Native American Vs American Indian Vs Indigenous
Regardless of which term you use, it’s important to approach conversations with Indigenous people with respect and care. They’re often defensive about how they’re portrayed in the media and by others.
They’re also changing how they see themselves. For instance, many are pushing for the 2020 Census to ask about tribal affiliation separately from racial identity.
There is a wide range of terms that refer to indigenous people in the United States and Canada. The term Native American is the most neutral in both countries, although many Indigenous people prefer to use their own endonyms (such as Cree or Lakota). A new question on the census that allows individuals to self-identify their tribal affiliation would be a step towards delinking indigeneity from race and getting a more accurate picture of the population.
However, the best way to avoid offending someone is to ask them which term they prefer. Then, listen to their answer with respect. For example, the Native American Journalists Association is currently voting on a rebranding to Indigenous Journalists Association, which reflects changing trends in cultural identity. The organization hopes that the name change will help to create an environment of mutual respect and understanding. The vote ends Aug. 10. This story originally appeared on UCLA Today. Follow the team on Twitter: @UCLAToday.
The term Indian is still used by many Native-run organizations and government agencies, but it can carry a history of negative stereotypes. Many Indigenous people feel it conflates a specific racial grouping and the concept of tribal nationhood, Ellis said.
In addition, the word evokes colonial associations as Europeans equated the behavior of Indigenous people with savagery as they expanded into new territories. Some Indigenous people avoid using the term and prefer instead to use a specific tribe name for themselves.
The terms Indigenous people and American Indian are also acceptable, but each person has a preference on how they would like to be addressed. The best way to avoid using the wrong term is to ask the person you are talking with what they prefer. If they don’t have a preference, use the term that the majority of their community uses. This will help ensure accuracy and respect. For example, the Osage, Caddo, Kiowa, and Comanche consider themselves Indigenous to Oklahoma.
When you’re referring to Native people in general, it’s best to stick with “Native American” or “Indigenous.” You should also check with the individual person you’re addressing to determine what they prefer.
In some cases, it matters to use the tribe name, especially if the person has self-identified with that particular Native nation. For instance, if someone is a citizen of the White Earth Nation, they should be addressed as such. The same is true of the Metis, a group from western Canada that blends European (often French Canadian) and Aboriginal culture.
Many tribal leaders want to move away from terms like “Indian,” which is a vestige of Columbus’s blunder and categorizes them as Americans, a name they didn’t choose. They are fighting for recognition of their rights to reclaim their heritage. That’s why they’re calling for decolonizing language and advocating for a shift to Indigenous Peoples Day, rather than Columbus Day. This is a worldwide movement.
The term First Nation refers to hundreds of individual tribes and nations that inhabited the Americas long before European colonists. Many Indigenous people prefer this term over others, such as Native American or Indian because it emphasizes their tribal identity.
It is best to always ask the person you are talking to which they prefer, as this could vary based on their tribe, age, or culture. Using their preferred terminology shows that you respect them.
For instance, while the term “Indian” is still used in some contexts, some Indigenous people feel it’s a pejorative because of its association with Columbus Day and other racist stereotypes. They also have to endure ongoing human rights abuses that force them off their traditional lands and into low-resource reservations or cities, where they’re often mistreated by police or suffer from substance addiction. As a result, they’re more likely to have poor health outcomes and life expectancy than non-Indigenous people.