Dear Editor: “Gandhi-Indian or Squanto-Indian?” Someone asked this when we were in eighth grade, debating what term should be used for the people whose land we brutally conquered. I had mentioned the confusion that arises from the term “Indian,” with no context. Another student agreed, pointing out that distinguishing the two can result in needing a racial figurehead. Indeed, it takes a moment to mentally differentiate “Indian American” and “American Indian.”
In your article, “Report: Wisconsin Youth Arrest Rates Falling Faster for Whites than African-Americans,” you used the term “American Indians.” Although American Indian and Native American are the two most widely accepted terms in academia, the former term is already confusing enough without more synonyms thrown in the mix. Representatives from various groups impacted by terms like “Native Americans, American Indians, Indian Americans, and Indians,” must come to a consensus on which term to uphold.
Miscommunications often happen in regards to the different terminology. In high school, someone told me she was part Indian. I thought she meant from India, like myself, until she later clarified that she meant Native American. Christopher Columbus thought he was in India when he reached North America, and thus coined the natives as “Indians.” Why should we perpetuate his false assumptions several centuries later?
There needs to be a societal discussion on how to distinguish these two groups, perhaps by creating an original name altogether. Until then, for clarity in our communities, we should use “Native Americans” to describe America’s original settlers.
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