Thursday, November 29, 2012

Native American Heritage Month: Don't Say That!

Hey Y'all,

In honor of Native American Heritage month I've really been brushing up on my political correctness.

As a new employee of Indian Country Today Media Network  which Features the world’s most comprehensive and innovative online Native news and entertainment site, serving Native and American Indian tribes nationwide. It features Native American Journalism Association award-winning writers and reporters, and a team of columnists composed of tribal leaders, members of Congress, and the foremost Native thinkers, writers, and artists in Indian Country. ICTMN’s featured articles cover a vast array of subjects such as Native and American Indian opinions, politics, arts, environment, genealogy, and more. Updated many times a day, this site delivers to our audience rich, fascinating articles with captivating pictures and videos and daily late-breaking news alerts featuring the most-up-to-date current events about Native and American Indian culture throughout the web.

It is my job to know and fully understand the Native American culture. That being said I've learned that I've been saying some rather politically incorrect things for many years!

The following terms are derogatory, not welcomed and disliked by the Native community. Please do your best to remove them from your vocabulary lest you be embarrassed.

"Redskin" - My Dad LOVES the football team but did you know that the term redskin is considered by some to be offensive?  The reasoning behind the meaning seems to split into three areas of thought: the skin color of Native Americans, the warpaint Native Americans used before battle, or the bloody scalp remnant resulting from a Native American crossing the path of a bounty hunter. 


"Lets have a Pow Wow about that" - I've used this term before, it simply means to have a quick meeting about something. We shouldn't say this though... Pow Wows are the Native American people’s way of meeting together, to join in dancing, singing, visiting, renewing old friendships, and making new ones.  This is a time method to renew Native American culture and preserve the rich heritage of American Indians. So next time you need to chat with someone about a specific topic please don't call it a pow wow unless you plan on singing, dancing or renewing old friendships.

"Off the Reservation": Typically used to describe someone who's gone a little crazy i.e. “I’m terrified of this girl. She’s completely off the reservation.” Now consider this... An Indian reservation is a piece of land in the United States designated as federal territory and managed by a Native American tribal council. Many Indian reservations are not the ancestral land of the tribe that inhabits them, as Indians were forcibly moved to undesirable lands throughout the 19th century. There are around 300 Indian reservations overall, covering 55.7 million acres total, or about 2.3% of the entire United States. Well over 200 of the country's recognized Native American tribes do not have an Indian reservation. A small majority of Native Americans live outside of reservations. (which I found on a great blog)

  • Is it crazy for a person to leave a reservation that people were forcibly relocated to after a tradition of being some of the freest people to ever live?
  • Is it not normal for a person to go “off the reservation” after being cutoff from all the resources to which they used to have free access?
  • People did go “off the reservation,” despite the laws, punishments, and lack of civil rights meant to keep Native Americans on reservations until 1924.
  • Perhaps what may be deemed as crazy may not be crazy when faced with the need to survive and the loss of culture that results from institutionalized oppression.
"Indian Summer": I've used this term this year! It's not nice folks... An Indian summer as defined by Wikipedia is a period of unseasonably warm, dry weather, occurring after the end of summer proper. The US National Weather Service defines this as where the weather is sunny and clear, and above 21 °C (70 °F), after there has been a sharp frost; a period normally associated with late-September to mid-November. The term Indian Summer was first used by French-American writer John Hector St. John de Crevecoeur in rural New York in 1778: "Then a severe frost succeeds which prepares it to receive the voluminous coat of snow which is soon to follow; though it is often preceded by a short interval of smoke and mildness, called the Indian Summer." Why is it wrong to use this term... well in the late 18th century in Western Virginia and Pennsylvania, settlers used the term to describe the weather that allowed American Indian war parties to renew their attacks on European settlements. Also would you want your culture to be associated with the terms hazy and oppressive?

Indian Giver, Indian Corn and Indian Burn are also terms you should stay away from. As an adjective in these terms the word Indian means false. In a number of phrases, the adjective Indian means false, and some linguists believe the phrase Indian summer parallels the formation of Indian giver, Indian corn, and Indian burn, phrases that describe something that is similar to but not actually one who gives, a form of corn, or a flame-induced injury

I hope these was good food for thought.

Until next time...
MUAH!

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