Acceptability is going to vary between people. Some people probably are going to see it as a throwback to the Cowboys vs. Indians days, making him 3-dimensional might mitigate that in some people who are probably going to feel more sympathy for the antagonist than the hero (I'd probably put myself in that camp).
Hard to really change that. I think people forget the audience is still human sometimes and not really obligated to set their personal feelings aside and a "Perfect Audience Member" for you or your work (not to suggest you personally feel that way, it's just a trend I notice in these sorts of things). If you have an NA reader or reader of NA descent who's frustrated that they tend to be ignored and forgotten in most media except as the "villains" of a Western and they're tired of media showing colonizers, settlers, and imperialists or people who uphold those things in a positive light over those who resist them (and with good reason) then they're justified in feeling that way. If you're okay with facing those feelings in a hopefully more mature way than the common response of "suck it up and deal with it" then move forward with the story. But you are still perpetuating a long narrative of natives as villains.
And it isn't as simple, in the end, as "this is acceptable so long as X criteria is met and now no one can complain".
My thoughts on a "Wakanda": One of the most prominent frustrations with media is the tendency to homogenize the various native nations (there are 546 federally recognised tribes in the U.S. alone and even more still seeking tribal recognition (such as the Chinook)) into one single "Native American" image.
I'm curious as to how you might possibly create a "Wakanda" tribe that doesn't do this? I'm also curious about the physical appearance of the fictional tribe since this 20 Minutes Into The Future and many tribes register members based descent and culture rather than BQ which is sometimes considered an imposed/foreign/Western notion. This makes many modern nations phenotypically diverse. And even amongst some groups which do enforce BQ more strongly, like the Seminole which require a registered Seminole grandparent to be considered for registry, still are racially diverse because they took in and made members many people of African descent before BQ was enforced via the government who also intermarried, as well, someone with a 1/4 BQ can appear phenotypically white or asian if they are white or asian mixed.
Even in pre-Columbian times different NA tribes looked very different from one another and were racially diverse. Tribes in the Northeast could be very fairskinned and, vs. darker midwest "horse culture" tribes that are most commonly seen, vs. Inuit people in Alaska, and if you move down into Mexico or the West coast (the Aztec Empire once stretched from Mexico to Oregon) the people could be a very dark brown.
Pre-Columbian "America" was incredibly culturally and ethnically diverse.
I have a hard time imagining that being boiled into one nation that's supposed to be able to read as "Native American" (probably the same is true of Africa and "Wakanda" but I know a bit less about Africa so it doesn't jump out as hugely immediately weird to me).
tl;dr - I can't imagine creating "recognizably Native American nation that isn't real" that doesn't relying on homogenising native people and therefore alienating and irritating a good number of NA people in your audience. But using a real tribe would require a good deal of research. I dunno, you've set yourself a difficult task here.
EDIT: And someone I know wants me to add their Po V
on this: "how terrible fucked up to want to make a historically marginalised and oppressed group of people, whose land was stolen and people killed in the wake of imperialism, who have been depicted from the beginning as antagonistic bad guys for merely wanting what was rightfully theirs and to stop the violence and oppression and land theft, into a villain yet again."
They're also curious what message you intend people to carry away from this, my guess, you probably don't intend any message... unfortunate thing about human nature though is that people are going to find a message whether one is intended or not so I would keep that in mind in writing. Also, I do agree with my friend that your villain is simply trying to take what should belong to his people to begin with... that's not really villainous. Though, I've mentioned my sympathies would lie more with him already.
Your heroes sound villainous to me, your villain sounds like a hero.
edited 8th Oct '12 6:58:24 PM by TheFedoraPirate