Author Topic: The word "Indian" is much maligned.  (Read 14715 times)

Gwaewael

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The word "Indian" is much maligned.
« on: June 18, 2012, 03:03:39 am »
Some years back, musical bands from Equador began playing in the streets in the town where I live.  I had to think about it for a while before I put together that they were Indians.  At that point I realized, with some shock, that "Indian" was, in my mind at least, a dirty word; I wasn't supposed to say it or refer to other people in that way.  I don't know where I learned this.  After a lot more reflection, I decided the ban against the word was silly and wrong.  These people WERE Indians, after all, and I was going to refer to them that way.  From then on, when the subject came up, I spoke matter-of-factly about "the Indian bands from Equador".  I felt that by doing this I might be helping other people who might also have trouble with the word.

Another example:  I was talking on the phone with a woman who was working for ancestry.com.  I told her I was trying to trace an Indian family (I had a legitimate reason to do this) and I said, "Tell me, when the census workers go from house to house..."  She interrupted me to say, "Or from teepee to teepee."  I paused, startled, then went on calmly, "No, they were in town.  I'm sure they were living in houses."  She realized she shouldn't have said that and apologized profusely.  This incident shows that just mentioning the word "Indian" makes some people go bonkers.

I'm talking about this because I've noticed that people rarely use the word "Indian" on this forum.  They say "NDN" or "pretendian" instead.  Personally, I think "Indian" should be used in normal, respectful speach as often as possible in order to help people, like me, who have trouble with the word. 

Re: The word "Indian" is much maligned.
« Reply #1 on: June 18, 2012, 04:16:43 am »
Ndn is a shortcut as far as I know, like "lol" or "omg". Pretendian is used in regards to people who are living in fantasy, pretending to be ndn, like some people pretend to be fairies or elves. It's fantasy people live in, so it's "pretending to be indian" hence, "pretendian".

I personally have to pause to consider a person may be speaking of someone from India when they say
Indian.
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Gwaewael

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Re: The word "Indian" is much maligned.
« Reply #2 on: June 18, 2012, 06:12:44 am »
Hi critter!  I already know what you just explained to me.  "NDN" is usually spelled with caps, though, so it's difficult to type and so makes a poor shortcut.  I wonder why it's in use.

I do know that "pretendian" means "pretend Indian".

I forgot to say that in my comments I was assuming that people would only use the word "Indian" in situations where it's clear that it doesn't refer to a person from India.

But all this is beside the point.  The point is that there's a lot of prejudice against Indians out there, and a lot of it is triggered by the word itself, "Indian".  Many people can't say or hear this word in any kind of respectful way.  Which is why they need to see and hear it modeled by other people who use it in a respectful way.

Re: The word "Indian" is much maligned.
« Reply #3 on: June 18, 2012, 06:27:26 am »
I've seen it in lower case. Not sure what diff it makes. Sometimes, I don't
type anything with an upper case letter if the mood I'm in is lower case.

You really think the people here don't know there is a lot of prejudice?

Guess I'm just not really sure what your post is supposed to be.. are you
informing the ndn's here that there is a lot of prejudice? In case they didn't know?

Or are you, as per your sentence: "Personally, I think "Indian" should be used in normal, respectful speach as often as possible in order to help people, like me, who have trouble with the word."

Are you asking the forum members to stop using ndn?

I don't understand your post.
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Offline Superdog

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Re: The word "Indian" is much maligned.
« Reply #4 on: June 18, 2012, 02:16:52 pm »
Hi critter!  I already know what you just explained to me.  "NDN" is usually spelled with caps, though, so it's difficult to type and so makes a poor shortcut.  I wonder why it's in use.

I do know that "pretendian" means "pretend Indian".

I forgot to say that in my comments I was assuming that people would only use the word "Indian" in situations where it's clear that it doesn't refer to a person from India.

But all this is beside the point.  The point is that there's a lot of prejudice against Indians out there, and a lot of it is triggered by the word itself, "Indian".  Many people can't say or hear this word in any kind of respectful way.  Which is why they need to see and hear it modeled by other people who use it in a respectful way.

I look at the word Indian as a necessary evil still.  It's not remotely correct, so I don't use it at all to describe myself.  The only time I make use of general terms like "Indian", "American Indian", "Native American" is when talking about Natives in a general sense, usually involving politics, laws or money and usually when talking to a non-Native.  But I don't put too much thought into it.  I don't get offended by it.  It's a word that has meaning in certain contexts (the US Constitution uses it, as well as laws made by the federal government here in US...hence the political usage), but it's often more confusing than anything so I don't like it for that reason.  The usage of "NDN" is nothing more than slang.  Not a shortcut.  It's just Natives making their own use of the English language and it's been around for quite a while and in writing is actually a bit of a help because it's more associated with Native Americans and not people from India making it less confusing in written language.  I'm not gonna join any crusade to make "Indian" have better meaning though.  The message I try to get out is that we are all not the same, and the use of generic terms like that is ultimately incorrect.

Superdog

Re: The word "Indian" is much maligned.
« Reply #5 on: June 18, 2012, 03:58:05 pm »
Thanks Superdog! I always learn here.. thanks. :)
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Offline Defend the Sacred

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Re: The word "Indian" is much maligned.
« Reply #6 on: June 18, 2012, 04:34:51 pm »
Preferred terminology is regional and generational. Some people care a lot about what general terms are used, others don't care so much. Instead of white people deciding what words are best and starting a crusade about it, how about simply asking NDNs you interact with what they prefer to be called?

Gwaewael

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Re: The word "Indian" is much maligned.
« Reply #7 on: June 18, 2012, 09:16:43 pm »
Hi Critter!  Of course, I know that Indians are aware of prejudice.  I'm talking about MY prejudice.  I admit that I'm prejudiced against Indians, Blacks, Latinos, Asians, Arabs, You-Name-It and Women as well (and I'm a Woman) and that I believe that most of the other White people around me are prejudiced as well but won't admit it.  I want this to change if possible.  I’d be surprised if the people on this site won’t support that goal.  This forum is very intimidating.  It's true, I don't like the use of NDN.

Hi Superdog!  I understand that there are many different Indian cultures in the Americas that are distinct, a fact that I’ve only known for a month.  The books I’ve read say people should probably be referred to by their tribal names.  But I’m always talking about Natives in a general sense with non-Natives.  The word in that situation is “Indian”, and I notice it sets people’s prejudices off.   I want to do something about it.  I don’t live in Indian Country.  Indians are rare here.  Virtually everybody I meet is white.

Hi Kathryn!  The only Indian I know I don’t know well at all.  I just met him.  We talked once about pow wow-style dancing (He actually shook my hand and asked me my name.) and a second time about prejudice (He asked me whether I was a researcher and wanted my card.  I guess I faked him out.).  He made a big impression.  He’s a very impressive person.  He’s why I’m suddenly learning about Indians.  I don’t know what he prefers to be called.  We don’t know each other.  I know he has double tribal affiliations and is influential at the state level.

Gwaewael

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Re: The word "Indian" is much maligned.
« Reply #8 on: June 18, 2012, 10:04:30 pm »
It just hit me that the name of this thread should be changed to:

           The word "NDN" is much maligned.

Offline Superdog

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Re: The word "Indian" is much maligned.
« Reply #9 on: June 18, 2012, 10:06:02 pm »
Hi Superdog!  I understand that there are many different Indian cultures in the Americas that are distinct, a fact that I’ve only known for a month.  The books I’ve read say people should probably be referred to by their tribal names.  But I’m always talking about Natives in a general sense with non-Natives.  The word in that situation is “Indian”, and I notice it sets people’s prejudices off.   I want to do something about it.  I don’t live in Indian Country.  Indians are rare here.  Virtually everybody I meet is white.

Then why use that term if it's so difficult for you to navigate around.  If you're talking Natives of North America....why not say "Native Americans" or "Native North Americans"....something a bit more descriptive and void of the innate prejudices associated with "Indian".  I don't see the need to overturn the implied meaning of a word that was incorrect from the beginning.  In general...Natives here don't like it either, but it's about dead last on the list of things to worry about.  Keep learning...at least your mind is open to that and I'm glad you're willing to challenge stereotypes you've unknowingly been exposed to and picked up.  Insight is a valuable tool.  We're not all perfect and I don't know everything either, so don't feel intimidated or think you're being held up to an impossible standard.  That's not the case.  But, I can safely say, you're approach to this situation is a bit off the mark and I'm afraid you're probably not gonna get a lot of support for "unmaligning" the word "Indian".  Just not a viable or worthwhile endeavor IMHO.  :)

Superdog

Offline Superdog

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Re: The word "Indian" is much maligned.
« Reply #10 on: June 18, 2012, 10:10:43 pm »
It just hit me that the name of this thread should be changed to:

           The word "NDN" is much maligned.

Actually...I wouldn't say that at all.  "NDN" vs. "Indian" only makes a difference in written language, not spoken.  As a term, "NDN" can best be described as typewritten slang....it was invented by Native people here and is in common usage.   So, the other main difference...one was invented by outsiders...the other by Natives themselves.  Is it clearing up for you?  When using spoken English....avoid "Indian" simply because of all the reasons you've already mentioned (implied negative meaning, misleading and confusing). 

Superdog

Offline earthw7

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Re: The word "Indian" is much maligned.
« Reply #11 on: June 19, 2012, 01:22:34 am »
wow! first of all when it comes to my people we should be able to decide what we want to be called,
Ask one of our people they say first call me by my nation-I am Ihuntonwana, Pabaska, Sisseton, Hunkpapa,
Sihasapa, and Oglala but that is too hard for non-native people, they like to generalize terms and people
to fit their belief and systems, they want to put us in a box and wrap it up nice and neat.
The old people will tell you they are Indian and have no problem with American indian, middle age
people will say call me Native American but then all people that are born in America are Native American,
then so our young say call me Indigenous, and other call themselves first nation people.
I call myself Native,
What we call ourselves really does not matter because no matter what name is used there is prejudice against
my people, we can call our selves what we want the ideal will still come up negative because the bottom line
is people still want to feel superior to another race of people.
Now because some has feeling that the word is maligned they want to have the name changed I have to ask
what Tribal nation agreed to this and what right to a person have who is not native to make these decision for us?

I do understand white privilege another race makes the decision for another because they feel they are smarter better or
whatever they think.


 
In Spirit

Offline earthw7

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Re: The word "Indian" is much maligned.
« Reply #12 on: June 19, 2012, 01:24:32 am »
Hi Critter!  Of course, I know that Indians are aware of prejudice.  I'm talking about MY prejudice.  I admit that I'm prejudiced against Indians, Blacks, Latinos, Asians, Arabs, You-Name-It and Women as well (and I'm a Woman) and that I believe that most of the other White people around me are prejudiced as well but won't admit it.  I want this to change if possible.  I’d be surprised if the people on this site won’t support that goal.  This forum is very intimidating.  It's true, I don't like the use of NDN.

Hi Superdog!  I understand that there are many different Indian cultures in the Americas that are distinct, a fact that I’ve only known for a month.  The books I’ve read say people should probably be referred to by their tribal names.  But I’m always talking about Natives in a general sense with non-Natives.  The word in that situation is “Indian”, and I notice it sets people’s prejudices off.   I want to do something about it.  I don’t live in Indian Country.  Indians are rare here.  Virtually everybody I meet is white.

Hi Kathryn!  The only Indian I know I don’t know well at all.  I just met him.  We talked once about pow wow-style dancing (He actually shook my hand and asked me my name.) and a second time about prejudice (He asked me whether I was a researcher and wanted my card.  I guess I faked him out.).  He made a big impression.  He’s a very impressive person.  He’s why I’m suddenly learning about Indians.  I don’t know what he prefers to be called.  We don’t know each other.  I know he has double tribal affiliations and is influential at the state level.



wow!!
In Spirit

Gwaewael

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Re: The word "Indian" is much maligned.
« Reply #13 on: June 19, 2012, 05:12:34 pm »
Hi Superdog!  What does IMHO mean?

I’ve actually heard “Native American” used in an insulting manner too, but it may truly be a little less inflammatory than “Indian”.  But I prefer the word “Indian”.  Look, these words refer to some Native peoples.  The real problem is an underlying prejudice against these peoples.  How the words are used and the feelings of racism people have are related.  Call me crazy, but I’m going to continue to say “Indian” and “American Indian” in conversation in a matter-of-fact and respectful tone.  People learn their prejudices from other people.  I plan on modeling the opposite.

I’m sorry you missed it.  My suggested new title for this thread was actually a joke.  “NDN” has definitely been much maligned here by me

Thank you for you kind comments.


Hi earthw7!  What does “wow!!” about my entire post mean?  I honestly don’t know.  Was it that bad?  Remember, I’m from a different culture.

I’m not sure when you said: “Now because some has feeling that the word is maligned they want to have the name changed…”  if maybe you thought I wanted to change the word “Indian”?  I don’t.  It’s “NDN” I want to change.  With this clarification, your quote would go on making perfect sense: “…what Tribal nation agreed to this and what right to a person have who is not native to make these decision for us?”

I’ve read and people on this site have told me that I should ask Indians what they want to be called.  I would do that if it were possible.  Except for one person though, there ARE no Indians here to ask.  You probably live surrounded by your people.  To understand my situation, try to picture a place where there are no Indians, where people don’t know there are different Indian cultures, and then picture what words people would use to talk about Indians.

Thank you for telling me how the favored words change between generations.  It’s very useful.  I’m glad that the elders, at least, approve of the word that I use, “Indian”.

Offline Superdog

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Re: The word "Indian" is much maligned.
« Reply #14 on: June 19, 2012, 06:01:14 pm »
Hi Superdog!  What does IMHO mean?

--  if maybe you thought I wanted to change the word “Indian”?  I don’t.  It’s “NDN” I want to change.  With this clarification, your quote would go on making perfect sense: “…what Tribal nation agreed to this and what right to a person have who is not native to make these decision for us?”

--I’ve read and people on this site have told me that I should ask Indians what they want to be called.  I would do that if it were possible.  Except for one person though, there ARE no Indians here to ask. 

--Thank you for telling me how the favored words change between generations.  It’s very useful.  I’m glad that the elders, at least, approve of the word that I use, “Indian”.


I've highlighted a few short passages from your last post.

"Hi Superdog!  What does IMHO mean?"
--IMHO is the internet acronym for "In my hearted opinion". 


"It’s “NDN” I want to change."
--Once again..."NDN" is internet slang created by Natives....why do you want to change how we interact with each other in the English language?
 
"Except for one person though, there ARE no Indians here to ask."
--I think you need to read a little more.  You have two talking to you in this thread alone.  Just because every Native on this board isn't on this thread responding to you doesn't meant they're not here as part of this forum.  The truth is, many of us have had this type of discussion with new members several times over.  Needless to say, the miscommunication that takes part (as evident in this thread) can be frustrating, not to mention a lot of us have these types of conversations on a daily basis just as a part of life.  Not to call you out....but it's obvious you're new and want to learn, but a lot can learned by reading the board a little more thoroughly as well.

"Thank you for telling me how the favored words change between generations.  It’s very useful.  I’m glad that the elders, at least, approve of the word that I use, “Indian”."
--The best idea is to try and refer to Native peoples by their tribe or nation.  Avoid overgeneralizing when talking about Natives from here in North America.  You're talking over 500 different cultures, with different languages...etc etc etc.....overgeneralizing us all as "Indians" leads to more confusion than anything.

Superdog