Native American Stereotypes



" Stereotype of the Month "


To see the losers and all the entries, go to And please e-mail me with new entries for the July contest!

Rob Schmidt

Dear Robert Schmidt,

For the "Stereotype of the Month," I'd like to nominate the Tyranena Brewing Company in Lake Mills, Wisconsin ( ).

Tyranena's year-round beer styles include three styles after Native archeological sites near Lake Mills, and a fourth named after the Sauk leader Black Hawk. (Can his descendants sue? Naming an alcoholic beverage after the Lakota leader Crazy Horse led to a successful estate/name lawsuit by his descendants...):

*Stone Tepee Pale Ale
*Headless Man Amber Ale
*Ancient Aztalan Brown Ale
*Chief BlackHawk Porter

Zoltan Grossman
Midwest Treaty Network


The evidence from the Tyranena Beer website:

Stone Tepee Pale Ale

Background: The legend of Tyranena began 3,000 years ago, with a group of pyramids and effigy mounds constructed in a remote valley formed by a vast, slow-moving glacier.

Today, these ancient "stone tepees" lie 60 feet below the surface of Rock Lake in Jefferson County, Wisconsin. No one is certain how or why they were built, but many have speculated on their origin, purpose and the people who built them.

We invite you to develop your own theories on the legend and mystery of Tyranena while enjoying a Stone Tepee Pale Ale. Here are the theories we have heard: The Atlantis Theory The seafaring people of Atlantis mined the copper deposits in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and then traded the copper throughout the Americas, Asia and Europe.

The Atlantians followed the rivers and on the way to the Mississippi River, stopped at a lake they named Tyranena. Located below the hard snow line, Tyranena was a perfect stopping point. They built their ceremonial effigy mounds, stone temples, and buried their dead along the shores of the ancient lake.

When they discovered copper closer to Mexico, they flooded this sacred area so it could not be desecrated by their enemies. The Aztalan Theory The people of Aztalan, located three miles from Tyranena, were experiencing a severe 11 year drought. The extended drought destroyed their crops and reduced the size of Tyranena to a fraction of its former size.

Their religious shamans decreed that the gods needed a human sacrifice. Temples and effigy mounds were built along the dried lake bed, followed by the loss of several young virgins.

The rains returned and the lake filled to its previous levels, submerging the ceremonial structures.

The Establishment Theory The stone structures and earthen mounds have no special significance. They are merely the relics of the glaciers that covered Wisconsin during the last Ice Age.

Headless Man Amber Alt

Background: The ancient peoples that inhabited Wisconsin are known for building numerous celestial stone monuments and earthen effigy mounds to serve as symbols of their culture and their beliefs. Unfortunately, most of these structures have fallen victim to the farmer's plow over the past 150 years. Not far from the brewery, lying preserved on the floor of Rock Lake, are two effigy mounds - a Headless Man and a Turtle. Legend tells us, as the Turtle can survive on both land and in water, its spirit helped guide the Headless Man into the afterlife. May the Turtle's spirit guide you to happiness with a Headless Man Amber Alt.

Ancient Aztalan Brown Ale

Chief Blackhawk Porter



Rob Schmidt's comment

But the writeups reveal a few problems:

1) Nowhere does the site refer to Indians or Native Americans, not to mention the Mound-Building or Mississippian culture that probably built Aztalan. This is stereotyping by omission. Who were the unnamed "people" the site refers to?

Answer: These people almost certainly were not Atlanteans or one of the lost tribes of Israel. Nor were they "ancient astronauts" who arrived in "chariots of the gods." They were undoubtedly paleo-Indians or Indians�the same people who gave birth to many of today's midwestern and southern tribes.

2) Attributing the "stone tepees" to Atlanteans, or even implying Atlanteans might be responsible, trivializes real Indian accomplishments by comparison. The first Americans built huge pyramids, complexes, and mounds across America. Without knowing anything about them, I'd guess the stone tepees were natural formations arising from underwater volcanic vents. My second guess is that Amerindian people erected them for some purpose. The Atlantis theory doesn't even make the list.

3) Saying "May the Turtle's spirit guide you to happiness with a Headless Man Amber Alt" may mock, insult, or blaspheme the ancient Amerindians' religion and the religion of their descendants today. The mounds and the mythological figures they represent--Turtle and the Headless Man--probably were and still are sacred. If true, people, especially non-Indian people, shouldn't use and commercialize them.

4) The Chief Blackhawk Porter may not be stereotypical since Tyranena makes no claim about Chief Blackhawk's attributes. But yes, his descendants may have a valid lawsuit. Whether they can win it or not is another matter.