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Monday, October 12, 2009

Columbus Day

Rather than go into (or address) the fairly predictable screeds of how Columbus could "discover" America if it already provided homes to natives present, I'll just touch on something that is tangentially related that I find incredibly stupid yet prevalent.

We often see and hear the term "Native American" to describe a specific ethnicity when the word "Native" is a geographic identifier and qualifier and does not describe ethnicity at all. Nowadays we use the term to describe a modern day human based on the geographic status, the location of the home, of one or more of his ancestors, no matter how distant. In contrast a modern day native in the country or countries described best as "America", or a Native of the United States who thus is an American, cannot be described in those literal broad terms because it has been purposed exclusively for an ethnic group, whose origins to this continent are shared with over 200 million people that certainly did not emigrate from the European or Asian continents.

Now how do we describe people of a certain ethnicity, those native to this country back when Europeans began settling the land, in a way that contrasts them from other people and other Americans? I do not really care. "Indian" worked for some; "American Indian" worked for others. Neither of those terms is incredibly accurate, or literal. Both are descriptive but I have no idea if they are useful. Playing mary hob would be fun with census taker and statisticians if we simply used the specific tribal name.

We could simply call them people.

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