Tuesday, October 10, 2017

It's a Good Day to Be Indigenous

It's Indigenous People's Day!
(One day late)

This day originated after our country decided to glorify enslavement, rape, murder and ultimately genocide by honoring a man who found these lands... which already had people living on it.  

Obviously, we all know how that goes and we realize that a holiday to any "explorer" really undermines the Indigenous community that was already here.  

Gross, right? 


So back to Indigenous People's Day!  

I am frequently asked by non-Natives if "Indigenous" is an offensive word to me.  Or, if it's too obnoxiously politically correct for my liking.  (Any Native/Indigenous person is probably cracking up at this moment, so bear with me) so I thought for today, I'd share a little about the words I sometimes use to describe myself (and others) in the Native community.  

First of all, no.  "Indigenous" is not offensive at all.  

Indigenous is a term that is used to describe the first inhabitants of any lands (and here's my favorite part)it not specific to any country.  

For instance, my Nation in particular is Tohono O'odham.  I am an American, because I reside in the United States.  However, we are a tribe that was split in half by the U.S./Mexico Border.  The O'odham tribal members who live on the other side are still very much from the same tribe... but they are not American, they're Mexican.  They live in Mexico.  When you say, "Indigenous" we are talking about the land without all those imaginary lines (or without the expensive walls that our politicians are so fond of).  So in one simple word, we can include both those who are Indigenous to the United States AND Mexico, or simply one or the other.    

I do refer to myself as a Native American when talking in generalities, when it's inconsequential.  However, when I am around other people who know the distinction, I often generalize myself as Indigenous.    

I also sometimes just say, "Native" or "Natives" when I'm around those who understand those terms.  

I PERSONALLY am not a fan of the term, "American Indian", but I cannot stress enough how personal of an opinion that is.  

There is already a group of Indians, who hail from India who we are sometimes confused with.  I won't get into it too deeply, I just have a different preference.  I do however support the American Indian Movement (AIM), the American Indian College Fund (AICF), American Indian Studies programs and other organizations or other people who choose to use that term.  It is a personal choice and you should honor whatever anyone tells you they prefer.  

I do not like the term, "Indian" or "Indians" by itself, unless it's coming from other Indigenous people.  I believe in the ownership of words.  I've been called an "Indian" all my life, so if I want to tease my siblings or cousins about Indian-things, then I'm gonna use the term.   

More often than not, I do not call myself "Native American" anyway.  When people ask me what I am (which happens a lot), I will tell them the specific name of my tribe (even though I know most people have never heard of it).  

Otherwise, it would be like saying, "I'm European" rather than saying, "I'm English." or "I'm from Spain." 

There are over 500 unique Indigenous communities in the United States alone.  There are 22 distinct tribal Nations in Arizona alone.  

You may hear the terms, "Aboriginal" that is a lesser used word that means both, "Indigenous" but is mostly associated with the first inhabitants of Australia.  It wouldn't be incorrect to use that word, but seriously, I'd expect Australian Aborigines to be an important part of the conversation.    

First Nations is the term used to describe the original inhabitants of Canada.  

So, if I were talking about how the first inhabitants of Canada, the United States, South America, Australia I could use one term; Indigenous.  

We're still here. 

And it's a good day.