There is much debate and strong feelings within our nation that are connected to how to identify various groups. At Studies Weekly, we are working diligently to create and nurture an inclusive environment.
Using the Term ‘American Indian’
To ensure that we write about indigenous people using language that will not be considered offensive, we consulted several sources. First, we conferred with the two tribal members on our Diversity Board. They informed us that they like to be referred to as ‘American Indians.’ The Grammarist states that term ‘American Indian’ is more appropriate and claims that the expression, ‘Native American,’ has fallen out of popularity. In the Native Times and Native Sun News, tribal journalists state that the term ‘Native American’ was thrust upon them by a white activist and does not reflect their desires. Whenever possible, they like to be identified by tribe. For generalized references, they prefer to be called ‘American Indian.’
Russell Means, a Lakota activist and a founder of the American Indian Movement (AIM), stated, “At an international conference of Indians from the Americas held in Geneva, Switzerland at the United Nations in 1977, we unanimously decided we would go under the term, ‘American Indian.’ We were enslaved as American Indians, we were colonized as American Indians and we will gain our freedom as American Indians.”
A More Prestigious Status
Part of our rationale is also to be in alignment with the federal government of the United States of America. To be officially recognized by the federal government, the tribe has to have a political relationship with the U.S. government. When a tribe has that legal status, then they are known as an American Indian tribe with the power to self-govern as a separate nation. If the tribe is not federally recognized, then they are only known as Native American. In summation, all American tribal members can be called Native Americans, but it is a higher and more prestigious status to be called an American Indian.
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