Native Americans and Indians: Know The Difference

Paul Armendariz, Staff Writer

      You all know the story about Christopher Columbus “discovering” the New World. When he landed, he promptly thought he was in India. So when he found the Natives, he claimed they were Indians. But they weren’t. The people were actually Native Americans, as they were natives of the Americas. Sadly, the term “Indian” has stuck with Natives for centuries一it’s even used in present day. Luckily, I’m here to sort these misconceptions out.

    The term Indian is actually used to describe someone who is native or has heritage from India (surprising, I know). As expected, Indians have a whole different culture than Native Americans. They look different, speak different languages, and have different beliefs.

    Fortunately, people usually know the difference based on culture and appearance一It’s just the word they mess up with. People may think that “Indian” describes both races, or that it is just another name for Natives.

  Then again, you can’t really blame someone for getting it mixed up. The word “Indian” has been associated with Native Americans for quite a long time, and has even been used in our schools and textbooks. It is only instinct for someone to misconcep the word with the race, so don’t get angry if someone does. Just politely correct them on the simple mistake, and get on with your day.

  On the other hand, there are some Native Americans that refer to themselves as “American Indians”, based on the name they were given by the European explorers long ago. These natives know their heritage, and why they want to be called American Indians. There is an ongoing debate on which name should be the correct term between the indigenous peoples of America, but remember to be respectful of each person’s view over the matter.

   The opinions over this vary for many different reasons. Language, region, and general heritage have big parts to play in the opinions of the indigenous people, so you cannot say that one side is wrong or right. Some even use both/all names.

  I hope this article has given you new insight on the Native American name controversy. Please feel free to leave opinions in the comment section.