As American Indians struggle to control their own destinies, communications media have become an important focus on their attempts to deal with the problems of cultural survival and self-determination in government. Indian media, in turn, have had to deal with the problem of reaching an Indian audience often distracted from these goals by the social dynamics of non-Indian American, including non-Indian media.
Since Indian communities face such widely different local historical, social and political climates, their strategies for communicating with each other have been necessarily affected. In the areas of formal communcations media with which this paper deals, the diversity of the Indian audience is startling. While non-Indian media are likely to regard the Indian audience as a single demographic among many in their mass audience (Eisenlein 1982, p. 3), Indians are by no means a homogenous social unit. Each tribe and even each community within each tribe maintains an incredible diversity of personalities, political splinter groups, and opinions on issues of community development. This may seem an obvious point, but to the non-Indian mass society, Indians have often been categorized into easily apprehended stereotypes in the rush to maintain a massified society. Non-Indian media images of Indains clearly demonstrate a one-dimensonal perception of Indians and Indian affairs. The fact that these perceptions are then passed on to American audiences served to reinforce the process of cultural domination in the media.