October 27, 2006

Calling Indians "Indians" offends "Indian"

People from India are HINDU, not "Indian."I am offended by this confusion in modern day America, confusion which is created by the abundant presence of Hindu people referred to as "Indians." This, in effect, is yet another and very serious assault on the identity of the American Indian.

Thus, the typical modern headline in American papers: Indian Communisty Burgeoning in America. Of course, the article has to do with Hindus, not American Indian. And recently there appeared this entry on the blog, aboutbloginfo.com: "Fact about India." It is a strange collection of information about American Indians (Seminole), and it has my name and a name of one of my articles (It's the Casinos, Stupid). It has nothing to do with India, or Hindu people. Yet, is listed as "Fact about India."

13 comments:

Not a Sioux said...

Silly silly bad eagle. Bad bad eagle.

Regardless of the historical usage, the term "Hindu" now overwhelmingly is used to refer to just the religion, not the people of India. Using it to refer to all people of India is a slight to the significant population of 200 million+ Muslims, Christians, and others.

Myself, when I have to make a distinction, I call the ones from India "India Indians". Others use the term "East Indians", but this only adds more confusion, since "East Indian" applies to those of the Indonesia-area archipelago (East Indies), just like "West Indian" refers to those from the West Indies.

It all comes back to Columbus and his big boo-boo.

Rob said...

If the context is clear, you can just say "Indian." If it isn't clear, you can say "Asian Indian" or "American Indian." There you go...problem solved.

writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
Or, as writerfella found, there can be another distinction. It somewhat may be racial and/or stereotypical but I found it quaint and acceptable. In 1979, writerfella was hired on as 'writer-in-residence' for a college tour of England, purportedly to study 'British science fiction'. Eastern Michigan University took placements for 35 summer students to reside at University College in London, U.K., the University of Edinburgh, and the University of Sussex in Brighton. It was a worthy trip but if truth be told, the organizer Dr. Marshall Tymn put it together so he would get to attend the World Science Fiction Convention which, coincidentally or no, was being held in Brighton that year. And of course, we all got to attend.
In London, other students on the tour decided that writerfella should not be allowed to go anywhere himself, reason being that Punkers and other youth gangs were beating and killing 'persons of color' in the streets at night or on the subways, 'the Tube'.
Inconvenient or not, writerfella went along with their wishes. And we all discovered a strange and delightful thing. The Brits love 'the Red Indians' and hate 'the Black Indians'. Red Indians were Americans and Black Indians were from the sub-continent. In pubs, people would notice the group of Americans drinking among them, and at last, one or more brave ones would approach our table to ask, most politely, "Excuse us, but are you Red Indian?" I would reply yes, having learned the term. And the happy question became, "Could our friends buy you and your friends a round or two of pints so that you could tell us about the Red Indians?" Naturally, sure. And we would spend another hour or two in the pub, being hosted and treated very well indeed, while I tried to answer all their questions. This happened once or twice a week and my friends always made sure to take me along when they went to pubs.
Somewhere in early August, six of us went to Leicester Square to see MOONRAKER, a James Bond film not set to open in the US until around Thanskgiving. On the tube ride back to the University district, we found ourselves in the middle of a large group of Punker youth. And of course, they all were eyeing writerfella, much to the discomfort of my friends. At last, one couple came over and asked, "Excuse us, but are you Red Indian?" And I said, "Yes." And they said, "Oh, good! We thought so! Look, there's a Punk club at the next stop and if all of you would come with us, we'll buy you all rounds of pints if you will tell us about the Red Indians!"
And go we did. The crowd was great, the music was great, my friends drank and danced, and I went all but hoarse telling all I knew about the Red Indians, until finally the club closed.
Now, THAT was an adventure we never could have planned!
All Best
Russ Bates
'writerfella'

Carole said...

Russ, do you have an association with Eastern Michigan U? That's smack-dab in the middle of my neck of the woods...

Not a Sioux said...

I remember the Eastern Mich mascot battle. I was hoping they'd change their Native American mascot to the Emu, but it did not happen.

Carole said...

An interesting footnote to that controversy NAS...After the Eastern team switched their name from the "Hurons" to the "Eagles" the chief of the nearest Huron tribe expressed his dismay and said he and his tribe were never consulted about the change, and that they felt flattered by the team name.

Goes to show the varied viewpoints even within the Native community on this issue.

writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
Beyond that summer stint and a few hours of literature credit being added to my transcript, plus a nice stipend and salary, that was about all I ever have had to do with E. Mich/Univ. Believe it or don't, but that also was the only time writerfella ever has traveled and/or flown outside the US of A. Not even when writerfella was in the USAF, when orders for Thailand and Tuy Hoa, Viet Nam came his way; injuries and a long hospitalization kept him in Florida his whole last three years of service.
Thanks to the college tour, however, writerfella got to meet Arthur C. Clarke, who attended the World SF Convention that year. At the Science Fiction Writers of America reception, C. J. Cherryh and D.C. Fontana both brought Mr. Clarke over to let me meet him. And he said, "Bates, Bates. Oh, yes, you're the Red Indian who wrote that oh so good story about Smallpox!" All my friends roared with laughter at my amazement. Sure made my year!
All Best
Russ Bates
'writerfella'

Anonymous said...

Just do what they do on the rez when there is some confusion about Indians. The American Indians are called Feather Indians and the India Indians are called Dot Indians. Get it, tee hee.

Not a Sioux said...

That's pretty good, except that the latter now sounds like an Internet site. And there's also a recording artist named "Indie.Arie", which itself also sounds like an Internet site.

Anonymous said...

You know, it does sound an internet site in writing. I was up on my reservation last year for a powwow and overheard my teenage cousin telling his friends how to tell the difference between an American Indian and an Indian from India. He explained when people are confused you just tell them that American Indians are called Feather Indians; he took his hand and put it behind his head and put two fingers up signifying feathers. He then said if you are talking about Indians from India they are called Dot Indians; he took his index finger and pressed it against his forehead between his eyebrows demonstrating where the Bindi marking is or as he put a "dot."
I thought that was kind of cute.

banana-boy said...

"Not a Sioux" said ...

Indeed, many years ago I had a client and Indian Arrorney who did work with/for the Navaho. When she answered their question as to where she was from; her "India" totally bewildered them.

They expressed great enjoyment and honour at finally getting to meet a "real" Indian.

As to Hindu's - this too is a misnomer as the Indus River became the demarcation point from one section of the continent to the other. People who lived beyond the Indus River became labeled as Indus - later to evolve into Hindu's - nothing to do with Vedanta at all.

banana-boy said...

Then again - almost everything written about Native Americans had been bastardised - convoluted to suit the whims of ignorant/arrogant Historians, novelists and Hollywood - all for gain.

One day - hopefully somone will have the guts and where-with-all to correct many of the erroneous myths written about this continent's Native Cultures ...

banana-boy said...

Growing up amongst millions of Indians with many differing languages, cultures and religions, viz. Brahman, Muslim, Punjabi, Sikh, Bengali, Hindi& Urdu, Gujarati, Jain, Tamil, Telagu, Malaylam, Kannada, Kerala, Marathi, et al - I have always known of only two Indian Geographic classifications: Indians - of all aforementiond groups - from India and West Indians who hail from the Carribean (also originated from India) - many of the latter of whom have other influences.

Indians of Indonesia and neighbouring regions are still connected to the Indo/Pak sub-continent as are Indians of Africa - who are clearly very closely connected to the motherland ...