So what can we do to make our pretendian-ness less obvious? How can we avoid embarrassing ourselves when we encounter individuals that actually have a birthright to the Native culture? Study, study, study…learn as much as you can from as many trusted sources as you can.
Read extensively. It is overwhelming how much printed information exists that can offer assistance in getting our vision straight. There is actually a pretty good body of primary source (anthropological and historical) materials available for many of the Indian nations. Admittedly, many are out of print and can only be acquired through libraries and used book sources, but many are available on the Internet as well, in a digitized format.
There is an ever growing body of literature written by Native authors that offers their perspective on society; theirs and ours. There are novels, anthologies, biographies and scholarly works.
I realize that reading is not everyone’s favorite activity. Reading can be difficult for many. But, lacking access to a Native elder to teach you how to think and see and act, reading is, unfortunately, necessary to developing a correct understanding of Native culture. There are books that are directed to all age groups and reading levels; all of them can offer insights to a hungry mind.
The list of available authors is much too large to begin to enumerate, but here are a few that are worthy of your attention, if you are not familiar with them already: Vine Deloria, Jr., Louise Erdrich, Leslie Marmon Silko, Joseph Bruchac, Thomas Mails, John G. Neihardt, Joseph Epes Brown, Robert (Bobby) Lake-Thom, E. Barrie Kavasch, Kent Nerburn, and J.T. Garrett.
Watch relevant movies. There is a growing body of movies that offer an accurate reflection of Native America, past and present. Many Native artists are now producing independent movies that provide the perspective which comes from growing up Indian. Even mainstream movie sources are being careful now to consult Native sources to ensure accuracy in their portrayals. Among those films I can recommend: Songs My Brothers Taught Me, Smoke Signals, Skins, Dreamkeepers, Crooked Arrows, and Lakota Woman.
Older mainstream films that “got it right” (more or less) include: Thunderheart, Last of the Mohicans, and, of course, Dances with Wolves. Avatar offers a valuable window on the contrast between the colonizer, the indigenous people, and the wannabee. Last of the Dogmen does this also.
Use the Internet judiciously. The Internet can be a vast wilderness of misinformation, so it is important to be very cautious about which information sources you rely on. Basically, in my opinion, if the site does not belong to a federally-recognized nation or a university, you should be somewhat skeptical of whatever information is offered with regard to Native culture and traditions.
One source I can vouch for, because I have been a participant and contributor for a long time, is the Woodlands Indian forum. It should be noted, however, that the available information is primarily concerned with the Eastern Woodlands nations only.
Nonetheless, there are some important online news sources that may be relied on for current affairs and editorials. The pretendian is well-advised to keep up with these, to be aware of what is happening in Indian country. Indian Country Today, Native News Online, and Last Real Indians are some of these.