Re: Amerind an offensive term (was: Early Amerind assimilation
Thu, 01 Aug 1996 03:00:03 -0400

In article <4tnd0f$>, Beth Williams) wrote:

>I think that you do a disservice to both the Irish and Native Americans
>by attempting to lump their experiences together. This thread,
>however, is about an appropriate non-offensive term for the indigenous
>people of the Western Hemisphere.

I feel that an appropriate name for the pre-contact populations of the
Americas (North/Central/South) is First Nations, Obviously the term
[N,n]ative American is simply too ambiguous and politically charged to be
of real use. In a perfect world we would use Tribal names to designate
whom we are talking about, conversley, Europeans should be addresed by
their cultural affiliations (for instance I am a Celt not an AgloSaxon or
a Gaul, Jute, Dane or simply 'white' please have more respect for my
heredity) I'm sure that Asians and Africans feel the same as I do, and
let us not forget our Yugoslavian friends who are busy killing each other
over these very principles.

>Being a *native* is not about the place of one's birth, but of whose
>womb one descends from (with the exception of legitimate adoption by

So then it isn't about whose womb you come from. Let's use another
example let us say, for instance, that a young Anglo American soldier
stationed in Okinawa has a tryst with a young Japanese lass just before he
is shipped home. She has a child and the child is raised as a Japanese,
ergo he is Japanese and not American. What if the situation were
reversed, would the child born in America ever be considerred a Japanese
child, I think not. Is the child both is it neither? Neither womb nor
location are important, what is is the prevalent culturre in which the
child is raised. Though I am only first generation Canadian I will never
be able claim that I am Welsh (my ancestry) I neither speak the language
nor know the history, I am CelticCanadian at best. Had I been adopted by
Japanese parents and raised in Japan I would be Japanese.

>It takes only one generation for a non-native to produce a
>native -- but first one needs to find a native mate.

What special qualities do First Nations People posses that enables them to
transform the child of a mixed marriage into a native instantly. Does
this child have equal claims to non-native heredity? Does this mean that
the child is at once both Native and non-Native? I beleive that you views
of culture and heredity are a little na€ve and oversimplified.

My experiences in the North among the Inuit suggest that culture is a
practice and not ascribed status. During the recent politiking of Nunavut
(Inuit self government) people were encouraged to declare their status,
which had been redundant untill then. A friend of mine had been
encouraged by many of the Elders to apply for native status, he fufilled
all the requirements, he spoke Inuktitut, knew the history, and lived in
the North since birth, he declined since he felt that it was
innappropriate for him to apply, you see he was Anglo. It mattered little
to the Inuit Elders what his ethnic heritage was, to them he was Inuit,
more so than others who had more legitimate claims than he.

>As long as there are legitimate indigenous (native) peoples in a
>region, invaders/immigrants will never ascend to that position -- it
>only can occur when the original group becomes *extinct*... Hence, the
>motivation behind the *policy of extermination* which has dominated
>white relations with American Indians since 1639.

Sort of like the Inuit did to the original inhabitants of the North the
Thule, or the Mohawk did to the Huron of Southern Ontario. Don't get high
and mighty on us, I will grant you that in the past systematic destruction
did occur, and that today relations aren't very good. But punishing us
today for the acts of our forebearers is simply counterproductive and
wrong. A policy based on guilt is a rotten one and doomed to failure.
>MB Williams (Penobscot/Kennebec/Maliseet)
>Dept. of Anthro., UMass-Amherst

In conclusion I think you ought to rethink your criteria for what
constitutes "native" and what does not, reducing it down to 'womb' ignores
more complex issues, such as popular prception and enculturation.
Secondly your comment about progeny of mixed marriages displays a
fundamental flaw in you conception of 'culture' which needs considerable
rethinking. And finally your good/bad, us/them, native/non-native
dichotomy ignores similar practices by native populations in the Americas
prior to contact essentialising the current condition. Also, you should
attempt to demystify your own history focus less on punishing people, and
insted work on helping others and yourself learn from history in order to
prevent it reccurance. We should build on honesty, mutual understanding
and forgiveness.

Toby Cockcroft (Celt/Canadian)
M.A. Anthropology, University of Western Ontario