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

Mary Beth Williams (
30 Jul 1996 11:23:56 GMT

In <> Stephen Barnard <>

>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*.

>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?

>Amerind? Nope. Offensive.
>Do you see the problem? I'd really like a solution to this. I'm not
>comfortable feeling like I'm about to be pounced on for racism at any

Your remark on the term N.A. makes one wonder how sensitive you really
are to minority issues, however, it is a valid concern for many

MB Williams (Penobscot/Kennebec/Maliseet)
Dept. of Anthro., UMass-Amherst