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The Natives Are Getting Restless
February 15, 2005
by Mike Spinney

Native American.

The term offends me. It offends me because, like most constructs of pantywaist white boy political correctness, the term is inaccurate in its common usage and more offensive than the word the term was coined to replace.

People are quick to laugh when I call myself a Native American. It’s a nervous laugh; that “I’m not sure if you’re serious, so I’ll hedge my bets” kind of laugh.

Clearly, I’m not the Iron Eyes Cody stereotype most people conjure when they consider the term Native American. Then again, neither was Iron Eyes Cody – a second-generation American of Italian extraction named Espera DeCorti.

No, I’m as white as they come. But I’m 100 percent Native American, born and raised right here in America.

During the early part of the last century, however, some well-meaning milksop decided that the term “Indian” was demeaning to those whose ancestry reached back to the indigenous peoples of North America. Indian, after all, was an erroneous moniker, universally affixed to the resident population when it was thought that the New World was a part of the Asian subcontinent.

White guys came up with the term, so white guys should correct the term. I’m guessing that was the idea behind the new Native American label. Problem is, the term Native American is just as much a silly invention of the white man as the term Indian. The word America, after all, is a derivative of Amerigo Vespucci, the name of the Italian navigator credited (erroneously) by a German cartographer with the discovery of the New World.

Why not call the so-called Native Americans what they’d been calling themselves for hundreds – if not thousands – of years before Columbus or Vespucci or Erickson ever set eyes on these lands?

When those white guys arrived, there were many people inhabiting what we now call North and South America. Primitive by European standards, these populations nonetheless had developed distinct and vibrant cultures and traditions. They had formed societies and nations, and they had their own languages. And with those languages they called themselves Cree and Chippewa and Abenaki and Iroquois; they called themselves Navajo and Pima and Dakota and Mandan; they called themselves Cheyenne and Creek and Yakima and Arapaho; they called themselves Nootka and Hopi and Huron and Passamaquoddy; they called themselves Micmac and Algonquin and Shawnee and Seminole.

They called themselves those and many other names because those were the names that identified them as people and that described their separate cultures.

So don’t think you are doing anyone any favors, or paying anyone any particular respect by tossing around self-important words like Native American. Doing so only perpetuates the insidious notion that those of us with European ancestry are somehow better than the savages.

Besides, isn’t it time we all just thought of ourselves as American?

(Mike Spinney is a volunteer staff writer for 2 Walls Webzine)

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