Native American vs. American Indian - Mothering Forums
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Talk Amongst Ourselves > Native American vs. American Indian
Journey's Avatar Journey 06:49 PM 02-11-2004
Today, my professor went on a 15 minute rant about the phrase "Native American" and how he hated it so much because he was born in America, so wouldn't that according to the literal defintion make him Native American? And Indian is just a misnomer, says the professor, and he mentioned "The Seneca Nation of Indians", and how that meant that they (the Senecas) aren't offended by the word Indian, and they embrace it since they use it in their title, so everybody should use the word American Indian instead of Native American.

Yeah, my Lit prof spoke in run on sentences like that regarding this matter. I was sitting there, not knowing what to say. I figured I'd bring it here, to figure out how I should feel about this. LOL

shelbean91's Avatar shelbean91 06:58 PM 02-11-2004
Every person I know who is a member of a tribe prefers the term 'indian' to 'native american'. I have a friend who got into an arguement with a high school teacher who was explaining that native american is the politically correct term, blah, blah. She told him that most tribe members actually prefer to be referred to by their tribe name, (Navaho, Hopi, Cherokee etc.), but find indian the next preferred term and native american wasn't made up by any tribes, but was created when the politically correct stuff came up.

So, if you know the tribe they are from, use that name, if not, Indian is usually fine. (You could also ask how the person prefers to be addressed, that's the best route.)

(I'm also a person who doesn't care for the term 'african american' when referring to any black person, as I've known black people who are african, jamaican, hatian, etc., and they are very bothered by the 'african american' title automatically being assigned to a person of color. I usually try to avoid the labels altogether and be sensitive to what the individual prefers.)
Charmie981's Avatar Charmie981 07:00 PM 02-11-2004
Well, if I were going to choose something to rant about for 15 minutes, it would probably be the fact that this nation has such a desire to label every ethnic group that has ever existed! He's right: neither of those "labels" really fit the ethnic group of which he speaks, but I don't think any of the other labels we use do either. Why we can't just all be Americans, I'll never understand. We have such a long way to go as far as racial and ethnic baises go, and splitting hairs over whether "American Indian" or "Native American" is more accurate is just further proof of that fact.
Jane's Avatar Jane 07:08 PM 02-11-2004
I prefer call myself Indian. It's what my family uses, always have. Native American is some strange census-like designation, not a statement of identity.

I like the canadian term in theory, First Peoples, but I don't know anyone from up north to ask their personal preference.

It is confusing though, especially since my husband works with people from the subcontinent of India. So we talk of "indian-indians" and "hindu-indians" (although most are catholic).
Jane's Avatar Jane 07:10 PM 02-11-2004
lilyka's Avatar lilyka 07:24 PM 02-11-2004
Everyone I know refers to themselves as Indian. Ocasionally Native. Around here they also refer alot to thier tribe or the reservation they grew up on. First nations seems to be the rising politically correct term that most non-native people use but I have only ever met one native person who likes it. In the end I htink it matters most what that person want to be refered too as if they want you refering to their heritage at all.
feebeeglee's Avatar feebeeglee 07:24 PM 02-11-2004
I have often wondered if 'Native Americans' get peeved at being all put into some big lump o' folks when the Navajos and the Iroquois (for instance) could not be any more alike than say, the Polish and the Greek or the Korean and the Tibetan. I have always found any general term like that, whether it be 'Indian', 'Native American', 'European' or 'Asian' to be pretty condescending and insulting. But being just a garden variety white girl myself who can best be described as 'of Northern European ancestry', I don't mind a bit when I get called it. I prefer 'American'.
Charles Baudelaire's Avatar Charles Baudelaire 07:31 PM 02-11-2004
Not an Indian, just an opinionated person.

But if I were an Indian, I'd be pretty pissed off about being called by the name of the people who came in and took over my ancestors' land. Instead, I'd prefer to be called a Seneca, a Tohono O'Odham, a Paiute....

Think about it: if you're Irish, how would you like to be called a "Native Briton"? If you're Mayan, how would you like to be called a "Native Spaniard"?

Just my thoughts. Frankly, I think we should call Indians whatever it is they would prefer to be called.
Rebecca's Avatar Rebecca 07:48 PM 02-11-2004
It's true.. no one ever asks the people being 'labeled' what they'd like to be called.

I have some Mic Mac Indian heritage, and that's what they prefer to be called.

What really peeves me is when MIL calls anyone of Asian descent 'Oriental'. Oriental refers to things like rugs, not people.
robugmum's Avatar robugmum 08:12 PM 02-11-2004
Here, people tend to use the term First Nations if the actual name of a person's background isn't known. In BC alone there are hundreds of different First Nations peoples (Haida, Nootka, Heltsiuk, Salish, Squamish are just a few that I happen to be able to think of right now). If I hear the word Indian I immediately think of someone from India, not an original inhabitant of North America. That said, I have a lot of 1st Nations friends and a few of them prefer the word Indian, mostly because that is what they are used to calling themselves and they are comfortable with it. I think it is much more respectful for a person who is not sure, or not of the same ancestry, to use 1st Nations though.
Marsupialmom's Avatar Marsupialmom 08:26 PM 02-11-2004
Not to long ago I read a black ediotrialist talk about race issue. Suprisingly he wrote something that upset a lot of people. He called "race" the biggest lie of all.

How much of x does it take to make you that race?

I have a great-great-grandfather that is American Indian does that make me American Indian? What about my German, Irish, Dutch, ?????? heritage.

I think this article will give you food for thought on these terms.

OMAHA, Neb. -- Four Westside High School students are suspended for promoting a white student for an African-American award.

More than 150 flyers (pictured, below right) were distributed throughout the school Monday. They featured junior Trevor Richards (pictured, left), A South African native who moved to the United States in 1997.

Westside officials say the flyers were were quickly removed because they were inappropriate and insensitive to black students.

Trevor said he is as African as anyone else.

"I had no intent of hurting anyone or offending anyone. I wasn't trying to make a statement. I was just running for the award, but i guess the administration felt differently," Richards said.

Richards was suspended for two days.

Two other students were disciplined for putting up the posters and another student was punished for starting a petition to promote Richards.
adinal's Avatar adinal 08:32 PM 02-11-2004
I always ask people. The folks that I know I have asked...and they usually prefer to be called by the name of their nation or tribe. (there is another one - some folks call it tribe and some prefer nation)

My Native American Religious Traditions (name of the class) prof. preferred indigenous people.

I figure I don't get to choose how other people refer to themselves. And it is respectful for me to find out how they would prefer to be addressed.

Another interesting one is that I believe Hispanic is another government created census term.
noodle4u's Avatar noodle4u 08:49 PM 02-11-2004
Originally posted by Rebecca
It's true.. no one ever asks the people being 'labeled' what they'd like to be called.

I have some Mic Mac Indian heritage, and that's what they prefer to be called.

Hey Ive got some Mic Mac heritage too

Okay so Ive sat for about 4 minutes trying to come up with an intelligent response to the OP :LOL , but since I dont have any definate answers (because Ive always been unsure of what term to use) I ll have to say nothing. sorry this was a useless post :LOL
MelKnee's Avatar MelKnee 10:22 PM 02-11-2004
Originally posted by AdinaL

Another interesting one is that I believe Hispanic is another government created census term.
I saw a comedy show that had a predominately "hispanic" audience. One of the performers asked them what they preferred to be called. The choices being Hispanic, Latino and Chicano. The response was overwhelmingly Chicano. Which surprised me because I haven't heard that term since the '70s.

I think African-American is riduculous. A person with dark skin from England (or wherever) is certainly not an AA.

All the Indians I know prefer to be identified with their tribe first and Indian second.

How can these terms be considered "politically correct" when the people that are supposed to be identified by them don't like them, embrace them or use them?
merpk's Avatar merpk 10:31 PM 02-11-2004

Wow. Thank you.

Thought I was doing a good job by being careful to refer to the indigenous peoples of the Americas as "native Americans" when telling the kids about [Thanksgiving/Columbus/et cetera].

India never complicated the issue for us, because the only people from India we know personally are Jewish, so they're, well, just Jews, and we haven't learned anything with the kids about India yet ...

Re-educating me is a lot tougher than re-educating the kids, though ... :LOL

Keep going with this thread, mamas. Always more to learn ...

JessicaS's Avatar JessicaS 11:11 PM 02-11-2004
I prefer my tribe name (Delaware or Leni Lenape) then American Indian. My sect has "Indian" in our title as well. "Tribe of Native Americans" sound kind of silly "Tribe of Indians' is what most use.

I tend to say "Native American" online as it is confusing to some, as they think of "Indian" as from India.

"Native American" is still a pretty new term and is generally ignored by most Indians.
Hilary Briss's Avatar Hilary Briss 11:22 PM 02-11-2004
I had a friend (Sri Lankan) whose way of distinguishing American Indians from Asian Indians was "feathers, not dots". Not sure if that's offensive, or not, but I do think the term Native Americans is so clinical, and all encompassing, to be almost worthless. I think it would be preferable to use the names of the different tribes, which is more descriptive and accurate.
mahdokht's Avatar mahdokht 11:32 PM 02-11-2004
Ahem, I like the term African American, everyone in my family uses that term. Actually, most black people born in American and decended from the trans-atlantic slave trade that I know also prefer the term. It's not a catch all for all black people, it refers to a specific group of people.

So there ya go, not all of us hate the term african-american.
Clarity's Avatar Clarity 01:34 AM 02-12-2004
How do you differentiate between modern African immigrants to America, and African-Americans? Around here, a wide cultural gulf between them...

Indian to me is just annoying that English speaking people couldn't come up with something better. We already have Indian Indians, East Indians (malaysia/indonesia, right?) West Indians (carribbean) and American Indians. And none of them are the same. First Nations seemed like a good try in English to me, but Americans who are tribal members want to say Indian, then I'll say Indian.
merpk's Avatar merpk 03:06 AM 02-12-2004
In re Clarity's question, "differentiating" between modern African immigrants and African Americans ...

Was corrected once by a woman from Ethiopia whose daughter was born here (US). She told me she is African, and her daughter is African American.

Seems simple enough ...
shelbean91's Avatar shelbean91 03:23 AM 02-12-2004
Originally posted by merpk
In re Clarity's question, "differentiating" between modern African immigrants and African Americans ...

Was corrected once by a woman from Ethiopia whose daughter was born here (US). She told me she is African, and her daughter is African American.

Seems simple enough ...
I agree, I have a friend from Nigeria- he is not an American citizen, he is a 'permanent legal alien'. He is African. He is married to an American of Irish descent- their children are African American. Of course, you may not know he is African and assume he is African American unless you spoke to him and know a little of his history.

I agree with mahdokht, I don't mind the term African American when used appropriately, I've just seen it used inappropriately many times and each person who was black and assumed to be African American when they were not, were bothered (slightly, not majorly) by the assumption. I would rather find out what the individual prefers and not assume each person with dark skin is of African ancestry.

Also, in the example of the white South African, why would he not be able to say he was African American if he had become a U.S. citizen?
grisandole's Avatar grisandole 04:06 AM 02-12-2004
Where I live, you use the name of the tribe. Even the reservations are refered to in that manner, like "the Navajo" or "the Apache"; no one says "the Indian reservation" least, no one who lives here

I know that my dh's students get very offended if someone says that they are Native American or Indian; they say, no, I'm Apache (or Navajo).

plum's Avatar plum 04:12 AM 02-12-2004
i prefer to be called by my tribe. but if you don't know my tribe, then i would prefer indian over native american, although i'm not from india so that's not quite right either.
plum's Avatar plum 04:13 AM 02-12-2004
but my sisters and their friends refer to themselves and each other as native.
Clarity's Avatar Clarity 03:18 PM 02-12-2004
but here, culturally, children of immigrants from africa, and people of african descent who have been here longer (like leftover from the slave trade) seem to treat each other like they're from another planet - wide cultural gulf.. Including gang rivalries. But if they're citizens, they are americans...but not the same as african americans. It is so confusing! There's clearly a difference within the communities but as with most things, to complex to be easily labeled.
SueZVudu's Avatar SueZVudu 03:57 PM 02-12-2004
I use the term "Native American," but that's because I know a lot of people from India, and we eat Indian food quite often, so I don't want my kids getting the two groups mixed up. And I can't use a single tribe's name to describe my heritage, because I've got ancestors from like eight different tribes (Oklahoma: the Great Native Melting Pot!) But I don't get offended by the use of the term "American Indian" to describe the indigenous peoples here; I just think it's technically incorrect and potentially misleading.
midnight mom's Avatar midnight mom 06:00 PM 02-12-2004
I have a friend who married a white man from Africa. He was born and raised in Africa and came here as an adult.

Her comment one day was " As soon as he gets his citizenship finalized he will be African American." She kinda said it in a joking way, but it's true.

So AA does't only apply to people of color in America. A white person can be AA also.
mamaley's Avatar mamaley 08:53 PM 02-12-2004
fwiw, we're taught to use First Nations People in the social work program at my univ.
SueZVudu's Avatar SueZVudu 09:11 PM 02-12-2004
Re: The white kid in Omaha who ran for his school's African-American award:

I read the story to my DH, who responded, "Hey, it wasn't an Afrikaner-American award." :LOL But I guess he (DH) has a point there...
inorbit's Avatar inorbit 10:14 PM 02-12-2004
In Canada, I believe the term "Aboriginal" is used, as well as "First Nations," "Indian" means someone from India.
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