August 06, 2012

Lauer calls Vieira "Indian giver"

Matt Lauer Calls Meredith Vieira an ‘Indian Giver’Matt Lauer recently joined Kris Jenner in the ranks of celebrities who use derogatory terms toward Native Americans without thinking. He called fellow Today correspondent Meredith Vieira an Indian giver on Monday’s broadcast from the Olympics.

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 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
Matt Lauer’s Comments “Not in the Spirit of the Olympics,” says the National Congress of American IndiansJacqueline Pata, Executive Director of the National Congress of American Indians, released the following statement on Matt Lauer’s use of the phrase “Indian Giver” on NBC’s TODAY:Matt Lauer of NBC’s TODAY, an international media personality, made irresponsible comments on the global stage of the 2012 Olympic Games when he used the phrase “Indian Giver” during NBC’s morning coverage of the London Olympics. These comments were not in the spirit of the Olympic Games, nor civil discourse.

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.
Michelle Shining Elk adds the following comment:It was a racial slur that is damaging to the perception of who we are as American Indian people and a community, regardless the intent or meaning. Our younger generations weren't around when everyone so "freely" used it in their childhoods--how are they suppose to know the difference?

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?
Comment:  Michelle has it right. Regardless of its origin, "Indian giver" has come to mean "Indian are insincere and you are too." It's a shorthand way of saying you're as rude as an uncivilized or savage Indian.

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 "Indian giver," see Jenner Responds to "Indian Giver" Controversy and Simpson:  "I'm Not an Indian Giver."

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