Indian Americans discriminate against Indian Indians

Knowledge questions

Is the term "Indian" discriminatory?

There is no simple answer to this question. The language is constantly changing and with it the views that we associate with certain terms.

The origin of the name "Indian" is based on a historical error - that Christopher Columbus thought he went ashore in India - and is therefore a geographical misnomer. But that alone does not make the term discrimination.

Nevertheless, the designation "Indian" is burdened. Because it always evokes associations that are heavily influenced by clichés and have little to do with reality. In Germany in particular, people associate many positive qualities with the "Indian" - shaped by Karl May's Winnetou and characters such as the cartoon series Yakari.

But even a positive stereotype does not do justice to the people behind it, also in terms of their cultural diversity. In addition, the term comes from the time of colonialism and the so-called Völkerschauen.

Many members of indigenous tribes find the term problematic or even offensive.

But which term should one use instead? Many people prefer the English expression "Native Americans"(in German about" Native Americans "). This comes from the administrative language of the US authorities and is therefore rejected by parts of the population. In Canada, the term"First Nations"(" First Nations ") common, but only for the peoples on Canadian territory. The construct"Indigenous peoples of North America"is perceived by many as bulky and complicated and often raises the question of whether" the Indians "are meant by this.

So there is no easy solution here either.

Why were the indigenous peoples called "red skins"?

The skin color of the Native Americans is more yellowish to brown, depending on their home region. In the course of time the white conquerors gave them the name "red skin".

Some tribes had the habit of painting their faces and sometimes their entire bodies red during war. The color red should signal the warlike intention. In addition, it should cause fear in the opponent, it was considered frightening.

The body painting, however, also served as a special ornament for the indigenous people on festive occasions. In addition to the purely aesthetic point of view, painting also had a religious meaning. The red color indicated the proximity of the indigenous peoples to mother earth.

Today the term "red skin" is seen as discriminatory.

Is the tipi the typical form of living?

Winnetou on horseback, with a colorful headdress made of eagle feathers, in the background the tipis and the campfire. This is what the Indian cliché looks like in Germany.

Indigenous peoples who lived in tipis and stalked the buffalo herds existed only among the prairie peoples and the tent as a dwelling was by no means the rule. In any case, horses only came to America through the Europeans from the end of the 15th century.

In the north-east of America, the natives lived in wigwams made of wood and bark, in the south they built villages out of adobe bricks. Those who lived in permanent houses lived from agriculture and were part of a tradition that goes back thousands of years.

As early as 1500 BC, long before the ancient civilizations of the Romans and Greeks, there were arable crops with complex irrigation systems in what is now the US state of Arizona. Corn, beans and pumpkins were grown. Even then, a pronounced cult of the dead played an important role.

If the indigenous peoples were often portrayed as bellicose nomadic tribes to whom only the white settlers could convey civilization and culture, such an image served only to justify white supremacy.