A new report explores how Native Americans are perceived, and project leaders said it’s the largest public-opinion research project about Native Americans ever conducted. Crystal Echo Hawk said the goal of the report ‘Reclaiming Native Truth’ is to find out about the dominant narratives and perceptions of native people from a diverse group of Americans.

Echo Hawk said contradictory stereotypes persist, such as ideas that they’re dependent on the government, but also flush with casino money but, “What we actually found is the biggest barrier that Native Americans face is invisibility and erasure, in the fact that you don’t see native peoples in the media; you don’t see them on TV and film. And in fact, almost 50 percent of K-through-12 schools in the United States don’t teach about Native Americans past 1890.”

Nearly three-quarters of respondents said schools need to make significant curriculum changes on Native American culture and history. She hopes the report also acts as a roadmap to create more positive narratives for Native Americans.

Michael Roberts is head of First Nations Development Institute, and said in some ways, disparaging remarks about Native Americans from President Donald Trump may have led non-native respondents to this project to be more honest. Research for the report also happened to coincide with protests against the Dakota Access pipeline, and Roberts said that provided an opportunity to measure people’s opinions of Native Americans during the action. “A big one for us that came, I think, directly out of DAPL was, while they didn’t understand tribal sovereignty, they had a firm belief that tribes should be able to manage their land and resources and water as they saw fit,” he explained.

Roberts said because Native Americans total less than two percent of the country’s population, they can’t change the narrative on their own. The report also includes a guide for people who want to work alongside indigenous people to change negative stereotypes.

Doctor Stephanie Fryberg, an associate professor at the University of Washington who contributed to the research, said many still hold onto a 19th century view of Native Americans, and this has a real psychological effect on youth. She said the use of Native Americans as sports mascots, too, damages their since of self-worth.

Fryberg added that even people’s romanticized portrayal of indigenous people can be dehumanizing and, “We have to be allowed to be contemporary people and not constantly be located by America as historical figures somehow frozen in time. We are here now, today, doing great things – building businesses, working to improve our communities, trying to provide the best lives for our children.”

Fryberg also noted that her research shows greater education about Native Americans makes people more willing to support native issues.