What to call Native Americans
Stephen Puetz (spuetz@WIN.BRIGHT.NET)
Wed, 8 Oct 1997 14:09:19 -0500
Regarding Mary Lee Foley's "we don't know any better and I'm curious".
It has been my experience that non-Indian people spend too much time
wondering what to call us. We use derogatory names to express our
disapproval of an individual while labeling and entire group of people.
We spend considerable time trying to develop more politically correct
labels and totally ignore the individuals involved.
Indian people do not necessarily subscribe to such political correctness
among themselves. Three common questions are asked when Indian people
meet. What is your name, who are your people and where do you come
from? This information is most accurately transmitted in our original
Non-Indian people have a propensity to group the 565 seperate and
distinct nations of the hemisphere, (not including those not recognized
by the U>S> Govt or those exterminated) into a single category,
"Indians". We may refer to ourselves as Indians to differentiate
ourselves from Non-Indians as a single group of people who have suffered
in common as the result of colonial expansion and a common cause in our
political efforts to retain and preserve our sovereignty, cultures,
contractual treaty rights, and most importantly our rights to be treated
with the same respect and dignity as our counter-parts expect to be
When it comes to respect, we forgo titles and call each other by either
by our Indian names or our first names.
When giving lectures to school students I tell them we do not confer
respect unilaterally because of position or title but more by what an
individual does, how that individual lives their life and how that
individual treats other people. While there is a constant effort by
White America to assimilate all people of color into one big happy
family and mold others seen as different by virtue of skin pigmintation
or ideology into their idea of what people should be or their own image.
We on the other hand are desperately trying to hold onto our ways
because that is what was given to us by the Creator and we are told by
our elders that is the way things are suppose to be. Not because they
are better than White ways but because these things and ways are better
My suggestion is, rather than spending so much time and effort trying to
figure out what label is most politically correct to call us. You take
that valuable time and try to get to know the people you are trying to
find a suitable label for.
Personally, I prefer to be called an Anishinabe inini. Manido Makwa
ninidizhnikaz. Odawazagaiganing nindoonjiba. (Spirit Bear is my name.
I come from the lake where the dead Odawa Warrior was found.) I can be
reached at Steve Puetz's E-Mail address since I have none of my own
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City