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Monday, July 16, 2012

167

The Pristine Myth

Learn more about what a fascinating place pre-Columbus America was, then read the (regrettably brief) interview with Charles Mann, the author of 1491:


When I went to high school, in the 1970s, I was taught that Indians came to the Americas across the Bering Strait about 12,000 years ago, that they lived for the most part in small, isolated groups, and that they had so little impact on their environment that even after millennia of habitation it remained mostly wilderness. My son picked up the same ideas at his schools. One way to summarize the views of people like Erickson and Balée would be to say that in their opinion this picture of Indian life is wrong in almost every aspect. Indians were here far longer than previously thought, these researchers believe, and in much greater numbers. And they were so successful at imposing their will on the landscape that in 1492 Columbus set foot in a hemisphere thoroughly dominated by humankind.

Let's talk for a minute about terminology. In Canada, we technically refer to the descendants of the individuals referenced in the above article as "First Nations people," which tends to work, while in practice we often say "Indian," which, although extremely etymologically unsound, is certainly the noun most widely used by "Indians" themselves as a self-descriptor. The New York Times has adopted "Native Americans" as their term of choice, which, although heavily under-used by actual Native Americans, appears to be the innocuous and academia-friendly noun of our time, along with, occasionally, either "American Indian" or "Amerindian." On a related note, I've never heard a Canadian say "Eskimo," as we consider it a mild slur, preferring "Inuit," but since "Eskimo" is the only term meant to encompass BOTH the Inuit and the Yupik people, it does exist for a reason.

What do you aim for, in this situation? Obviously "First Nations" is marginally more correct than "Native American," considering that all peoples arrived in the Americas from somewhere else, but is sheer historical/archeological correctness the most important standard? If you're a Native American, how do you self-identify? How did your parents self-identify? Are either of those names different from how you would like others, say, the New York Times to refer to you?

167 Comments / Post A Comment

The Lady of Shalott

During my undergrad, the course I took on this topic was titled "Aboriginal History of Canada," and according to that professor "Aboriginals" was the preferred terminology. But "First Nations" was also pretty standard for academia?

Anyway, in actual life, when conversing with First Nations/Aboriginal people, their preferred term and the term I have always consequently used has been "Indian." I think it depends. On a lot of things.

RNL
RNL

@The Lady of Shalott Yes, Aboriginal is what I most often use. It seems to be the preferred word in academic and legal spheres. My Aboriginal Law Professor used it, and she herself is Chippewa. In Canada "Indian" is a legal term of art that excludes the Metis and, I believe, some Inu/Inuit people (although I'm a little muddy there).

Many people I know refer to themselves as Indian, but as a white person I don't use it myself.

If someone has told me what group they are from, I think it behooves me to try to use that. Haida/Chippewa/Tsilhqot'in etc.

I've noticed that some people from the U.S. don't understand the use of the word "Aboriginal". Funny story about a visitor from Florida after a 30 minute conversation suddenly exclaiming "OH! You mean INDIAN!".

Dorothea

@RobotsNeedLove In the US, "aboriginal" is used pretty much exclusively to refer to people from Australia (the ones who got there first). And the legal field is typically referred to as "Indian law," though there's some variation.

ReginaChristina

@The Lady of Shalott Aboriginal historian here :) Aboriginal is used typically because it encompasses all First Nations, Metis and Inuit people. Indigenous is also an appropriate term, but is a bit more flexible in a way because French people are the indigenous people of France, for example (kind of).

Indian or "NDN" in social media and youths speak, and is used by First Nations people, but is not typically an acceptable term to be by non-First Nations people.

Another term that isn't often used, but you can see in French more often is Amerindian, which I think was more in use in the nineties.

Auchtochtones is a French term that is essentially the equivalent of Aboriginal.

Aboriginal is of course not to be confused with the Aborigines of Australia.

What is actually the most preferred is to refer to their own Band if it is possible to be that specific. So if you are talking about the Anishinabe (Algonquin), use Anishinabe.

Basically though it is extremely confusing, but I find it best to use Aboriginal if I am speaking broadly, then First Nations, Metis, or Inuit when I am trying to be more specific!

TARDIStime

@ReginaChristina So glad I live in Australia - it's just "Aboriginal" or "Torres Strait Islander". That's it.
Of course there are all the specific tribes and they all have different names and we all could get into that but it's just easier to say "we recognise the traditional custodians of this land" when you start an event.
I may just be sounding like an ignorant white person right now. Which I am ashamed to admit I am. :-(

zoe
zoe

@ReginaChristina oh, no, not 'The Aborigines' in Australia. not for a long time. Aboriginal (or Torres Strait Islander) people (but not ATSI people). Or Yolngu or Cadigal etc, if you're talking about that specific location (there are so many language groups) which is why yes @TARDIStime 'the traditional custodians of this land' works! In Aotearoa, I am Maori. but we are not The Maori or A Maori. (as someone with Maori phakapapa, and anthro, and also a frequent writer of gov things, where correct terminology is paramount!)

mlle.gateau

Just to throw another interesting thing out there, I am doing a lot of research on South Africa, where some groups have started using the term "First Nations" to refer to themselves as a way of sidestepping racial categorizations. I actually think First Nations is a really useful identifier because it's free of many of the western ethnocentric connotations of many other terms, though obviously not perfect.

redonion

@mlle.gateau What are you researching?! I used to study South African history before I gave up on life.

I definitely can see how "First Nations" would be useful there. I ended up using "X-language speaking community" a lot for lack of a better term.

mlle.gateau

@redonion I'm looking at cultural heritage tourism and how communities create identities for themselves in a global context, so South Africa is a really interesting context for that.

Any top tips on wrapping my brain around South African history? I have been reading like a crazy person, and I am terrified that I'm going to screw something up and offend everybody.

stuffisthings

@mlle.gateau I also like that term because it emphasizes that they possessed political and cultural organization, and were not just naked savages running around in the woods and grunting.

redonion

@mlle.gateau Ahhhh that is awesome! So I guess you've read the Carolyn Hamilton? What else are you reading?? I miss this stuff! I think I want to go back for my PhD, but thinking about all the things I need to do to get my applications together and THEN face rejection kind of freezes me.

I did a lot of studying community formation and identification because I was looking at churches founded primarily in Zulu-speaking communities that broke away from mission churches for social/political/cultural reasons and the different ways the new church communities identified and defined themselves. And I definitely struggled with how to describe different groups of people. And I was totally afraid that I would somehow say the wrong thing or phrase things in a way that would totally offend someone.

I this it is pretty much standard now, but I think it always helps to define the terms you use up front and explain why you are using them based on current or historical usage. Like new churches in the time period I was studying would call themselves "African churches" and I defined my usage based on how the communities used the term - independent, not European-run, not identifying with a specific language group, possibly, especially by the 1920's, identifying with a pan-African sensibility. For the missionaries, "African church" usually meant an independent and therefore "rebellious" church, while government functionaries used "African church" to describe mission and independent church alike. And of course generally an "African church" could just mean a church somewhere on the African continent. So I just defined it up front, explained my usage, and tried to be consistent.

Sounds like you already have this down, though. Sorry, such a long comment and probably nothing new for you, but I really get excited about research and especially topics in South Africa!

mlle.gateau

@redonion I have not read the Carolyn Hamilton, but I have added it to my list of books I will retrieve from the library. The weird (unfortunate? infuriating?) thing about switching disciplines in graduate school (from European to African history, in my case) is that you end up missing the sort of basic, foundational texts and get thrown off the deep end into really intense monographs and spend a lot of time looking up assumed information. This seems like an awesome resource, so thank you!

I've been reading a lot of stuff by Leslie Witz/Sabine Marschall/Jennifer Beningfield since my stuff focuses more commemoration and interpreted history, rather than the actual past, if that makes sense. It's all meta!

Your research sounds really interesting! I've been looking at some sort of overlapping-ish issues for some other course work on the back-to-Africa movements- church histories are just so interesting! Anyway, you should TOTALLY apply. Yes, applying is painful, but your research sounds super interesting! Africa is so hot right now! Or just come hang out with me, we can have a talking-about-the-formation-of-South-African-identity meetup.

redonion

@mlle.gateau Yeah I just spent a lot of time working through the bibliographies of the articles and books I found most useful. And yeah, going into studying a national history that I had never really studied before grad school meant that I had to keep refreshing my memory of dates and events more than I would have had to do for American or even European history. My first class on SA assigned Leonard Thompson's A History of South Africa, and that one is good for big dates and themes but terrible if you want any kind of detail.

The history of identity formation and interpretation is so interesting! And I am all for South-African-history-interpretation-meetup. The pangs I am having just reading your comments are clearly an indicator that I should just finish editing my thesis for applications already.

Cat named Virtute

I'm Canadian, and usually go with First Nations or Aboriginal, though I find both are almost never used in an American context, but I don't feel (though I am open to being corrected) that Indian or even sometimes Native American (since I pretty much never hear Canadian First Nations folks use it as a self-descriptor) are appropriate for me to use as a white person. Another thing is that is can be best to use the name for the specific Nation (Mohawk, Cree, Blackfoot. etc) when that's what you mean.

Also, linguistic-based studies of First Nations history in the Americas is SUPER interesting, all these little pockets of languages whose closest apparent linguistic ancestor is hundreds or thousands of kilometers away. And polysynthetic languages! SO interesting to see how language structure and social norms affect one another.

dale

@Cat named Virtute Canadian here too, and I default to First Nations. If I get to know someone and they express a preference for Indian or a specific Nation, then I will try to use that with them.

I actually don't use Indian at all anymore, as I pretty exclusively say First Nations, or else for folks from India, South Asian.

If you've never seen the docu 'Reel Injun', it's very good - try to track down a copy if you can. It's about the portrayal of First Nations/Native Americans on film.

Interrobanged

@Cat named Virtute Ooh, do you have any moderately accessible books on First Nations languages that you;d recommend?

PatatasBravas

@dale Love that movie! Seconded.

@interrobanged Keith Basso does a lot of really interesting stuff with language; try finding "Wisdom Sits in Places," I particularly liked the chapter Stalking with Stories.

Cat named Virtute

@Interrobanged Unfortunately most of what I've learned is from research projects for my undergrad linguistics courses, and I used mostly academic articles. The website Ethnologue is a good beginning point though. Maybe try to look up work by Lyle Campbell or Marianne Mithun? I would love to point you toward linguistic work done by First Nations researchers, but unfortunately my survey courses didn't offer much there.

Cat named Virtute

@PatatasBravas Ahhhh, yes, Wisdom Sits in Places is supposed to be incredible. Thanks for reminding me it's on my to-read list!

ReginaSavage

@Interrobanged I reccomend "Words of the Huron" by John Steckley. Its basically an ethno-liguistic history of the huron people in the 1700's. Very, very interesting and well written.

SeaMoney

@Cat named Virtute I like to point people in the Direction of Michael Yellow Bird's Article "What We Want to Be Called: Indigenous Peoples' Perspectives on Racial and Ethnic Identity Labels" when this topic comes up. The main consensus is pretty much what you said: tribe specific identifiers. Like I would say I am Confederated Tribes of Colville Okanagan Band.

Cat named Virtute

@SeaMoney Excellent, thank you!

MilesofMountains

@dale Reel Injun is great!

gobblegirl

I'm Canadian, and I usually say "Aboriginal." "First Nations" is sort of clunky to use in a sentence, and "Native American" has the same problem as "African-American" - they're too US-centric.
And at least here, "Native" by itself is a mild slur when used by non-Aboriginal people.

kickupdust

@gobblegirl +1 to all you said, especially use of "Native" as a slur. And I personally would never use Indian to refer to someone not from India.

mlle.gateau

@gobblegirl Yes, to just clarify this a US American (now I'm paranoid) who made this mistake*, colonial powers differentiated between "natives" and "citizens," so the term "native" has connotations of being less than a citizen.

*In a paper, thank GOD it wasn't to someone's face, and I haven't done it since, it was pure ignorance

Chesty LaRue

@gobblegirl I'm from the prairies and he term "Indian" is highly offensive here.... I was surprised to see it show up as a term as widely used as it is. We also usually say East Indian for people from, you know, India, because my parents generation and older seems to prefer Indian and not care who they offend (results may vary of course, but this is redneck country).
Maybe things are different in different parts of the country?

gobblegirl

@Chesty LaRue I'm in Edmonton, and Indian is nooooooooooot cool here. It sounds like it's different in the states, mostly?
And of course, when I say not cool, I mean "generally accepted as not cool for an outsider to say."

AW@twitter

@gobblegirl

It's interesting even among Aboriginal people the words "native"/"Indian" have distinct meanings depending on where and what the individual came from. There is "Native Pride" as expressed through imagery and T-Shirts. Older members of the community will still use the term "Indian" when talking about other groups. Dependent on the reserve, or urban socio-economic status, younger people will use it in much the way "Nigger" is used between a certain section of the US. Others will use euphemistically and play with the confusion between South Asians by deliberately conflating the themselves http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fkMF-654O8Q .

The Lady of Shalott

@gobblegirl I wonder if this is an Eastern/Western divide? Where I've lived (Ontario and points east) "Indian" has been a normal, casual term referring to "First Nations people whose tribe is either unknown to us or unidentified" OR among aboriginal people themselves, again as a casual, almost slang-y term for "us people" that doesn't necessarily carry all the specificity of the individual tribes.

HOWEVER I have heard that out West, especially in Metis areas and areas in BC that are heavily indigenous, "Indian" is a more derogatory term and people prefer "native." But I've never been so I couldn't say from personal experience? I will note that my Aboriginal history prof in undergrad, whose focus was the Plains Cree and treaty relations, referred to and published under both "History of Aboriginal Peoples of Canada and the United States" as well as " Indian Treaty Relations in Canada and the United States." And mixed and matched terms fairly liberally in class and her writings.

This comment got away from me but the point I'm making is that I wonder if there's a regional/geographic divide present in Canadian ethnographical discussions?

Maladydee

@gobblegirl In Winnipeg, where I've lived since I was 13, the casual term seems to almost always be Native, followed by First Nations as the second-most used term. You don't hear Aboriginal often unless it's in a newspaper or statement or something. And Indian is usually used in an offensive way. And of course there's Metis, which is a separate group/term, and that's easy enough because if you are being polite you say Metis, if you are being racist you say something terrible about 'half-blood' and it's really clear cut about who's being an asshole about things.
At least, that's what I've found as a white girl who is honestly pretty surrounded by white people. It could be that I and most people I know have been unintentionally casually insulting First Nations folks for years. That would be sad but definitely possible.

Springtime for Voldemort

@gobblegirl Woah, "Native" is a slur? Crap. I thought, because, Native Youth Sexual Health Network... Ok, fine.

gobblegirl

@papayalily That's different than calling someone a native. Which is rude for white people to say. Where I am. YMMV, as this entire comment section shows.

kickupdust

@Medani hmm, yeah, I live in Winnipeg and I would say that more often than not, in casual conversation, "Native" is a slur. depends, of course, on the way it is used... but yeah, my instinctive reaction is NOT to use it.

Maladydee

@kickupdust Damn, I really thought it was neutral.

kickupdust

@Medani yeah, I keep going back and forth a bit. I don't want to say it can never be neutral, but that most of the times I've heard it it's been derogatory. maybe especially in Winnipeg, even, what with the major problems in the North End. hmmm... you know what, if I heard "Native peoples" I wouldn't think of that as offensive, but "Natives" strikes me as derogatory. /not an expert whatsoever! just going with my gut on this one. and as you can see from all the comments it varies WILDLY.

MilesofMountains

@Medani I think it's an east-west thing. In western Canada, "native" gets used as the less-formal version of First Nations, where "Indian" is more likely to be a slur, or at least not something white people should go around saying, but I hear it's different out east.

mardi.

@kickupdust In New Zealand, where I'm from, the term 'natives' is kind of equivalent to 'savages'. Especially if used by a white person to describe an individual, like, saying a Maori person is "a native". That could be considered derogatory. It is used in other contexts though.

Chesty LaRue

@gobblegirl Hey girl hey!
I'm in Edmonton too.

Saby

@gobblegirl Because people seem to have very different opinions on usage... in most academic writing from Canada in the past 20 years or so, "Native" as an adjective (e.g. "Native people", "Native man,") is considered a standard, acceptable, neutral term, while "Native"as a noun (e.g. "Natives", "a Native") is considered offensive.

Exene

My Apache ex-boyf and pretty much all the other natives I know call themselves Indians, but I always say "native," or if I'm referring to a Navajo person, "Diné."

(ETA after reading gobblegirl's comment above: I'm from the Southwest U.S.)

laurel

@Exene Yeah, the New Mexico Indians I know call themselves 'Indians' generally, or refer to themselves by their pueblo (either the Spanish name, like Santo Domingo, or the native name, Kewa). Anglos and Hispanics seem to use 'Native', though, to speak generally about Indian culture.

Gin-tastic

I am Canadian and I also work for AANDC (formerly INAC). Aboriginal refers to the First Nations, the Inuit andd the Métis collectively. Indian is used mostly in legal or historic terms. Obviously there are more categories/titles under First Nations and etc.

Emma Peel

I use "American Indian," even though it's not the greatest because I know many more Indian-Americans than American Indians, and "He's Indian, from India, well, I mean, he's not but his parents are" gets confusing.

I like "First Nations" much better than "Native American" but it isn't used in the US at all.

sydwi

I'm a librarian, and I follow Debbie Reese's blog, americanindiansinchildrensliterature.blogspot.com/
She's tribally enrolled at Nambe Pueblo, and she has a lot to say on names and references and what we pass down to our children (mostly bad stereotypes, sadly). It's interesting reading. Although I don't agree with everything she says, it really makes me think.

cecil hungry

I'm from Oklahoma (and part of the tiny tiny minority that has NO Native American/Indian blood, which you'd be surprised how often that comes up around here), and people here use "Native American/Indian" fairly exclusively and fairly interchangeably. Our license plates say "Native America," so... The only time it's ever been an issue for me was in, ironically, Virginia, when I was BFFs with both an East Indian and a Native American. The extremely un-PC terms "dot or feather" came up a lot (what can I say? It was college).

EternalFootwoman

@cecil hungry I just heard "dot or feather" recently and it's kind of horrifying.

Springtime for Voldemort

@cecil hungry I've heard the other variation, "IT or casino".

hopelessshade

@papayalily WOW.
Good to know the current racist generation is continuing the slang-construction work of the older racist generation!

Mariajoseh

In Mexico the term used by goverment and civil institutions is "indígenas" (indigenous) , which is super vague but useful because I can think of at least 20 different races and cultures within the country. In the Yucatán Peninsula (where I am from) it's the mayas. But the words "Maya" and "Indio" are commonly used as slur, to refer to someone poor or uneducated or stupid. We have a really sad and complicated racial history, but very very different from the one in the US and Canada.

Cat named Virtute

@Mariajoseh I've been thinking lately about how little I know about Mexico's colonial/indigenous history, especially post-first European contact. Do you have any recommended reading for a total newb? I'd love to learn more.

Tam
Tam

@Mariajoseh This is what I was going to say. The use of 'indio' as a slur. I've been also hearing in academia lately the term 'pueblos originarios' (original people) to refer to indígenas, which I think is a very good term.

Mariajoseh

@Tam I like that one! and yes, the use of indio as a slur is horrible. Lately, the Museo of Memoria y Tolerancia (Museum of Memory and Tolerance) staged a show which tracked down hateful hashtags on Twitter and it was pretty impressive to see things like "you smell like an indio" and stuff like that. I felt sick to my stomach. Hearing or reading someone speak like that always tells me a lot about their character.

Mariajoseh

@Cat named Virtute Sorry, I can't think of anything nonfiction. I'm hardly an academic expert, I only know what I studied at school, and I'm also really interested in diversity and tolerance lately so I've been thinking about the lenguage we use a lot. For fiction, and even though he wasn't a favorite of mine, Carlos Fuentes was really good at portraying the class and race system in Mexico. Terra Nostra is a really big and ambitious book, but probably anything by him will give you a good idea.

Cat named Virtute

@Mariajoseh Thank you! I remember reading a literary essay of his that I quite liked in undergrad; will check out his fiction!

AW@twitter

@Cat named Virtute

To start Bernal Diaz, Yes it's Spanish Yes it's 500 years ago, but it's still the best account we have. The rest devolve into very technical works but check out Inga Clendinnen "the Aztecs" and or "Ambivalent Conquests: Maya and Spaniard in Yucatan, 1517-1570"

Cat named Virtute

@AW@twitter Thanks! I'm actually interested in a slightly later period. I learned about first European contact in school (well, barely, which is why I will look into the Diaz book for sure), but I'd love to learn more about what happened next. In Canada we had rampant imported disease and treaties and the creation of the reserve system and residential schools and the Stolen Generation, and I have no idea what parallels and differences there are in Mexico and Central America.

David Bliss@facebook

@Cat named Virtue The canonical work in English is still James Lockhart's "The Nahuas After the Conquest". It's pretty heavily anthropological though so if it's too dense, Matthew Restall's "Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest" is a good general work. Clendinnen's book is great for the Yucatan, as mentioned.

AW@twitter

@Cat named Virtute

There has been a lot written about the Spanish Empire in teh New World, but most of it has been broken down into the region such as Mexico, Peru, Bolivia, Cuba etc.. The best is to start off with a country history and then build up a picture by reading the history of different countries.

NotBlairWaldorf

I just (well last semester) wrote my 'Big Deal May Turn Into My Thesis' term paper on this subject! My paper's thesis was that the absence of domesticated animals in North America (out of the world's 26~ we only have one, the dog) was the main factor that contributed to the European settlers' domination of the land in forthcoming years. Livestock = Amuurrica. Early American history is crazy fascinating.. The Vikings! Just chilling around Canada like a thousand years ago! Nomming on penguins!

Cat named Virtute

@NotBlairWaldorf Wait, penguins?

wee_ramekin

@Cat named Virtute

NOM NOM NOM

gobblegirl

@Cat named Virtute Maybe she means puffins?

NotBlairWaldorf

@gobblegirl I meant puffins. In my head I think whenever I read the word puffin I just replaced it with penguin because of adorableness and continued on. My god what have I DONE

NotBlairWaldorf

@NotBlairWaldorf In that same book I also remember an anecdote related by an early (like late 1600's) settler who saw a wild pig fighting off a wolf to eat the carcass of a deer. Am I the only one who is SO CONFUSED BY THIS? How ferocious are pigs??? Babe???

PatatasBravas

@NotBlairWaldorf Feral pigs are the scariest, seriously.

wee_ramekin

@NotBlairWaldorf

[oh god sorry. i'm done now]

Cat named Virtute

@wee_ramekin Nooooooo, wee_ramekin, how could yoooooooou?

@NotBlairWaldorf, it's probably Penguin Publishing's fault, with their Puffin books for kids.

Cat named Virtute

@wee_ramekin Okay, I forgive you, for the Babe reference, which my friends and I manage to somehow quote EVERY TIME we play Settlers of Catan.

NotBlairWaldorf

@Cat named Virtute I am so amused by this. Why do I not comment more!?

PistolPackinMama

@NotBlairWaldorf That is a good question... you know your participation grade relies on commenting... wait. No. Wrong.

You should just comment more. Doooo eeeet. Esp. if it gets us more waddling penguins. WADDLING PENGUINS! Waddlewaddlewaddle.

Your thesis sounds interesting.

Also! I just read somewhere some king of someplace was killed by being gored by a wild pig while riding through [capital town]. Wild pigs sound mean.

Judith Slutler

@NotBlairWaldorf Yeah "wild pigs" are now usually referred to as wild boar I guess? And those are some BIG bruisers.

PatatasBravas

@wee_ramekin It is entirely your fault* that I just spent several minutes contemplating how one might butcher a penguin (different than a chicken, too big for the quail strategies, probably less delicate than a rabbit?) before I made myself sad. Nooo! Penguins! Continue waddling about on your probably very tough legs and thighs!

*not entirely your fault, it's my partner who's teaching me how to chop up and debone things, ha

Mandalas

@PistolPackinMama I read about that too! Apparently he was a drunk though and that had something to do with it. Also, it lead to a bunch of strife. Like, epic amounts of strife.

EternalFootwoman

@NotBlairWaldorf O my God, if you've ever seen a wild pig...terrifying. They're BIG.

NotBlairWaldorf

@PistolPackinMama I'm a history major and am so embarrassed that when I read your historical anecdote my first thought was that you were referring to King Robert's death from GoT..

EpWs

@PatatasBravas Heh heh heh, "debone."

(Sorry, I revert to the maturity level of a twelve-year-old boy when I'm stressed/see the word "bone" used as a verb.)

Jane Err

In my experience, most here in NW Montana self-identify proudly as Indians, and don't necessarily mind being called that any more than they mind being called anything by white people; however 'Native American' is usually more respectful.

They call us many things, but 'Custer' is the one that tells you you're unwelcome.

PistolPackinMama

Aborigine isn't without problems, since the word means "from the beginning." Which... from the beginning of what? Beginning of history? Time? Arrival of Europeans?

First Nations also a problem, since what is a Nation? It's a unit that we conceptualize in 19thc. origin terms, in the context of imperial expansion.

TL;DR

Someone will have a problem with every word...

...With good reason, because every word has a problem associated with it.

I usually use Native or Indigenous or Indian when discussing the US/Canada, and Native or Indigenous in other general contexts.

In the case of a person's identity, I call them what they want to be called, if they have a preference and care to share it.

PistolPackinMama

@PistolPackinMama And if a Native person has a preference for general words, I use that, too. And sometimes there are differing opinions among Native people in the room, so there is also that.

PatatasBravas

@PistolPackinMama I tend to use indigenous or ________ (insert proper noun of group/tribe/band here) to describe my colleagues and co-researchers, because that is what they have asked me to do. I try to avoid Indian unless I am referring to the USA "pan-Indian" identity, which was formed largely under duress and through mistreatment by white culture... like the boarding schools.

In conclusion: Use the words people want you to use! Never hurts to ask!

PatatasBravas

@PistolPackinMama

(also I couldn't find a way to work this into the HFC because I am new to it and nervous about derailing threads because I always think I am being rude so okay no more blathering:

I really like the "Rethinking Collaboration: Working the Indigene-Colonizer Hyphen" article by Alison Jones and Kuni Jenkins, have you read it? It is written super accessibly/not so academic-y, and really brought up a lot of excellent ideas for me about teaching cultural conflict to diverse classrooms at the college level.)

Cat named Virtute

@PistolPackinMama Am I wrong in thinking (assuming? maybe) that Nation is a way of distinguishing tribes or bands rather than how we think of "nation states" in a contemporary global context? I also thought that the "from the beginning" translation is culturally specific to some Canadian Aboriginal peoples' origin stories, although only now am I thinking through the extremely questionable practice of grafting that belief onto all indigenous populations, yikes.

gobblegirl

@PistolPackinMama @Cat named Virtute The term 'nation' is a lot broader than just nation-state, and can mean a lot of things. In this context, a lot of what we might think of as "tribes" are actually nations. Cherokee nation, Cree nation, etc.

Cat named Virtute

@gobblegirl Yes, that was what I was trying to get at. Thanks for saying it more clearly/accurately. :-)

PistolPackinMama

@gobblegirl Yup. All true.

Just saying, these are things I have run across as objections at one time or another, not actual objections I personally have.

I think the value of the "every word you can come up with has an objection linked to it" situation is, it's good to be reminded, if you aren't Native yourself. Identities are formed/ identifiers are created in a context with a a major power disparity dynamic.

argle argle autonomy something something individual preference kjdha;ksldjflsjkhglajerbg. Thing.

@Patatas Bravas-- I haven't read it, but I will now. Also, HFC derailing. SUCH a problem, as you can see. Everyone will say HOW DARE YOU DERAIL (by which I mean, not derail) with relevant information.

Go post that article for the person looking for articles!

redheaded&crazy

@PistolPackinMama yeah I run a pretty tight ship over at the HFC eh

Also, as I'm sure you all know, my motto in life is: Stay on topic. ALL THE TIME.

PatatasBravas

@redheaded&crazie (wibbles quietly) but I'm new and risk-averse and I like all the commenters so much and what if no one wants to sits with me at lunch and I don't know very much about shorts and

PistolPackinMama

@PatatasBravas Yes, but you know lots about readings on Native-Settler relations, which in my opinion are better than shorts (which as you can tell from my posting I also think are great).

I am the one that confessed the way to seduce me is to be a lady rocking shorts, and I am not typically a lady into ladies. So I would say really, whatever you have to say is probably just cool. Cool like a lady wearing shorts.

Also my solution to sitting at lunch is to just invite everyone to my house. I have a balcony and my town has zero in the way of decent restaurants anyway, and it's a EFFING HOT outside right now.

I have an icemaker.

Ophelia

@PatatasBravas Ssshhhh, it's ok. I know a lot about shorts, but not a lot about anthropology, and I have truly enjoyed both threads!

superdreaming

@PatatasBravas I am that person looking for articles on HFC! That is me!!! I am currently reading "Queer Indigenous Studies: Critical Interventions in Theory, Politics, and Literature," any chance you've come across that in your reading? I just want someone to talk to alllll the timmeeeee/am trying to find the article you mentioned to download now.

PistolPackinMama

@superdreaming I am making a contented noise that goes like this "smartsmartsmartsmartsmartsmartsmart" kind of like "chugchugchugchug" because so many smart people being smart and smart I love it.

(smartsmartsmartsmart)

PatatasBravas

@PistolPackinMama It's a peculiar dialect of purring, and I like it.

@superdreaming AHHHH I feel terrible that I don't have the PDF on my home computer so I can't email it to you, but if you've got access to a library, you might try getting an interlibrary loan for "The Handbook of Critical and Indigenous Methodologies" edited by Norman K. Denzin, Linda Tuhiwai Smith, and Yvonna Lincoln. It is a chapter in that book.

Also I haven't read that yet! I am sadly not as well versed in queer studies, but very eager to learn more, so that is where I shall go next!

superdreaming

@PatatasBravas Oh my god yr the cutest (I work in interlibrary loan and for some reason when people recommend I use ILL I get all fuzzy inside and think it's adorable).
BUT I'm really into the queer studies/indigenous studies intersection and people like Andrea Smith who use a lot of Foucault are great places to tackle that gap! Smith has an article in the book I mentioned that is great, it's called "Queer Theory and Native Studies: The Heteronormativity of Settler Colonialism" and basically explains why it's a useful conversation to have.

PatatasBravas

@superdreaming You're a libraaaaaaaaarian and you do ILLs can we be friends forever?

Also okay I have a growing list of things to read and this is making me all sorts of excited.

I am doing this at home: \o/

superdreaming

@PatatasBravas
WAIT IS YOUR PICTURE THE DOCTOR???????
Also I am just a lowly student assistant in ILL but I love it and my bosses are so cute and they bake cakes and gossip about other staff and bring me lunch sometimes and it's the bestttttt. I love them and want to grow up to be themmmm (yes, all five of them).

PatatasBravas

@superdreaming Bwahaha yes it is! But I should save my ~feelings~ for another more appropriate thread.

Also librarians are the best. I worked as a circ desk person/shelver/adventurous finder of lost texts in undergrad and adored my coworkers and bosses.

MKP@twitter

I'm part Cherokee and Choctaw, and my mother's family (where it all comes from) just says Indian. If my mom's talking to non-Indians, she will sometimes say Native American. I prefer American Indian just because it's easier to distinguish from Southeast Asian Indian.

Exene

From that link:

"The good hand of God favored our beginnings," Bradford mused, by "sweeping away great multitudes of the natives ... that he might make room for us."

Chilling.

fleurdelivre

I'm a teeny-tiny bit Native American and that's my preferred term and also the one I use with non-native friends. I used to get uptight about "Indian" until I met and got to be friends with a bunch of born-on-the-rez Navajos and that's what they called themselves. I still use "native" rather than Indian, though.

fleurdelivre

@fleurdelivre And by teeny-tiny, I mean that I was raised with a disproportionate amount of cultural emphasis placed on my native heritage when considering how diluted the bloodline has become in recent generations.

In other words, when my brother and sister and I watched that Christopher Guest movie about making a movie called Home for Purim and one of the characters said, "Certificate Degree of Indian Blood...it's on my wall, kemo." we died laughing, re-wound it three times, and decided it should be on our family crest.

iceberg

Aboriginal/Aborigine (with a capital A) for indigenous Canadians is kind of jarring to me since that's what we call our indigenous people in Australia (although there are also many other ways/words as well), it has been a bit confusing occasionally to realize I was reading about Canadians and not Australian Aboriginal people.

gobblegirl

@iceberg No one in Canada says Aborigine to refer to Canadian First Nations - we use that term exclusively for Australian indigenous people. And Aboriginal is just an adjective, not a title or a tribe or even location-specific, so it's used all over the world.

iceberg

@gobblegirl sorry i misunderstood your comment - re-read it and gotcha now!

MoonBat

My granddaddy grew up in Qualla Boundary, a Cherokee land trust. He always said Indian. He was also the scariest and most wonderful man I've ever met.

superdreaming

@MoonBat I don't have anything constructive to add but Qualla Boundary is BEAUTIFUL. I recently got back from my family reunion just over the mountain and that little bit of the Smokies is the most beautiful place in the world to meeee/I didn't know many other people even knew it existed!

MoonBat

@superdreaming Awwwww, I totally agree! I love it there, especially since it reminds me of him.

PatatasBravas

Has anyone else been watching John Green's World History Crash Course? I've been hugely annoyed that he was mostly working forward in time, and yet managed to ignore all cultures (INCLUDING EMPIRES) in North, Central and South America, and Australia, and sub-Saharan Africa until extremely recently, ie, the time of anglo contact with said places. It really kind of underscores how little those cultural histories are valued in the larger understanding of "world" history.

I know it's a little unfair for me to have such high standards for one dude, but really, I thought the purpose of the series was to teach people parts of history they might not get in class, to get bits of context they might gloss over in the average high school, or to at least be interested in alternative stories. NONE OF THAT??? I sent him a bunch of comments with specific requests and suggestions for resources, but no. Nay.

Ugh John Green I know we all expect too much of you but SERIOUSLY. There are a lot of indigenous people still around, still in possession of awesome history, and a lot of that has been shared and processed for academia and other cultures. This information isn't hard to find if you want to look for it. Frustrates me to no end that this is all still so NEW to people.

Tam
Tam

@PatatasBravas I've been watching crashcourse, and I think you're right that little if no attention has been paid to the Americas. But i think -and I'm not trying to be a John Green apologist- that crashcourse follows AP curricula directly, so there's not much deviation from that.

PatatasBravas

@Tam Iiiiiiiiiiiiiinteresting! Did not know that. Can you point me in that direction so I can read more? (I don't want to all HEY TELL ME ALL OF THE THINGS YOURSELF OKAY) I'm curious why he chose to follow the AP curricula (also, there's only one AP World History curricula? true/false?), and how he decided which particular places/times to emphasize.

Tam
Tam

@PatatasBravas I've read about it on his tumblr/twitter but let me see if I can find you something more definite. His tumblr is fishingboatproceeds and there is also a thecrashcourse(.)tumblr.

Emma Peel

@PatatasBravas I'm not familiar with the crashcourse, but yeah, AP has a unified curriculum for World and Euro histories. http://apcentral.collegeboard.com/apc/public/repository/AP_WorldHistoryCED_Effective_Fall_2011.pdf Given the videos, it actually sounds like he might be following the Euro curriculum, not AP World (which is a relatively new course, I think). "Western Civ," not world history.

PatatasBravas

@Emma Peel The plot thickens! If he's following a Western Civ curriculum, then my irritation is misplaced, and I owe him an apology for missing that point.

I still think that if the creative team wants to open people's minds to the fascinating twists and turns of world history, then they could do a lot more to involve more of the world. There's no reason not to pack in more information than the AP exam requires!

Emma Peel

@PatatasBravas Oh definitely! Especially as AP Euro ("Western Civ") or the equivalent non-college-level curriculum is required even to graduate high school most places. (AP World I'm not as familiar with, but it seems to mostly go much farther into the past than AP Euro.)

And calling what's basically Renaissance and modern European History "World History" is a problem on its own, of course!

questingbeast

Stop* posting such interesting things Nicole, I haven't done any work in the last hour! That was fascinating (and sad), I knew almost none of that. It's amazing that something so recent as the European settlement should have so much mystery around it; it reminds me of the debate about what happened to the Britons after the Germanic invasions, but that was a thousand years earlier and there's no written sources.

Does anyone have any book recs on the history of indigenous America/ the European settlement? Is 1491 good? It mentions a few in the article (The Earth Shall Weep, for example), would anyone recommend those?

*NEVER STOP

wee_ramekin

@questingbeast Seconding your request for articles like this. I have very little education about/first-hand contact with Native American issues, and this article and the comments have been enlightening and informative.

Nicole Cliffe

"Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee" by Dee Brown is a classic. "The Unredeemed Captive," by John Demos, is great if you're obsessed with historical captivity narratives. I also enjoy "On the Rez," by John Frazier, which is written by the archetypal well-meaning White Dude, but written BEAUTIFULLY and with a lot of respect.

I'm really under-read in settlement histories, generally, and would love recommendations. I like super-militant 19th and 20th century histories and memoirs, for the most part.

lindsey@twitter

@questingbeast Yes, 1491 is REALLY good. I have no idea where I got the rec for that book from (I want to say from something Legal Nomads tweeted??) but I bought it and love it. It definitely filled in a huge hole in the history I'd been taught (or dug up and refilled a hole with more accurate history, maybe).

Umm, and, oddly, it has reshaped my idea of what it is to be a good steward of the Earth.

PatatasBravas

I sometimes think it can be just as helpful to read more recent histories, just to get a better sense of why all of this (waves hands wildly) isn't talked about by the dominant/oppressive cultures, and what recent and ongoing stuff there is to talk about.

Booklist that is accessibly written and powerful and sad and good:

Blood Struggle, by Charles Wilkinson (not indigenous)
Boarding School Seasons, by Brenda Child
Indian School Days, by Basil Johnston
Education for Extinction, by David Wallace Adams (not indigenous)
The Scalpel and the Silver Bear, by Lori Arviso Alvord

Vine Deloria Jr is great, any of his stuff.

Winona LaDuke is a freaking hero, read all of her things.

Fiction/poetry:

N. Scott Momaday writes beautifully, beautifully, and has the best voice around, if you can find videos of him reading.

Sherman Alexie, obviously, so brilliant and so fun.

Nicole Cliffe

YES! to Sherman Alexie and Deloria.

questingbeast

@Nicole Cliffe Thanks! I have recently realised I know almost nothing about American history in general (I'm a notAmerican), so I want to get on it. I'll add those to list (next to the First Lady suggestions!)

questingbeast

@lindsey@twitter Great, thanks. It seemed like it couldn't not be good, after that article!
@PatatasBravas Thank you so much! Writing them down!

Cat named Virtute

@questingbeast Tomson Highway for fiction about growing up in a residential school/drama about rez life in Canada. He is amazing, just amazing.

mlle.gateau

@Nicole Cliffe Oh, and if you are interested in documentaries, there's a really good one called Reel Injun about the representation of Native Americans in film, and it talks a lot about identity. It was streaming on Netflix when I saw it, but I don't know if it still is or not.

PistolPackinMama

@PatatasBravas Also, Blood Politics, Circe Sturm.

There will be a book on the history of the American Indian Survival Schools in Minnesota coming out with UofM Press in 2013. (Full disclosure, a friend wrote it, it looks like it will be aaahhhhmazing).

The Walleye Wars, by Larry Nesper

ReginaSavage

@Cat named Virtute Also, in fiction about growing up living on a reseve is 'Dance Me Outside' by W.P. Kinsella which is also really, really good!

laurel

@PatatasBravas +1 re Blood Struggle.

Cat named Virtute

@ReginaSavage Though it should be noted that Kinsella, a non-First Nations person, has received criticism for his works like "Dance me Outside" and "Shoeless Joe" on the grounds of voice appropriation. I know opinion varies wildly on appropriation as a justified criticism, but just so people know.

ohpioneer

@questingbeast So, a really good read regarding first encounters and the impact of early American colonization on American Indians is "The World Turned Upside Down: Indian Voices from Early America" edited by Colin G. Calloway. It provides a brief, general introduction, but (and this is the best part) delves more deeply into tribe/region specific encounters by providing the primary source material of the American Indian tribes (speeches, treaties, responses, etc.). I really enjoyed reading it. Very revealing.

superdreaming

@questingbeast Blood Narrative by Chadwick Allen I just want to hug him because I like the way he writes so much (I also feel that way about Judith Butler SO grain of salt there, I guess)

PistolPackinMama

@superdreaming Y'all, so many books! An ever growing list! I love how widely read people around here are. So many things to learn and people know it allllllll I want to know it alllllll tooooooooooooo.

ranran

My cousins are half Ojibwe, and they seem to tend to use "Native" as an adjective or "Native people" as a noun. However, their mom always said "Indian." I dunno.

ReginaSavage

I'm also Canadian and took quite a few "Native Studies" courses in university, including a class in Mohawk. In most cases I use "native" or "aboriginal", it really depends on who you're talking to though as some people really do take offense to words like 'indian'. I also find that while 'first nations' is pretty much an all encompassing term, its also fairly new to the lexicon so some don't really identify with it as much.

Tis 'tak!

redheaded&crazy

This is so fascinating to me. Especially the difference of opinion on what is acceptable! Particularly relevant to me is "native." I have a friend who is half native - that's how he describes himself (I think! now I feel like I need to double check, I've known him for so long) so that's what I use when describing him? Now I wonder if that's appropriate. I guess I should ask.

I use first nations when I'm talking in the general sense.

SeaMoney

@redheaded&crazie I just posted essentially this same comment. But there is a huge difference in opinion even amongst Indigenous Peoples. And hence: I recommend reading "What We Want to Be Called: Indigenous Peoples' Perspectives on Racial and Ethnic Identity Labels" by
Michael Yellow Bird

EternalFootwoman

@redheaded&crazie The difference of opinion on what terms are acceptable fascinates me, and not just when it pertains to Native Americans (which is what I've always been taught as acceptable). Like--I feel that in Britain, the term Black is used a lot more frequently than in America. But now I live in an area with a high population of African immigrants, so you can't really say African-American because you're very likely to be wrong.

Verity

@EternalFootwoman It is interesting! I think "black" is definitely used more here in the UK than in the US (although I don't have that much direct experience of the US, so might well be wrong). I suppose I find African-American a bit weird and divisive because it seems to suggest that being white/European-American is the default, whereas having ancestors from Africa (even if nobody in your family has lived there for centuries) needs to be explicitly stated. But I know it's a commonly-used (the most accepted?) term, and I can see how "black" has issues as well. Terminology is tricky!

(We do have Black British, but it's used more on official forms and things than in everyday speech.)

RK Fire

@EternalFootwoman: I'm jumping in late, but re. the Black/African-American thing--it seems like Black is used most comfortably by and within different Black communities in the US, but I feel like most non-Black people, particularly White people, use "African-American" to avoid potentially offending anyone. I'm neither White or Black and I spent part of my childhood in majority-Black communities, so I always felt comfortable saying Black since I was never corrected. So.. take that as you will. I think African American is used to sound more academic or "correct" but it's never been clear to me who is determining the correctness. ;P

Trilby

Nicole, it may surprise you to learn that in the US we don't actually give much thought to what Canadians call things. Maybe we should but we don't.

PistolPackinMama

@Trilby God, we are such provincials, aren't we? I had a lovely Canadian student this year, and I swear the fact that he was from Toronto was more exciting to others in class than the kids from China were. Like "HE SPEAKS ENGLISH AND FRENCH! AND PLAYS HOCKEY BUT SAYS HOCKEY DIFFERENTLY!"

It was amazing.

Nicole Cliffe

BE FASCINATED BY US AND OUR WAYS OR REAP THE WHIRLWIND.

wee_ramekin

@Nicole Cliffe I think you mean "...THE WHIRLWIND, EH?".

Ophelia

@PistolPackinMama "It looks just like home, but everything is in kilometers." --My little sister, during a vacation in Canada as a small child.

Elleohelle

@Ophelia Haha! My friend went to college in Waterloo and brought his college friends to the US for a visit. The best thing was how they had ZERO CONCEPT of US geography. "Oklahoma? Is that a city or a state?"

ormaisonogrande

@Elleohelle you guys tons of Italians think that Canada is a state. As in, one of the United States states. I do my part by mocking them mercilessly whenever I find one of them. Canada may not be as loud as the US, but it's still the second largest country in the world. I mean, if you ever even loook at a map it should stand out.
They also are taught (as in it says so in geography books) that Mexico is part of South America. That (more or less irrationally) pisses me off and then I talk about NAFTA.

Verity

@ormaisonogrande Tons of non-UK people (I know, this is fairly irrelevant) seem very unclear about whether Ireland is part of the UK (hint: it's not), and I've seen several instances of people thinking Wales is a town. Clearly everyone needs to spend more time doing geography quizzes on Sporcle to fix this stuff.

simalie

@Verity Yay for Sporcle! I was so proud when I could get all he countries on the big 196 quiz--now I'm trying (unsuccessfully) to get my boyf to to the continent quizzes.

SeaMoney

@Cat named Virtute I like to point people in the Direction of Michael Yellow Bird's Article "What We Want to Be Called: Indigenous Peoples' Perspectives on Racial and Ethnic Identity Labels" when this topic comes up. The main consensus is pretty much what you said: tribe specific identifiers. Like I would say I am Confederated Tribes of Colville Okanagan Band.

PatatasBravas

@SeaMoney Great article, thanks for pointing me that way!

whizz_dumb

This is the first I've heard of First Nations, and I must admit, it'll take some getting used to if that's what I'm supposed to say now. It seems the verdict is still out though, so I'll probably just be forward and ask people how they prefer to be addressed. Usually can't go wrong with first names.

MilesofMountains

This topic is a total minefield. I am a quarter native, but look very white, and I have a job that involves a lot of working closely with people from various bands, but also occasionally highly-political liaising with occasionally-hostile band governments. Basically, I use pretty much every term mentioned above at different times. I generally use "native" as the casual term (since I look white and often don't feel like disclosing my background), but it's "Indian" often with family and friends (white people shouldn't say this unless they're referring to the legal designation), "aboriginal" when describing something in a global context, "First Nations" when I'm being formal. At work, technically the term we're to use for B.C. native peoples is "First Nations, Treaty Nations, and the Nisga'a Nation" with adding on the Inuit and Metis Nation when referring to Canada-wide peoples. Obviously, no one says that because it's a ridiculous mouthful, and matters to no one but white people. Obviously, band affiliation is best, but that's not simple either. It's far far far worse to call say, a Tahltan person Gitanyow than it is to call them practically anything else, and I've gotten in trouble at work for calling a group a nation when they were in fact a splinter group not formally recognized as a nation by the other nations.

ALSO, is anyone else watching Blackstone? I've only seen the first ep and it was really good, but also so very depressing. Can someone tell me if it gets worse from here? I don't know if I can handle it if it gets worse.

AW@twitter

@MilesofMountains

Yes it does get worse. But it's also a very accurate depiction of life on the reservation.

dale

@MilesofMountains Why is Nisga'a separated out like that, I am curious to know?

MilesofMountains

@dale I'm actually not sure. I might be talking out my ass, but I suspect it's legal terminology bleeding into non-legal contexts, and since the Nisga'a are no longer a nation covered by the Indian Act, they're no longer a First Nation?

dale

@MilesofMountains interesting! thank you for replying! :-)

Minx

I call myself and other Native Americans Indians (I'm only one-eighth, but it counts for federal purposes). My father, (one-fourth) calls them Indians. My grandfather (one-half, fluent in his tribe's language, and spent some of his growing up years living with his tribe) always said Indian. My great-grandmother (full blood, an actual official medicine woman) said Indian. Everyone in my family says Indian.

Also, I live in Oklahoma (though that's not where my tribe is from). The many, many members of various tribes here seem to usually say Indian. I was even a member of the Oklahoma Indian Honor Society when I was in high school.

I'm pretty convinced that in much of the U.S., only non-native people refer to natives as Native Americans. As for American Indians, I hear it occasionally used by either group, but it's never the primary term. I think it only exists to help distinguish between Indians and India Indians.

I AM curious though about Alaska and Hawaii. I would assume for Hawaii it's pretty much just "Hawaiians." But what about Alaska? I think someone was saying "Eskimo" used as a generic is mildly insulting?

Tulletilsynet

You can always spot a racist. He doesn't go around agonizing about saying the right words.

mans

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jimmyrapper

@Cat named Virtute Canadian here too, and I default to First Nations. If I get to know someone and they express a preference for Indian or a specific Nation, then I will try to use that with them.

I actually don't use Indian at all anymore, as I pretty exclusively say First Nations, or else for folks from India, South Asian. upholstery cleaning company crawley

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