Saturday, February 27, 2010

It Is Indian, NOT Native American

I just spent another twelve days in the hospital with complications from the removal of a kidney stone. As she has always done, my mom spent every day for ten to fourteen hours a day sitting in my room, training and supervising new staff, helping me do anything I needed and mostly she read.

One of the books she read was COUNTING COUP, which chronicled one year in the life of seventeen-year-old Sharon LaForge, on the Crow Reservation in Montana. In many ways, it was like reading about a girl living on the Standing Rock Reservation like we did from 1960 to 1963, when my dad taught and coached at the high school in McLaughlin, South Dakota. McLaughlin is a small town of about 750 people in North Central South Dakota, about twenty miles from the North Dakota border.

Mom read several passages that could have simply substituted the word McLaughlin and it would have happened in the 1960's in South Dakota rather than the 1990's in Montana. The part of COUNTING COUP I want to share with you is the Author's Note in the front of the book. Here it is:

Larry Colton, freelance author of COUNTING COUP, a true story of basketball and honor on the Little Big Horn stated, During my fifteen months on the Crow Reservation. I rarely heard a tribal member refer to him/herself as a Native American. They called themselves Indians.

Because our ancestors most likely came across the Bering Sea, we’re not really natives, explained John Pretty On Top, a Crow Sun Dance leader. It's more accurate to call us First Americans.

I have had a problem with many of the so-called politically-correct terms for a long time, and using Indian instead of Native American is one of them. Frankly, all hyphenated American usage bothers me.

On a side note: In Indian tradition, a warrior gained glory by touching his enemy in battle and living to tell the tale. They called it ... COUNTING COUP.

I look forward to your comments.



1 comment:

Earl said...

I agree that First Americans is also a little presumptous. While the asian culture did make it across the Bearing Straights, there is some evidence that other cultures had some exposure from the south! For a great history of the name America, check out

I like the term indigenous Americans... it means originating where found.