Indian



Assuming that he had reached the Indies, Columbus called the people on the islands his ships visited ?indios,? or ?Indians,? and the misnomer has stuck ever since. It is natural that people would propose alternatives to this term, whether to avoid confusion between the inhabitants of America and India or to indicate respect for the original occupants of the American continents. Thus Native American has become widely established in American English, being acceptable in most contemporary contexts and preferred in many, especially in formal or official communication.    1
  However, the acceptance of Native American has not brought about the demise of Indian. Unlike Negro, which was quickly stigmatized once black became preferred, Indian never fell out of favor with a large segment of the American population. It is firmly rooted in English in such common terms as Plains Indian, French and Indian War, and Indian summer as well as in numerous plant and place names. In locutions of this kind there is no possibility of substitution.    2
  The criticism that Indian is hopelessly tainted by the ignorant or romantic stereotypes of popular American culture can be answered, at least in part, by pointing to the continuing use of this term among American Indians themselves. Indeed, Indian authors and those sympathetic to Indian causes often prefer it for its unpretentious familiarity as well as its emotional impact, as in this passage from the Kiowa writer N. Scott Momaday?s memoir The Names (1976): ?It was about this time that [my mother] began to see herself as an Indian. That dim native heritage became a fascination and a cause for her. ?    3




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