When Columbus sailed in 1492, he was looking for a water passage route to the East; in other words, China or India. At that time, the only trade with the eastern world came via land caravan. Those trips were painfully slow and dangerous and expensive. Columbus knew, as did all educated people of that day, that the Earth was round. He reasoned, correctly, that one could sail far enough west to end up in the East. However, he grossly underestimated the size of this planet so, when he landed in what is now known as the Caribbean and saw the brown skin of the natives, he believed, incorrectly, that he was in India or its immediate environs. He was, in fact, 8500 miles off target. That is one-third (1/3) the distance around the entire globe. It is highly unlikely that any native on that island or any of the other peoples the Europeans encountered in those “new lands” were from India. As I wrote earlier, we were never Indians.
Over the next several decades, it was discovered that Columbus was, indeed, mistaken and what he found was not a route to “the East”. However, the European governments were quite arrogant and certain that any civilization that didn’t match theirs was inferior to them. This especially held true for the peoples of the new lands since they were now believed to be “Crown Property”. Therefore, the native cultures and their names for their homelands and themselves were irrelevant. The misnomer Indian stuck.
A few centuries later, the indigenous population (Indians) of the lower portion of North America began to be considered “in the way”. Their native lands were rich and the land speculators wanted that land more than anything else. Black hearted individuals, among them president-to-be Andrew Jackson, lobbied for war against the tribes. War, of course, means taking lives and, to make that more palatable, the natives were horribly defamed; a practice which is still used today. In the course of time, the natives of this country were transformed from the saving angels of the Pilgrim/Thanksgiving story to absolute monsters. Any negative appellation was deemed appropriate. They were called (and eventually believed to be) violent to the point of being murderous, drunken, dirty, thieving, slothful, stupid, completely incapable of caring for themselves, etc. For many, many years after that, a person simply did not claim any native affiliation by blood for fear of recriminations, often of the most violent type.
Sadly, those names and ideas have remained with the non-native portion of the World. The indigenous peoples of North America are still considered to be inferior to the rest of the country. The only time when terms like “the noble red man” are used is when the user is trying to borrow from them.
It is my belief, therefore, that the name Indian should be as much a racial slur to the native population of this country as the name Nigger is to the black race. Such labels imply an unfair, hate-filled, totally stereotypical view of the individuals and groups so named and, in my opinion, are not a fit designation for any person or race on this planet.
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