Everyone knows that in 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue. Everyone knows that he had every intention of arriving in India in order to gain an upper hand in the spice trade. Everyone also knows that he never really owned up to his mistake so everyone who came after him also referred to the indigenous peoples of the Americas as Indians.
Everyone knows this now. So why do people still refer to the indigenous people of America as Indians? Can we please stop? I hate having to go through this:
You: “So, I ran into an Indian the other day.”
Me: “….an India Indian, or a Native?”
You: “The Native Indians.”
Allow me to draw a comparison here: Calling an indigenous person an Indian is similar to calling an African American, a negro. I get it, labels are confusing, and it’s not like each group of people have a spokesperson to tell you which name is best for everyone. But what matters is that you try, and you are aware that labels can be damaging.
Calling an indigenous person an Indian is disrespectful to their ancient culture. Their people were settled in the Americas for at least 10,000 years. This was years before any European guy ‘discovered’ the place, and placed an ignorant name upon an independent and proud race of people.
In continuing to mis-label these people, not only are we disrespecting their ancient culture, we’re also perpetuating the false supremacy of European culture.
Yeah, I get it. You’ll have to consciously change the way you speak, but isn’t it worth it? I used to refer to Natives as Indians when I was young, because that’s what I was taught. We’re all taught to mis-label these people, but we can make the choice to stop.
Labels have power. We all know this from the struggle of black people in America. From Colored, to Negro, to African American. The struggle continues to find the appropriate label for black people in America, because our culture was taken from us. We’re in a constant battle with ourselves and others to figure out where we belong, and what we should be called.
In the same way, Natives were robbed of their ancestral lands, slapped with a label, and pushed to the margins of American history. But American history is their history. The United States of America is an infant aberration of their history.
What many Americans today don’t understand is that Natives are more ‘American’ than any of us. But due to the slave trade and the influx of millions of immigrants in the 19th century, this land is now home to about 325 million people.
But sure, President Trump, let’s build that wall. If you ask me though, it’s a bit too late – about three to four hundred years late to be exact.