Lauer said jokingly to Vieira, “Don’t be an Indian giver” when she tried to take back a pair of designer underwear from Stella McCartney she handed him.
Rick Waters, Cherokee, with the American Indian College Fund, explains on DiversityInc.com that the term was coined over the struggle for land when Native Americans “had no concept of land ownership,” and settlers would try to purchase land for trinkets.
The term is also sometimes misinterpreted to refer to white colonists, who “would give things to the Indians, only to take them back,” reports WordOrigins.org.
Mr. Lauer’s misinformed choice of words reinforces archaic and hurtful racial stereotypes that date back to colonial America. Early commerce between tribal nations and colonial settlers required the value of goods exchanged to be of equal or greater value, or the trade was not deemed acceptable. Some colonial traders who did not uphold this ethic used this phrase to discredit tribal nations and Native traders. Now, the pejorative phrase has become associated with a person who takes back a gift. This misrepresents the original and modern cultural values of Native Americans, based on fair trade, sharing, and empowering those around them.
Matt Lauer knows better. He knows better than to toss out religious, sexual, or racial slurs of any other race so why is this ok?
Needless to say, you shouldn't classify an entire race by a single phrase. Not unless you want to be accused of racism, that is.
For more on the subject, see Jenner Responds to "Indian Giver" Controversy and Simpson: "I'm Not an Indian Giver."