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A Time for Indigenons

Proposing a new name for 'Native Americans'


by S.E. Shepherd
May 15, 2001

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A Time for Indigenons_S.E. Shepherd-Proposing a new name for 'Native Americans' The first group of people to settle in what are now the Americas have been misnamed, and mistreated ever since a confused Italian sailing from Spain landed on a Caribbean Island. Christopher Columbus mistook this “new land” as India and dubbed the local people “Indians.” Since then, Europeans have tried to correct this error, calling the people (amongst other things) American Indians, Native Americans, First Nation, and Nation Peoples. In my opinion, all these titles still fall short and while I am just another white male of European descent, I would like to propose a new name for these people, “Indigenons.”

To be fair, I would let the people of this race vote on the idea, or perhaps they could come up with a better name for others to call themselves. Indigenons (I’ll use this term throughout) cannot be called “American Indians” because they are not Indian, and this term is now considered politically incorrect anyway. They are not “Native Americans” because technically anyone born and raised in America and still living here is a native. “First Nation” doesn’t work because any Indigenon will tell you the Indigenons were/are many nations. A Sioux is a Sioux, much like a German is a German.

While any Indigenon would really like to be known for the nation he or she comes from, it is still difficult for non-Indigenons to tell the nationalities apart, much like it’s hard for non-Europeans to know the difference between a person from Sweden and a person from Denmark. The term “Indigenon” allows this group of peoples a racial identity without compromising their national identity. Iroquois and Incas are considered to be of the same race, but to label both groups “Indians” is a disservice to both. Clearly, each nation developed differently, and the two should not be confused. But if they are both of “Indigenon” origin, we can compare the development of different Indigenon peoples, much like we compare Babylonians to Assyrians.

There are also other advantages to adapting to the title of “Indigenon” for the peoples once called “Indians”:

1. The Cleveland Indians will have to change their name. Indigenons won’t be offended by the “Indian” moniker; “Chief Wahoo” will finally be recognized for the racial caricature he is; and descendants from India will join the Indigenons’ cause for a name change (which makes me wonder, why aren’t people from India more offended by this name?) This will also force other teams such as the Redskins and the Braves to reconsider their racially charged names.

2. It will allow people of Indigenon nations to move beyond the traditional Hollywood stereotype of “Indians” to something more modern, and allow Indigenons to put that image firmly in their past.

3. Indigenon nations should be allowed to develop a “country” flag. This, I think, was one of the greatest disadvantages of the Indigenon nations when the European nations arrived to colonize the Americas. Sure the Spanish had guns, horses, and bodies immune to Small Pox, but if the Incas had a national flag, maybe Cortez would realize he was warring with a country and not a bunch of highly developed “savages” who had more gold than they knew what to do with.

Granted, most Indigenon nations lived a simple nomadic existence and developing a flag when everyone knew their territory probably seemed like a ludicrous idea. Indigenon cultures, especially those in North America, did not believe in ownership of the land, so planting a flag to let all know that they were in Seneca territory was a foreign concept.

But now that these nations have been conquered and confined by peoples that believe in the power of flags, they should seriously consider each developing their own national flag. If the Palestinians can do it, why not the Hopi?

And they should be allowed to fly this flag on their reservations, what is left of their “nations.” I believe this is one way these nations can keep their cultural identity and still be a part of the modern world. Indigenon nations should be allowed to become “mini-countries,” part of the countries in which they exist, yet able to make their own decisions about culture and development of their land.

Again, I realize that I am just another white guy, trying to tell Indigenons what to do, and listening to white people has worked so well for Indigenons in the past. But I am one who sincerely hopes these people, whatever they choose to call themselves, rise above the mistreatment of past and present and move on to a glorious future. It is time for them to reclaim the dignity of long ago, and show they are more than relics and team logos. They are a race of many nations that deserves to thrive in the 21st century and beyond.

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