indigenous, cont.

Frank Abate abatefr at EARTHLINK.NET
Thu Dec 14 13:31:15 UTC 2000

Following on what Don Lance said (below), some usage issues:

1. Aside from the shift to "indigenous people(s)" by the US Board on Geog Names, is this usage in other people's active vocab?

2. Is it the case (it is often said to be, without much evidence), that many (clearly not all) Native American/American Indian groups, or individuals, are proud of the term "Indian" (despite its etymology) and prefer it in reference to themselves?  Can any NA-AI groups or individuals weigh in on this?

3. My understanding is that Canadian usage has "First People(s)" for the same groups.

4. Most attempts to come up with "appropriate" terminology in the case of NA-AI groups will ultimately be disputable on some grounds, by etymological sticklers, at least.  Many (if not all?) of these groups are not truly indigenous, having migrated to the Americas from Asia.  So, as with "Indian" and "native", "indigenous" does not truly apply either.  The "First Peoples" seems to work, though, since even in the case of migration, these peoples were the first humans to inhabit the Americas, as far as we know.

5. Would that we could know the majority preference of these peoples, and make that a general preference.

Frank Abate

DMLance said:

The US Geological Survey / US Board on Geographic Names is in the process of shifting from
"American Indian" and/ or "Native American" to "indigenous people(s)."  There is a PC
element in the switch, since "Native American" can mean whites who were born here, and
"Indian" is definitely unPC and is now avoided.  Similarly, "First Canadians" implies that
Canada existed before the British came to North America.  I think there's a similar
tendency there.  The fact that almost all of those Indian groups in Oklahoma were not
indigenous to that part of North America merely adds a messy technicality, I suppose.  I
think Salikoko Mufwene began this line of discussion, so, yes, I'd say you've noticed a
current trend, however much or little clarity or accuracy there is in the choice of term.
Since PCness is involved, I suppose the term 'lexical diffusion' is too bland a term for
what is going on with references to indigenousness, and it usually refers to geographical
diffusion rather than to whatever domain we're dealing with in this case.  Am I implying
that PCness infects dialectologists too?  Heaven forbid!!

Anna Fellegy wrote:

> In my region, northern Minnesota, "indigenous" sometimes refers to
> Native Americans (popularly used by the Native band called "Indigenous")
> or to native peoples of other regions (Maori, aborigine, native
> Hawaiian).
> Anna Fellegy


Frank Abate

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