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Old 02-09-2018, 11:58 AM   #9
OLChemist
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I'm not an elder like JD and Wd, I'm just a lady geezer, LOL. But, over my years associating with intelligent life on this planet and in academia, which may not qualify as intelligent life (j/k), I've heard this term used to describe different populations of peoples indigenous to the Americas. It seems like every group and governmental agency draws the boundaries in different places.

Just a sampling from the internet:

"a member of any of the indigenous peoples of the western hemisphere; especially : a Native American of North America and especially the U.S." -- Merriam-Webster

"a member of any of the indigenous peoples of the Americas." -- Google Dictionary

"a member of any of the groups of people that lived in North America before the Europeans arrived." -- Cambridge Dictionary

In my experience, most Native people (non academics), who speak American English (not Canadian English), use the term to mean people who are descendants of populations indigenous to per-contact North America, who's traditional territories fell within the contemporary boundaries of the continental US. The term is, as the quotes below indicate, interchangeable with Indian or American Indian.

"Usage Note: Native American is now fully established in American English as an equivalent of Indian, being acceptable in all contemporary contexts and preferred in many...." -- American Heritage Dictionary

Indian (n) - "A member of any of the Native American peoples except the Eskimos, Aleuts, and Inuits."-- American Heritage Dictionary

In the US, the term American Indian has a legal dimension related to governmental obligations to citizens of tribes which are signatory to various treaties with the US and preceding British colonial government. The exact parsing of these boundaries is complex and in some cases context dependent.

It has been my experience that many folks who descend from peoples indigenous to lands south of the US border, tend to get very hung up on whether my (or some other Indian's) personal Euler diagram for the term includes or excludes them. In some cases, it is my perception that this arises from the belief that I'm somehow saying they're not a "real" indigenous to the Americas people. In a few cases it seems to me that the tension has originated with belief that if they were included within the "Native American" rubric, they would be entitled to the services extended to citizens of federally recognized tribes. It seems that the more distant the connection to their Native culture, the greater the emotion involved.

Now, I accept that perhaps my perceptions are in error and influenced by my own biases. Hence, I am asking some of those who have repeatedly questioned the definition of "Native American" to share no just a dictionary definition, but the larger meaning.


I will shut my yap, after a final observation: Almost every time I've been with Native people, with strong ties to their cultures, they meet, greet and connect by identifying tribe and mutual social or kinship connections

Last edited by OLChemist; 02-12-2018 at 10:07 AM..
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