans live on reservations. The rest live in cities and town across the United States.


ü     There are more than 550 federally recognized tribes in the United States, including 223 village groups in Alaska.



How to Use This Program


Studies conducted by RMC Research on previous In the Mix specials have shown that these programs engage the interest of teenagers, deliver information, and catalyze discussion on critical issues, as well as promote analytic thinking and a greater sense of self-efficacy among teens. The aim is to encourage thought and allow teens to generate their own creative solutions.

In this guide, we have outlined specific questions and answers based on the program's content. Questions can be used to open up more analytical discussion about related concepts. Also included are activities and longer-term projects. We suggest showing the entire program to the group, then presenting individual segments followed by discussion.




  1. To help students learn about what life is like for young Native Americans today.


  1. To help students think about and discuss common misconceptions and stereotypes about Native Americans.


  1. To give students the opportunity to learn more about Native American culture.




  1. When you think about Native Americans, what are some of the images that come to your mind? What are some of the words that come to mind? Where do you think these images and words come from? (television, film, newspapers and magazines, toys, school)


  1. What are some of the images and/or words that come to your mind when you think about Native American teenagers? Where do these images and words come from?


  1. Would you say Native teens are more different than or more the same as other American teens? Why?




  1. Did anything surprise you about the teens in the program? What? Why?


  1. What did you learn about Native Americans that you didn’t know before? Did your ideas change? How?


  1. What were some of the issues that the teens in the discussion group were most concerned about? Why? (stereotypes and misconceptions like abusing alcohol and living in teepees—these affect perceptions about Native Americans and can create prejudice and discrimination)


  1. One of the teens in the discussion says that the way Native American history and culture are often taught promotes misunderstanding. Do you agree? Why or why or why not? What have you learned about Native American history and culture in school? What else would you like to know?


  1. Some of the teens talk about problems they have with sports teams that have Native American mascots (e.g., the Cleveland Indians and Washington Redskins). Why do you think many Native Americans dislike these mascots? (They often disrespect sacred cultural objects and rituals and promote caricatures.) What do you think about them? Do you think it’s okay for Native American teams to use Native American mascots, like the Wyoming Chiefs in the program’s segment about basketball?


  1. The teens in the discussion talk about the difficulty of living in “two worlds.” What are the “two worlds” they’re talking about? (traditional Native culture and contemporary American culture). How do some of the teens in the program successfully live in these “two worlds”? (In addition to living lives like typical American teens, many take part in traditional cultural rituals and events and are part of Native youth groups.)


  1. The teen actors in the student film Res Life are shown abusing alcohol and getting into trouble with the law, two problems that are more common among Native teens than they are in the general teen population. Why do you think this is so? (Some feel isolated and hopeless living on reservations. Others struggle with prejudice and discrimination. Some have trouble balancing their heritage with contemporary American life.)


  1. A teen in the discussion says that he only recently found out that he was Native American. How did he say this affected his life? (It helped him get a better understanding of himself and a clearer focus.) How do you think it would affect you if you found out that you were Native American or of some other heritage?   



1.                       Research a Native American tribe that is represented in your geographic area. Find out about its history, culture, and the issues that concern the tribe today. Write a paper or present the information to the class.


  1. Find out more about the controversy over Native American sports mascots. Research the issue and write an essay and/or take a poll about what people think. Consider choosing it as a topic for a class debate.


3.     Learn more about the sports and sporting events that are popular with Native Americans. Do a project on lacrosse, basketball, the Native American Olympics, or the Native Youth Olympics.


  1. Invite a prominent Native American from your area to come speak to your class. Ask the speaker to discuss his or her culture and how they balance traditions with contemporary American life.


  1. Learn more about contemporary and/or traditional Native American music and its cultural significance. Choose rap, rock, flute, or drumming. Find examples of the style you choose and present them to class.


  1. Research a prominent Native Athlete, politician, actor, or musician and write an essay or do a presentation about his or her life.


RESOURCES    See: www.pbs.org/shows/nativeamerican


In the Mix Programs

Over 50 In the Mix programs of interest to grades 7­–12 are available on topics including: Ecstasy and Club Drugs, Coping after 9–11, Dealing with Death, Smoking Prevention, Sex and Abstinence, School Violence, Cliques, Drug Abuse, Teen Immigrants, Depression and Suicide, Gun Violence, Computer Literacy; Self-Image and the Media, Sports Participation, Media Literacy, Activism, Alcohol and DWI, Dating Violence, Getting Into College, School to Work Transition, Careers, Relationships, AIDS, and others


VHS and DVD copies of programs can be purchased from Castle Works, Inc. and include performance rights. For pricing information and a complete catalog, visit www.inthemix.org or www.castleworks.com; email us at mail@inthemix.org; call 800 343-5540 or 800 597-9448.


Visit us online at www.inthemix.org for guides, transcripts, video clips, schedules, lesson plans, and other resources for this and other topics.


Funding for Native American Teens: Who We Are is provided by Native American Public Telecommunications. Series created by WNYC Radio. Copyright 2006 Castle Works, Inc.