At least they spelled it right.
"...the god promised that if she stayed with him in the cave he'd forgive her people, and protect and enchant their land until the end of time. So she agreed to live with the god in the waterfall and became Maid of the Mist. And thanks to the princess, Niagara has remained an enchanted wonderland, despite hundreds of years of commercial development."
This is a Setting
that broadly covers the locations where American Indians (also Red Indians, Native Americans, Amerinds, or First Nations
) can be found.
Unlike other settings, there is no common physical aspect to this trope, as Real Life
American Indians are a diverse group that have lived in a variety of places, such as the lush forests of the Appalachian Highlands, the arid deserts of the Great Plains, and the Intermontane Plateaus of the west. Instead, Injun Country as used in media is a state of mind — a place where the normal rules of the Civilized World do not apply, broached only by those daring enough to venture into the unknown.
The characterization of Injun Country has changed over the years. It began as a staple of The Western
and tabloid entertainment, where American expansion brought white settlers into conflict with natives in The Wild West
. In these works, the American Indians were depicted as Hollywood Natives
or bloodthirsty savages
, with a "primitive" lifestyle and the ever-present threat of a scalping. Sympathetic Indian characters were almost always honorable brave
collaborators with whites, while "Half-Breed
" characters could go either way
Today's portrayals of Injun Country have changed due to Values Dissonance
. While the landscape remains the same, frequently such revisionist works will depicted the natives as earthy Noble Savages
or Magical Native Americans
who lived in an Edenic utopia
before the White Man's arrival tore it all down. Though the Indians usually remained a threat to the heroes, they also acknowledge the injustices of the settlers.
An emerging variation can also be seen in present-day works set on modern indian reservations, The Rez
, which are often shown as an awkward mix of lavish casinos and abject poverty. The contrast has become fodder for comedy and satire, and also leading to new character types, such as opportunistic Indian hucksters dazzling gullible visitors with fake rituals and spurious wisdom.
A supertrope to Tipis And Totem Poles
and The Rez
. Depending on the work, may overlap with Settling the Frontier
, The Wild West
, Hollywood Natives
, The Savage Indian
, and Magical Native American
open/close all folders
- Scalped is set in the criminal underworld of a fictional Lakota Souix reservation in South Dakota, with the town's mob boss setting up a new casino.
- The Saint of Killers' backstory in Preacher involves him rescuing a young woman from Injun Country. When she tells him about the horrible things they did, he tells her bluntly that they learned it from the whites. While in reality Native American tribes were no strangers to brutality, they did learn scalping from Europeans during the French and Indian War.
- In one American Eagle story, the local authorities deny the investigation of the Desert Stars, the state superteam of Arizona, going so far as to say, "Yep, and you ain't in Arizona no more. This here's the Navajo nation, son." There's also the time Billy Lame Deer found Cobalt Man armor and took a casino hostage, asking for whiskey...
- Little Plum is a comic strip in the British Anthology Comic The Beano is set in injun country with the strip mainly being about a young indian boy from the smellyfoot tribe. It is full of indian stereotypes and all the indian characters speak broken english which consists of normal english but with the word the being replaced with um.
- Oum Pah Pah, considered a prototypical version of Astérix (which the same writer and artist team would later create), is about a tribe of this kind battling against white invaders with Zerg Rush tactics (similar to how the Gauls fight the Romans in Astérix).
- Later in Astérix as well, in "The Great Crossing".
- Dances with Wolves has both extreme flavors of the trope. The Pawnee tribe is purely malevolent, slaughtering a harmless white man for entering their land. The Lakota tribe, however, are proud, noble, far superior to the madness of white society, and tragically doomed. Many Lakota were not happy about being portrayed as helpless innocents in need of a Mighty Whitey.
- Pocahontas is part of the modern wave of portraying an idealized version of Indian society. This isn't as bad as it could have been, since other than the title character they are exactly as quick to violence as the colonists, as in they both launch their sneak attacks on the other at the same time.
- Peter Pan portrays Injun Country as dangerous, but ultimately the Indians are more sympathetic than the dastardly white pirates. The Indians have both teepees and totem poles, but they're in a Magical Land to the begin with.
- The Canadian film Black Robe is set in a refreshingly unromanticized (and undemonized) perception of what's now Ontario and Quebec. No Colours Of The Wind, no squaw gettum firewood: just Huron guys dying of smallpox, Iroquois guys eating Algonquin guys, and French guys talking about a Jewish guy who was crucified but came back.
- The films Smoke Signals and The Business Of Fancy Dancing are insider views of present-day Indian reservations; and examine the issues that modern Native Americans face. Both films were written, and the latter directed, by Sherman Alexie, a Spokane/Coeur d'Alene author, screenwriter, and poet.
- The Iron Horse involves the people building the Transcontinental Railroad struggling to fight off attacks from the Cheyenne—who are struggling to destroy something that is a mortal threat to their way of life.
- Jim Jarmusch's Dead Man is a thoroughly modern take on Injun Country, portraying the madness of white industrialism encroaching into the American Frontier. The main character's train passes the tipis and bison of the Great Plains to arrive somewhere in the American Northwest. The hero is never in any danger from Indians, and in the end, he arrives at a Makah village, which looks very different from the stereotypical tipi camp.
- In The New World, the Virginian Powhatan tribe is portrayed, and they are much different from the standard Great Plains stereotype. Though ominous and warlike at first, they enjoy a much more favorable portrayal then the initial white settlers. The Powhatan are shown to be clean, fit, and prosperous, while the English fort is filthy and filled with sick, hideous, mean people. As the film goes on, however, Pocahontas learns to appreciate English culture as well, and she is enchanted by England when she visits it.
- In the film Three Ten To Yuma, the party passes through Injun Country and gets attacked at night by some fairly stereotypical braves, who are barely visible in the darkness.
- The Outlaw Josey Wales takes place in a revisionist Injun Country. The primary conflict is between white soldiers on opposite sides of the Civil War. Josey acquires an Indian companion who grouses about the white man but also subverts various stereotypes. While holed up in a ranch house that has been fortified against Indian attack, Josey has a heart-to-heart with the honorable chief of the local tribe to avoid a conflict with them.
- Renegade (aka Blueberry) features a white lawman who was adopted into an Indian tribe in his youth. He lives with one foot in his white frontier town and one foot in Injun Country. Indians are portrayed as wise and mystical people whose knowledge of hallucinogens ultimately allows the hero to achieve a climactic epiphany.
- Maverick subverts the classic Wild West Injun Country. Maverick's Indian friend is a sly, greedy conman who helps Maverick pull a trick on his companions and bilks money from a wealthy white hunter, who wants the Indians to behave like they do in the books.
- In My Little Chickadee, a train passing through Injun Country gets attacked by stereotypical Indian braves on horseback. Mae West makes wisecracks as she guns a few down from a cabin window.
- In Appaloosa, the heroes chase the villains into Injun Country. When they're all attacked by a war band, the white folks all agree to a truce until they get out of Injun Country.
- In Stagecoach, the stagecoach enters Apache country and must ultimately flee from a swarm of angry Apaches giving chase.
- In Fort Apache the very reason for the fort's existence is to keep in check the unruly Apache populace.
- Parodied in the western comedy The Villain; there's a literal white line drawn across the desert, and when some pursuing Indians reach it, they screech to a stop; the one guy who tumbles across hurriedly scrambles back.
- In Mans Favorite Sport (in 1964, no less) included an Indian huckster, John Screaming Eagle.
- Hilariously lampooned in Cannibal! The Musical, where Alfred Packer and his party pass through a Ute settlement. All of the Native Americans are played by Japanese actors. There's even a scene showing the tribal warriors practicing their katas in front of teepees made from Japanese flags. The chief points out all the stereotypical aspects of their camp and dress to try to convince the whites that they're genuine.
- Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy (recently of No Country for Old Men fame) deconstructs this trope with what might be thought of as a meta revisionist historical Injun Country, where, not to put too fine a point on it, all humans of all colours and cultures are essentially between one and zero steps removed from the dishonourable, brutal naked savage stereotype. Very adroitly deconstructed by the author in order to make a case for Blue and Orange Morality.note
- The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn ends with our protagonist announcing that it is his intention to move out here and have a hollerin' good time with the Injuns. In the TV series The New Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, he actually ends up in India.
- The American poet and author Sherman Alexie is known for using (and often deconstructing) this setting. Incidentally, he grew up on a reservation. He's Spokane-Coeur d'Alene.
- "Captitivity Narratives" featuring white Puritan girls getting captured by Indians and forced to live with them were popular between the 17th and 19th centuries. The archetypical example would be A Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson, a true, autobiographical story.
- Around the World in 80 Days uses the first characterization: On their way to New York our heroes' train is ambushed by a considerable number of Sioux. This is likely because Verne preferred to run with popular -if unflattering- stereotypes, possibly as satire.
- This concept runs throughout the novel The Alienist.
- The works of 19th century writer Karl May are the uber-example of this trope for anyone who learned to read in German as a kid. Despite never having been to the then still Wild West himselfnote , he wrote vivid first-person accounts of "his" encounters with Noble Savage Apache Winnetou.
- Both the Savage Indian and Noble Savage variants are played so painfully straight in the works of James Fenimore Cooper that at times it feels like parody. Hilariously lampooned by Mark Twain in his essay "Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses".
- One of the Auf Weidersehen Pet series has a back-story involving an Indian tribe buying the Middlesborough Transporter Bridge and re-erecting it in the desert as an attraction for their casino. Of course, our heroes get the job ... It Makes Sense in Context
- Malcolm in the Middle had an episode where the family went to a casino; Malcolm got in trouble for card-counting for his father.
- The X-Files episode "Shapes" is set on an Indian reservation whose elders complain about people turning away from their old beliefs. An Indian Reservation in Montana that looks a lot more like the west coast of British Columbia. Thankfully, the native people shown avert both the Noble Savage and Casino Indian stereotypes.
- The painful last-season episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation where Wesley Crusher gets superpowers over time and space while the main cast is busy forcing the tribe of Written By White Men to resettle on another planet because their current one was given away in a treaty to some pale skinned aliens.
- Wonderfalls takes place near Injun Country. One episode takes place on a reservation. All of the natives shown are portrayed as normal everyday people, though the protagonist tries to poke one into becoming more of a stereotypical magical shaman.
- In The Sopranos, Tony Soprano visits an Indian casino that is owned and run by a shady white businessman with perhaps a drop of Indian ancestry.
- F Troop was almost ahead of its time on this trope, portraying the Hekawi tribe as a harmless group of schemers who are solely interested in making business deals with white settlers. Much of the characterization of the tribe is actually based around Yiddish comedy, to the point that the show teases the myth that they're the lost 13th tribe of Israel.
- In Deadwood, the camp is illegally built on Sioux territory, causing conflict with the local tribesmen. The trope is essentially a Reconstruction of its original role in Westerns. The Sioux are largely just the faceless Threat From Without, and are seen committing random raids and murders. At one point, Bullock gets into a mano-a-mano with a Proud Warrior Race Guy who thought shooting him would be too easy.
- In Parks and Recreation, Pawnee was founded in Injun Country. Many of the flagrantly unpolitically correct murals in city hall depict the brutal confrontations between the settlers and the Indians. In one episode, Leslie gets in trouble with the local tribe by trying to hold a fair on tribal land. The tribal chief scares her with the threat of an Indian curse while privately laughing about how white people always fall for that kind of nonsense.
- Shadowrun has the extreme example, with the return of magic to the world allowing Amerindians to (re)take the western half of the continent. The new nations vary wildly; some of have become high-tech powerhouses, while others sink ever-further into squalor and decay.
- You guessed it. Deadlands. No matter what setting, there are "Indians" around. In the original Weird Western setting, Native Americans have carved not one, but two sovereign nations out of American soil. By the time Deadlands: Hell on Earth rolls around, the "Coyote Confederation" is a defunct wasteland, while the "Sioux Nations" remains one of the few pleasant places anywhere on the planet. Deadlands: Lost Colony, as a Space Western, uses the native sentient beings of planet Banshee as ersatz Indians.
- Wherever the Wendigo werewolf tribe hangs out in Werewolf: The Apocalypse (especially the Wild West setting). The more militant ones are still mightily pissed off at the European werewolves who moved in with roughly the same beliefs as the normal humans regarding the New World (they also released the Eater of Souls by accident, but water under the bridge, eh?).
- The Rez Sisters and Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing by Cree playwright Tomson Highway; also his novel Kiss of the Fur Queen.
- Prey stars a badass Indian protagonist who doesn't believe in his tribe's teachings, but with the help of a near-death experience and a spirit journey to his grandfather gains the ability to escape his worldly body and cheat death.
- Gun features Blackfoot and Apache natives as antagonists/sympathetic allies/victims in need of saving. The protagonist, Colton Reed, is half-white, half-native.
- Turok is a time-travelling Native American who hunts the most dangerous game—no, not that one—dinosaurs.
- Ben 10 visited a rather archaic-looking reservation in "Benwolf."
- On King of the Hill, John Redcorn won a long lawsuit to return to him a portion of his tribal land as a reservation. It's about 12 acres, situated next to a busy freeway. In a later episode, he opens a casino on the property to give his band a place to perform, only to be informed by the authorities that Texas doesn't have Indian gaming.
- The last real Looney Tunes short ever made, "Injun Trouble", was mostly set here, with the last part taking place in an old western saloon.
- In an episode of Family Guy, Peter pulls into an Indian casino as an emergency rest stop, and while he's in the restroom, Lois gambles away the family car. Peter must then try and convince the operators he's a member of the tribe, in order to participate in the tribal profit-sharing, and get the car back.
- In The Simpsons, Bart had a "vision quest" at an Indian casino. And Marge lost twenty thousand dollars.
- Drawn Together has a bunch of Indian ghosts building an absurdly huge casino in the house's backyard. Captain Hero and Spanky Ham start making money with fraudulent bets, while Foxxy Love and Princess Clara start a strip club in the house.
- South Park features a nearby Indian reservation. In one episode, Cartman finds out that a local Indian man had slept with his mother and visits the reservation to speak with him. Another episode lampoons the New Agey makeover of Indian culture. The owner of an alternative medicine shop exalts the virtues of natural medicine developed by local Indian tribesmen. It turns out that the cures are useless shams, and the "Indians" were just Mexicans anyway. The episode "Red Man's Greed" features the local tribe opening an Indian casino and trying to wipe out the white townsfolk with blankets infected with SARS. Stan cures the townsfolk by going on a vision quest and rediscovering the traditional medicines of his people: DayQuil, chicken noodle soup, and Sprite.
- One episode of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic featured the Great Plains flavor of Injun Country, complete with teepees, feathered headdresses, and a tribe of nature-loving Noble Savage buffalo who come into conflict with the local town of Wild West ponies.
- In An American Tail: Fievel Goes West, Tiger the cat gets randomly kidnapped by Native American mice when he wanders into their territory, and they prepare to roast him alive. But, when they see his resemblance to a nearby mountain, they start to worship him as a god.
- Treasure Of Manhattan Island has a group of Lenape mice who fled underground when the Europeans came, and live in caves beneath the city.
- One episode of Captain Planet and the Planeteers features an Indian reservation as a setting for one episode, highlighting some problems that a few reservations face. (Land not suitable for farming cash crops leading to low development) Looten Plunder tries to irrigate it, and does give the residents paying jobs, but didn't quite think it through, resulting in environmental damage. By the end of the episode, the natives go back to farming, but they farm crops that are native to the territory and set up wind turbines.