Monday, February 4, 2013

What is in a name? or Who are the real Native Americans?

In our culture we derive meaning from and convey our ideas or feelings through the various symbolic vehicles such as visual arts, music, gestures and linguistic. The latter being my focus in this article. From Healthy Choice entrees to the No Child Left Behind Act names evoke a feeling. Often they are based upon psychological truisms and they evolve from the carefully selected verbiage which is applied to a product or concept that does not truthfully represent its nomenclature.

When I say to you that something is as American as apple pie, it's the American way, he's an all-American, or American ingenuity I suspect that certain images come to your mind. Images of red, white and blue intermingled with legions of parade goers along tree lined streets preceding backyard gatherings featuring grilled processed meats and the sounds of a sporting event filling the air may epitomize America to you.

What you likely did not envision was the "Trail of Tears" that President Andrew Jackson forced American Indians to embark upon which led to the death of thousands upon thousands of them. Images of tee-pees, people interacting harmoniously with their environment, and colourful ceremonies aren't your embodiment of “American”. Yet those people are what get called 'Native Americans'.

In dissecting the term we can find a very different meaning. As I mentioned earlier the image of what is “American” is largely the cultural manifestations of a political establishment. If I say “Canadian” or “Mexican” your mind immediately draws an image of the populace of our neighbors to the North and the South respectively. If I say “Native Canadian” or “Native Mexican” a visceral response may not be as immediate but none-the-less a similar, possibly older, image of the same populace comes to mind. What you likely didn't equate with those terms was the populace that comes to mind when the term “Native American” is the stimulus. Yet all three populations, prior to the fifteenth century, were essentially the same. Historically, “American” has long been conceived and understood as the citizenry of the United States, largely of European descent.

Thus “Native American” should aptly be ascribed to those persons who are descended from the eighteenth century emigrants from Western Europe who establish the former British Colonies as the united States of America. As for the persons who were savagely purged from this land, they could accurately be referenced as 'Natives to America'. They are natives to a land that became America, not Americans descended from the original settlers.

Language is important. It's misuse, misinterpretation and more often ambiguities can be innocuous, mundane, offer subtle nuances or have disastrous consequences. Never avoid precision or opportunities to clarify your use of the medium that binds us together as a culture – our language.

If you need assistance in facilitating communication with your child's other parent then please visit my website and contact my scheduler to make an appointment to meet with me.

If you would like to follow my activities more closely then send a friend request to my Political FaceBook page.

Subscribe to this blawg.

More information about child custody rights and procedures may be found on the Indiana Custodial Rights Advocates website.

©2008, 2013 Stuart Showalter, LLC. Permission is granted to all non-commercial entities to reproduce this article in it's entirety with credit given.

No comments: