Thursday, August 13, 2009

It's "Indians" not "Native Americans"

Last weekend, Dr Desert Flower and I went to the Heard Museum here in downtown Phoenix. It was a great museum show casing Arizona's indigenous tribes, their histories, their art, their cultures, their way of life's destruction by the white settlers and by federal US troops as well as by Mormon settlers from the north, and it detailed their mis-management and deliberate cultural realignment by the Federal bureau of Indian Affairs in the last century. It was also Admission Free on the 2nd Sunday of the month, which was an unexpected bonus (they take donations at the door on the 2nd Sunday for those who can give).

One theme I kept noticing at Heard, as well as in Washington DC at the "National Museum of the American Indian" about 4 years ago fro my friend Rick R's wedding, is that the indigenous peoples DO NOT call themselves "Native Americans" or "Original Americans" or "Indigenous Tribes" or other PC names. Nope. They refer to themselves as "Indians". Therefore, going forward, I will refer to them as "Indians" as well. It's not derogatory, or demeaning. It's what Indians in America call themselves, in Arizona and in DC (at least). I have no need for contrived labels that white people come up with to try and make themselves feel better. Many other Indians agree with me here, here, here, and here. So many worried non-Indians seem to get that wrong - heck I did for 40 years, before I realized "Native American" is seen as demeaning.


  1. I don't think I have called them "Native Americans" all these years out of political correctness or some sort of white shame. I think the term "Indian" is confusing, as you never know if it is referring to American Indians or Indian Indians. Note the need to specify "Indian Indians" here, which is redundant and ridiculous. The nomenclature of "Indians" in this hemisphere was a mistake by the first explorers and settlers because they thought they had found the Indies and even referred to the Americas as the "West Indies". On top of that I am not sure I understand why they (some of them?) are so offended by the term "Native Americans" anyway. So maybe call them Injuns, as at least it is spelled differently, or is that offensive? ;)

  2. The Europeans that defeated, conquered, and exterminated these people called them "Indians". Obviously at this point they know there place, and call them selves "Indians" as there conquerors did. Do you think before the Europeans came they called themselves "Indians"? I highly doubt it.

  3. Faisal, you forgot infected, corrupted, uprooted, and experimented upon. There were hundreds of dialects before the Euro invasion, wherein each tribal society called themselves different things - that's not the point. Lacking a time machine, no one can go back to that period in history.
    It might b beneficial to help your perspective to go too an Indian museum (as this posting discussed) or read up on many of the modern Indian authors who are publishing today. "Know there [sic] place" - not hardly. Many of the tribes who have survived are fiercely independent and individualistic. I sincerely doubt many of today's American Indians "know their place" except perhaps in the context of cultural renewal, community outreach, and preservation of their surviving languages and customs.


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