Opinion: Rethinking the name 'Indian'

Shadow Beartrack, Taos
Posted 6/20/19

Imagine how it would feel for you as an individual to have your likeness and or culture used in disrespectful ways by people who don't care to know anything about who you are. Would you allow it to …

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Opinion: Rethinking the name 'Indian'


Imagine how it would feel for you as an individual to have your likeness and or culture used in disrespectful ways by people who don't care to know anything about who you are. Would you allow it to happen if you knew it only benefited those who'd choose material possessions even over the well-being of their own people? It's easy to believe mistakes can happen but it's another thing to know you can't fix what isn't broken. Therefore allow me to introduce you to a perspective never seen before.

People who are from the country of "India" never existed in North and South America. The people who did exist here for thousands of years were misidentified because of one person's view on how they interpreted their surroundings. Which, of what we know, is the story of Christopher Columbus and his "famous" voyage in 1492. Throughout the years that followed the people who did exist over here of different nations were being called "Indian" by people who came after they knew there was a "new world." These colonizers sought fortune from it and the indigenous nations of the Americas started to be killed off by these colonizers in awful genocides against their culture andidentity - through use of biological warfare, deceptive tactics and diseases unknown to the "new world."

The history behind the usage of the coined term of "Indian" throughout North and South America has always been a careless and brutally violent one. American indigenous peoples have been enslaved and even hunted down like animals under the word "Indian." A lot of this history has been seen as two separate stories of the same incident like the massacre and/or "battle" of the Washita River in 1868. In popular American history, in regards to the Boston Tea Party, it was also seen as OK to use indigenous identity for political statements against Britain, the American populace's enemy at that point in time. Not to mention the many stereotypes created from it.

So how do we know that the word "Indian" in its usage by American history itself isn't a derogatory term? As far as the people it is supposed to describe, it doesn't hold any actual value to them because no one from the Americas actually knew who "Indian" people were.

What isn't really emphasized about how even reservations came into being for the Nations of North America is how the Indian Removal Act of 1830 wasn't in any way respectful for the indigenous nations who've had to endure it. It was literally, "We don't like you as anything and you're in the way of what we want," which is why a lot of reservations exist in places where it's impossible to live and thrive off of the land. With that being said, even after 100 years it's still in use as "federal Indian policy" that affects how the indigenous nations have come to agreements with the federal government.

Why is it so hard to recognize who these indigenous nations actually are instead of who someone else says they have to be? The lack of communication [resulted in] the fact that even the federal government at one point in time did not care to know who these nations actually were. ... Wars were waged before there was any attempt to try to understand each other [and] the term "Indian" is still in use without even the prior knowledge of why it exists [and] as something fearful.

This use of this careless terminology that promotes fear can be stopped but it's essential to understand that we need to come together to do it. I may have used the term "indigenous" in my position for this article to try describe in a more respectful way the nations of the Americas but until we come together to change this it's nearly impossible to try to quantify the existences of these Nations without their input into how we see this world together. We couldn't quantify happiness even if we try, but knowing we all have our differences together in this place we know as our home might be a good start. Instead of repeating the same history that's literally brought us here in this way, let's try to see a future where being inclusive of each other's differences can bring us closer together. Let us stop this use of fear once and for all.


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