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Battling Racism

Offensive Words
Commonly used words that offend Indian people

Written by John Two-Hawks


Squaw
This is a word that has been used to refer to
Indian women.  Used as a name for many parks,
valleys, mountains etc.  The term 'squaw' is
VERY offensive to Indian women.  It has been
equated to calling an Indian woman a 'whore'.
Indian women should be called women-
NOT 'squaws'....

Redskin
Used as a name for many sports teams, this
word is offensive by its very nature.  In it's
origin, it refers to the bloody scalps of Indian
children, women and men that were sold for
bounties aside animal skins in the USA.  At
this sad time in american history, Indians
young and old, male and female, were hunted
like animals.  They were killed, then scalped.
When these men would come to the trade post,
they would receive money for their deer-skins,
their, beaver-skins, their raccoon-skins,
and their red-skins.  It is a true shame that
this horrifying word is still in wide use.

Brave
This is a word that has been used to refer to
Indian men.  Used in millions of books, and
as a name for many sports teams, people are
often surprized to find that it offends Indian
people.  But it does!  It plays on the 'noble
courageous savage' ideal that was pinned on
Indian men long ago by early europeans.  It
also dehumanizes and equates the Indian
male to something less than human.  Adult
Indian males are
men, NOT 'braves'....

Chief
This is a word that is commonly given as a
nickname which incorrectly labels Indian
men.  The cultural equivelant would be to
nickname all white men 'Prez' or 'King'.
The term 'chief' itself is incorrect.  Indian
leaders were never 'chiefs', but headmen,
or clan mothers, and so on.  Not 'chiefs'.
 
Native leaders were highly disrespected by
the USA.  So calling someone 'Chief',
is just
a way to continue that disrespect....

Tonto
Very simply put, this word is from the spanish
language, and translated means 'stupid', 'idiot'
or 'fool'.  Enough said....

Savage
I don't think this one needs a whole lot of
explaining.  Indian people are not beasts,
and we never were.  But we were considered
to be 'uncivilized' by european invaders
merely because our societies were new to
them.  This 'new world' was and is, very
old to the 1st Nations peoples....

'Wild Indians'
Ever heard somebody say, "Stop acting like a
bunch of wild Indians"?  This comes from a
long held american stereotype that Indians were
and are 'wild'.  The simple fact is, anything
that the white man could not tame, enslave or
subdue was considered 'wild'.  Consider the
words 'wilderness' and 'wildlife'.  So, the
next time the kids are acting up, be sure
to avoid referring to them as 'wild Indians'!

'Indian Style'
I often hear teachers use this term when
telling their young students to sit cross
legged.  Native people did not invent
the cross legged sitting style, so the next
time you tell your students to sit cross
legged, just say "criss-cross applesauce"!

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