From the initial contact between the Old and New Worlds more than five hundred years ago, Native Americans have been exploited, first for their lands and then for their culture. Since the seventeenth century, writers of European heritage have used Indian lore and history in their work in the process of creating a vigorous body of literature of uniquely American character. Non-indigenous authors, especially from the time of James Fenimore Cooper onward, often with little firsthand knowledge of the subject or with built-in prejudices against the peoples being supplanted by force and guile, have created numerous works in which Native Americans figure prominently. Such novels and stories usually wrongly portrayed Indians either as bloodthirsty savages or as noble, spiritual creatures. Typically, Native Americans in early American literature were lumped together as though they were members of a single vast, indistinguishable race, rather than as complex individuals belonging to distinct tribes with singular histories, specific customs and characteristics, particular myths and legends. As a result, Native Americans—similar to the way African Americans were depicted throughout their past—in general have been limned in less than flattering, often degrading, and historically inaccurate colors and lines. Collectively, such literary efforts produced a multitude of mistakes, misunderstandings and stereotypes that have been perpetuated to this day, through films, through advertising images (such as cigar store Indians), through sports team mascots (such as the Cleveland Indians or Washington Redskins), and through other insensitive representations that Native Americans consider racist.