Re: Amerind an offensive term (was: Early Amerind assimilation

Stephen Barnard (
Tue, 30 Jul 1996 08:50:58 -0800

Mary Beth Williams wrote:
> In <> Stephen Barnard <>
> writes:
> >When I want to refer to, shall we say, "the people (and their
> >descendants) who participated in the Early Contact Period who weren't
> >of European descent," then I face a problem. What can I call them
> >that will be (1) clear and unambiguous, and (2) not give offense.
> >
> >Indians? No. That's ambiguous and offensive to some people.
> I've yet to meet a *real* Indian who was offended by the term.
> Granted, most west of the Mississippi for some reason prefer this term,
> whereas those east of the Mississippi prefer *Native American*. Most
> use both terms interchangably. But neither are as *offensive* as the
> psuedoscientific term *Amerind* or *Amerindian*. If you're really hard
> pressed, used the Canadian legal term, *First Nations*.

The obvious problem here is that the "real" Indians come from the
Asian subcontinent, and they can reasonably be expected to be offended
by this term. It's also ambiguous.

> >Aborigines? No. That's already used for Australians in common speech
> >and would probably be offensive since it implies primitive.
> >
> >Native Americans? No. That's ambiguous and very slightly offensive
> >to me, since I'm a native (small n) American.
> Oh, you're offended by the truth? In the US, if you claim Native
> American status, you are making a claim to membership in a legally
> defined class of persons. So what is your tribal affiliation?

I hope that I'm entitled to take some offense, too. Actually, after
years of being expected to endure terms like whitey, honkey, WASP, and
male chauvinist pig in silence, a phrase that implies that I wasn't
born in the US has very little power to offend me, so maybe that's
what I'll use from now on.

Steve Barnard