Indian Versus Native American

Apparently there was some terminology controversy on one of those Bravo shows that showcase rich white women bickering with each other:

Tonight, on the reality TV series The Real Housewives of New York City, LuAnn de Lesseps will use the term “Indian.” According to reports, this will greatly upset Carole Radziwill, who says that the term is racist, and tells LuAnn that “anyone over the third grade knows not to say ‘Indian.’”

While the term arises out of Christopher Columbus’s inability to figure out where he was, the term certainly isn’t racist and many Native Americans use it (heck this story is from Indian Country Today). As a non-Native writing about Native Americans I initially questioned the terminology, but as ICM highlights, the debate overlooks a simple fact:

Should any Real Housewives fans or political-correctness enthusiasts really want to address the Indigenous people of Turtle Island in their preferred manner, our advice is: Find out their tribal affiliation. The Lakota love to be called Lakota; the Apache love to be called Apache; the Choctaw love to be called Choctaw, for a simple reason: It’s what they are.

I use Native American, American Indian, and Indian interchangeably to help with flow and avoid reputation, but always use the tribal identity over the general to avoid the idea that all Native cultures and communities are the same.

That being said, LuAnn apparently “war whooped” during the segment which is both stereotypical and offensive.

Jared L. Eberle
Jared L. Eberle
Historian of Modern Indigenous Activism

I an adjunct instructor at Oklahoma State University and my research focuses on American Indian activism after the occupation of Wounded Knee in 1973.